Until now, the Optima has only been available as a saloon. And no way has it been selling as well in Europe as it would be if there were an estate version on offer too.
The answer? Build an estate version. That’s what Kia has now done, and the company reckons it’s going to account for about 65% of Optima sales goign forward.
It’s called the Sportswagon, and it looks funky enough to warrant the title, but its style doesn’t come at the expense of practicality. There’s plenty of space in all the seats, as well as the load bay – 552 litres at worst, and a highly praiseworthy 1686 in full tip-run mode.
So it gets the family-hack basics right, and it feels as if it’s built to survive. The materials it’s trimmed out in are tough, even if they look about as exciting as… well, the materials in the Optima saloon.
Similarly, though, Kia remains as generous as ever with kit. Whichever model you buy, it’ll have nav as standard, and once you get to the top of the range the list will include cooled seats and an electric tailgate, as well as a raft of cutting-edge safety gear.
Something else you get with every model, however, is the familiar 1.7 CRDi engine. This is less noisy than it used to be, but it’s still short on refinement in general. You need to keep it on boost to maintain progress, too, which is easier said than done as output falls away alarmingly if you let it drop below the 1750rpm at which the full 251lb ft of torque arrives.
That problem goes away if you buy an Optima with the DCT auto box, which knows exactly when to kick down. This is unavailable on the entry-level 2 model, however; it’s optional on the mid-range 3, and standard on the top-spec GT-Line S.
On that subject, the Sportswagon range starts at £22,295 and climbs to £30,595.
So your money buys you a big, usable estate whose engine isn’t very nice. Aside from that it seems as pleasing to drive as you’ve a right to expect, with adequate performance and well controlled body movement to go with lasting grip and accurate if hardly electrifying steering.
That seems to add up to a wagon with the right stuff and a bit more on top. It seems to make most sense if you stick with the lower-priced models, however. The price of the top-spec version means it has some extremely talented opponents to knock down, but at the bottom of the range there’s not an awful lot else that can give you so much practicality for your money.
Kia Optima Sportswagon
On sale Autumn 2016; Price £22,295-£30,595; Engine 4 cyls, 1685cc, diesel; Power 139bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1620kg; 0-60mph 9.8sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 64.2mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 113g/km, 19%