Kia's new estate -

just for us

Kia Optima Sportswagon, side static
Kia Optima Sportswagon, front action
Kia Optima Sportswagon, front action 2
Kia Optima Sportswagon, side action
Kia Optima Sportswagon, rear action
Kia Optima Sportswagon, boot
Kia Optima Sportswagon, front seats
Kia Optima Sportswagon, dashboard
Kia Optima Sportswagon, rear seats

IT'S onward and upward for Kia as it launches a new estate car aimed at prising business users out of their current family wagons and into something designed in Europe and only here too.

Yes, it's built in Korea, but that counts as a positive to many buyers, who reckon Kia's seven year warranty would only be offered on a car its maker reckoned would not be triggered.

The upward bit comes from the height of the car, a scant 5mm taller than the existing Optima saloon, thanks to standard roof rails fitted across all versions of the new Sportswagon, which otherwise precisely matches the booted version in length and width (4,855mm/1,860mm).

And it's onward because the wagon is another tick in the list of must-do models that sits in a safe at HQ (I'm guessing that bit) as Kia pushes into ever widening parts of the car market.

In the case of the Sportswagon, priced from £22,295, it is taking a measured approach to sales success with a car that looks smart in a restrained sort of way on the outside and a bit black inside when you sink into the driver's seat.

No doubting the Sportswagon's practical side, though, with a boot that is a useful 552 litres with the rear seats in position and a 'let's take the kitchen sink on holiday too' 1,686 litres with the seats folded down.

You can split the rear seat 40:20:40, adding to the combinations of people versus bits that will fit into the Sportswagon.

Next year you'll be able to buy a Sportswagon with a bit less luggage space because it will be loaded with a big battery and electric motor, turning the car into a plug-in hybrid (PHEV in motor industry and Kia terms) and available now in £31,495 saloon form.

The saloon has been on sale for some time without the electrical bits, but in the UK sells on tiny numbers - you need a posher badge than Kia's to make a success of a booted car in our market.

The estate Sportswagon, on the other hand is expected to sell in significant numbers and push the company into direct competition with 'semi premium' contenders like the VW Passat.

On the looks front it is already there but work remains to be done on the interior, where a rather bleak expanse of black plastics dominates, although it is all put together with a near-VW attention to fit and finish.

There is but one engine offered, a familiar 1.7 litre, 139bhp diesel engine attached to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a dual clutch automatic, with seven forward gears.

The vast majority of Sportswagons will be driven on company business and that inevitably means diesel in the tank, for still compelling economy reasons.

Talking of which, the Sportswagon manages an official 64.2mpg but, inevitably, that flatters the car in the real world, where we saw 40.8mpg on a German test route with lots of superbly surfaced roads, often winding through immaculate villages seemingly bereft of any life.

First impression is that Kia has gone for a comfy ride over the last word in sharpness on bends; this is a very comfortable car indeed. Final judgment will have to wait for a drive on the UK's rotten roads, but first impressions are encouraging.

It's no great fireball in the performance league, although 9.8 seconds to 62 mph and a top speed of 124mph are perfectly respectable. So too is a tailpipe emissions figure of 113g/km, meaning no road tax in year one and a mere £30 thereafter.

Trying an automatic version of the Sportswagon saw economy tumble to 33.6mpg (a same-as-the-manual 54.3mpg is claimed), so you'll take a hit in the pocket for the ability to rest your clutch foot. Smooth changing, though, although the engine turns vocal if revved hard. The auto option adds £1,400 to the bottom line.

There are three trim levels of Sportswagon; all of them with sat nav (and a bigger screen on top models), reversing camera, dual auto air conditioning, DAB radio, powered lumbar adjustment for the driver (this car is aimed at business users, remember) and cruise control, heated door mirrors and hill start assist.

Move to a £24,495 '3' level car and the bigger sat nav screen, powered seat for the driver (with memory), heated front seats, bigger alloys, harman/kardon sound system, lane keep assist and added chrome on the outside.

Topping the range is the £30,595 GT Line S, with seven speed automatic transmission, powered tailgate, black leather trim, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats and heated in the outer rear, wireless mobile phone charger and 360 degree all-round camera view.

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