Any excuse, right? Iím sure both our editor and Optima guardian, Sue thought exactly that when my request to ëborrowí the Optima Sportswagon came in ñ the excuse being a sleep deprived, cross-continental work trip to Barcelona. And I have been known to get a little more excited than most over a large estate. Nothing against the yellow peril that is our A3 Sportback, but having done the same trip last year in my old ñ and still very much missed ñ long-term Skoda Superb estate, I knew the A3 wouldnít have entertained half the equipment that I needed the boot to swallow for the job in hand.
And just a little over a year to the day, I found myself once again sitting in the departure lane of the Channel Tunnel and setting the satellite navigation for ësouthí, kind of. Logistically, last yearís trip worked out really well, so it made sense to try and replicate it as much as possible, not least to experience how the Kia coped compared to the Skoda. But it also meant I could enjoy the drive and car, rather than just get through it. The Optima arrived a few days before the trip, allowing us some settling in time, including a trip up to North Wales for my mumís birthday. So by the time the day came, we were ready ñ radio presets, check, seat positioning, check, Eco-drive mode, check, heated steering wheel, check.
Much like the majority of Northern France, the journey to the overnight stop in Orleans was fairly forgettable, all seven hours of it thanks to traffic in and around Paris. Even at stage one of the trip, the Kia had already proved its worth as a comfortable mile-muncher. It delivered me where I wanted to be without so much of a twinge from my back or a hint of drama.
So what impressed me about the Sportswagon on this trip? Well, pretty much everything! The cruising capability of the car is outstanding; itís composed, comfortable, road and wind noise just doesnít seem to be there, and it carries speed a little too well for the saturated speed camera roads of the UK. And then thereís the handling ñ itís really quite flat through most corners, with the steering tightening up nicely as speed increases. But best of all is the amount of feel and feedback sent back to the driver. Involvement is strong, yet the car manages to soak up bumps in the road to the point of not noticing. Oh, and itís a looker. The only disappointment that sticks with me is the fuel economy. Last yearís return trip from Barcelona in the Skoda averaged out at 45.5mpg, whereas the Kia only managed 39.4mpg, and that was with slightly less weight on board too. This meant three diesel stops each way rather than the two in the Skoda, despite the Kia having a larger fuel tank. This might seem like a criticism, but Iím appealing to Sue Baker ñ can I keep it? Pretty please!
Date arrived 20th December 2016
Fuel economy 65.7mpg (combined) 47.2mpg (on test)
The navigation system sinks tidily out of sight when the engine is switched off.
The tyre pressure warning sign suddenly appeared on the dash, necessitating an urgent stop at the Services.