Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi

3

Kia Optima, front, action
Kia Optima, front, static
Kia Optima, nose
Kia Optima, side, action
Kia Optima, side, static
Kia Optima, rear, action
Kia Optima, interior
Kia Optima, rear seats
Kia Optima, boot

KIA is a manufacturer that's been on an interesting journey over the last 15 years or so.

When I first drove one in the early 2000s there was no disputing it was very much a budget brand - pretty good and great for the money but ultimately rather basic and nothing fancy.

Established European and Japanese brands at the time would certainly not have seen the Korean car-maker as a major rival.

However the brand's evolution - arguably revolution might be a better description - since then has been nothing short of amazing.

The car that first did it for me, the one that demonstrated Kia was really going places, was the Sorento - an SUV that was as desirable as it was good value.

Suddenly people started to sit up and take notice of this emerging upstart.

It was followed by the likes of the excellent cee'd and subsequently by the quirky Soul and the ground-breaking Sportage.

Producing family hatchbacks, SUVs and crossovers to challenge the mainstream has not been a problem for Kia but the car maker has more recently also made an assault on the compact executive saloon market.

That's a tough nut to crack. It's a market segment that's ruthlessly dominated by the Germans at the upper end and Ford, Skoda, Vauxhall and Volkswagen at the more mainstream end of the market.

There's never any shortage of people trying to taken them on. French car makers like Peugeot and Citroen have tried and failed while Alfa Romeo gave up the ghost a long time ago.

Jaguar is enjoying some success and Volvo and Lexus have a look-in but that's pretty much about it.

Kia's Optima is a very competitively priced and individual upmarket saloon that aims to be a serious alternative to European and Japanese rivals.

The name has been used since 2000 but Kia really signalled its intent to take on more established rivals in 2011 when it launched Peter Schreyer's eye-catching new version.

It subsequently underwent a mid-life makeover with an all-new version launched towards the end of 2015.

Schreyer's 2011 design was a real winner and as such the latest version doesn't deviate from that blueprint too radically.

Looks-wise the Optima scores highly in my book. It's a nice looking car that looks sleek, classy and refreshingly different - reminiscent of a Saab in many respects (another marque that's fallen by the wayside).

The model range is fairly straightforward, which makes choosing which one to buy a relatively simple process.

There are 2 and 3 and 4 trim levels and all are fitted with Kia's 1.7-litre diesel engine. You can also choose between a manual or an automatic. The 4 comes as an automatic as standard.

The cabin looks and feels good, noticeably open and roomy and dominated by a sculpted dashboard with quality instrumentation and switchgear that's a world away from Kias of old.

It's practical with the ability to transport five adults comfortably and a large 505-litre boot.

As a driver's car it more than measures up too, delivering a relaxing and cosseted ride and handling that impresses given its overall weight and bulk.

The 1.7-litre CRDi has been much improved in the latest version delivering enhanced performance, greater efficiency and lower emissions.

While it still might not be the most refined four-cylinder diesel on the market it's suitably smooth, as is the slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.

The Optima definitely delivers as a comfortable motorway cruiser too.

If you're someone who wants a saloon that looks good and is just that little bit different then it could be the one for you.

FAST FACTS

Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 3

Price:£23,495

Mechanical:139bhp, 1,685cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:121mph

0-62mph:9.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 67.3

Insurance Group: 20

C02 emissions: 110g/km

Bik rating:22%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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