Kia may be a Korean company, but the Optima Sportwagon is a Europe-only product. It’s sold in the UK with just one engine, a 1.7 CRDi diesel mated to a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed auto boxes.
We’ve got the latter on test here, in top spec GT-Line S trim. This is stuffed with kit, including air-conditioned seats, a pan roof and a media set-up that’s fast and easy to use, and its boot is big and well shaped with no lip and a flat bottom when the rear seats are down.
Said rear seats are short on headroom for tall passengers, but there’s plenty of legroom up front and the driving position is spot-on. The driving itself, however, is less than impressive, with a combination of road and engine noise meaning it’s a less than refined business.
Making noise is about all the engine is any use for when you rev it, so the answer is to keep it in mid-range and lean on the turbo to make the most of its torque. It’s laggy at the low end, though, so you need to keep it from dropping off.
The dual-clutch auto should help with this, and most of the time it does its job just fine. It’s not very smooth at low speeds, however, and every now and again we flicked the down paddle and nothing happened. That was frustrating and so was the Optima’s steering, which is over-light around the straight-ahead position and, rather than gaining resistance progressively, dumps it all on you in one go.
It does grip well in corners, though, and while it’s not what you’d call rapier-sharp you always feel safe and in control. Ride quality isn’t great, though, especially in town.
This goes with its lack of refinement, which starts the moment you fire it up and the diesel noise and vibrations start. And that’s a shame, because inside and out the Optima looks like a slick, stylish, even premium wagon.
There are people who’ll buy one for that reason alone. But while its kit list is impressive, its materials are more mass-market than premium. And if you value comfort and refinement, it’s sufficiently lacking in both to put you right off.
If Kia can address these matters, it will have a very decent estate car on its hands. Even then, though, the equivalent Skoda Superb only costs £1300 more and is better in almost every way. Unless you’re swayed by Kia’s styling – and of course its seven-year warranty – the Optima has the potential to be a good wagon but, thus far, isn’t.
Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S DCT
On sale Now; Price £30,595; Engine 4 cyls, 1685cc, diesel; Power 139bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto; Kerb weight 1770kg; 0-60mph 10.7sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 61.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 120g/km, 23%; Rivals