I’ve just returned from California, spending ten days without the Optima, but ten days reflecting on just how popular the Optima is in the Golden State. Thatís in saloon form only, though ñ theyíre not lucky enough to get the Sportswagon in the USA. Iíve also seen how attractive and eye catching the car looks ëslammedí on lowered suspension and wider wheels, that really fill those naturally flared wheelarches. I wish Iíd managed to snap a photo, but every moment a good example went past, my phone was lodged in my pocket or I was struggling with seven lanes of Los Angelesí infamous freeways, hunting out a Dennyís fast food restaurant in my Hyundai ëVelociraptorí, I mean Veloster ñ Velociraptor sounds way cooler, right?
But I digress from the elephant in the room, the Optimaís final report. Crikey, I wish it wasnít that time already, but after eight of the ten months at Diesel Car Towers, with almost 25,000 of the carís 27,273 miles under my protective wing, the Optima is alright in my book. Getting the annoyances out the way first, we start with Kiaís seven-speed automatic gearbox. Its behaviour was something of a mystery, with unnecessary down changes and gears held onto for too long, it just didnít work well with the engine. Use the manual mode and flappy paddles, however, and the experience improved greatly. Still, it was no substitute for the manual gearbox available in less luxurious Optima models. This being an economy-focused publication, it would also be remiss of me not to point out that the Optima Sportswagon wasnít that economical in my hands. The best figure achieved on a brim-to-brim fill-up was 46mpg; some way off the high 50ís benchmark my old Skoda Superb long-termer achieved. Lastly there are the chimes, from the welcome ëchimeí, to the exit ëtuneí when leaving the car, plus all the others in between. Youíll need to delve into the menus to turn off the ones you can. Smaller niggles included the stop-start system that de-activated and then restarted the engine when putting the gearbox into park and the handbrake that didnít automatically engage, but no car is perfect.
As for the positives, I could fill this entire magazine with everything that is good about the car, both objectively and subjectively. When something is good, you want to share it. I didnít think any car could beat the Skoda Superb estate I ran last year: it was a manual, had just shy of 200bhp and yet sipped diesel. But the Optima ran it close. Before even setting eyes on the car, I knew from its specification it was going to do well with me, I didnít however anticipate just how well it was going to fit and become ëone of usí. It wasnít a great start, the first words from one of my oldest friends were ìcoming to a taxi rank near you soonî, while my mum was ambivalent, yet now theyíre completely sold by it, my mum particularly going out of her way to shout the carís praises at anyone showing the slightest interest in the car. Even an employee from another manufacturer tried the car and said ìwow, itís really goodî. What does this tell you? Few cars live up to their slogan, but in Kiaís case with the Optima Sportswagon, it clearly does have the ìpower to surpriseî.
As I said in previous reports, it baffled me how the car managed to drive and handle in the manner it does without being a complete bone shaker, because itís composed and refined, yet will go around a corner like a whippet after a rabbit. The driving position is excellent, with a steering wheel that reaches out towards your chest, and it all contributes to the sporting character of the car. I can confidently say I would put my money where my mouth is and buy an Optima Sportswagon in GT-Line S guise, if only Kia could offer a manual version. Itís really the only car I, and Iím sure you, would ever need. It really is that good.
Date arrived 9th December 2016
Fuel economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 54.3/67.3/61.4mpg (on test) 42.4mpg
27,273 miles in under a year without so much as a warning light.
The fact that I’ve had to say goodbye and give it back.