Kia branches out

with new Optimas

Kia Optima Sportswagon and PHEV saloon
Kia Optima PHEV, front, action
Kia Optima PHEV, side, action
Kia Optima PHEV, rear, action
Kia Optima PHEV, rear seats
Kia Optima PHEV, interior
Kia Optima PHEV, plug in point
Kia Optima Sportswagon GT Line S, front
Kia Optima Sportswagon GT Line S, side
Kia Optima Sportswagon GT Line S, rear
Kia Optima Sportswagon GT Line S, interior
Kia Optima Sportswagon GT Line S, boot

THE old adage "mighty oaks from little acorns grow" is certainly ringing true for Kia.

The Korean car maker only launched in this country in 1991 and now confidently expects to sell 100,000 models a year by 2020.

This year it's on course to break through the 90,000 mark - helped by two new models set to go on sale this autumn.

Following on from the launch of the new Kia Optima saloon earlier this year it's now launching an all-new estate version as well as adding a new hybrid (petrol/electric plug-in) version of the saloon.

And it's the sleek new estate - or Sportswagon as the company terms it - that is expected to dominate sales.

A Kia spokesman told me he confidently expected the estate to outsell the saloon by three to one.

It's a car which will be competing against some of the big guns of the estate car world, including the VW Passat, the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia.

But Kia has spent a lot of time ensuring that it's a worthy alternative. And many company car drivers will be only too happy to drive something which gets them away from the mass car market.

An there is no doubt the Sportswagon has plenty of kerb appeal - particularly in white. It's sleek, spacious and very practical with a wide tailgate and low lip for easy loading and has the capacity to accommodate 1,686 litres of luggage with the split rear seatbacks folded down.

The 1.7-litre Optima Sportswagon will be available initially in three trim levels with a sporty, high performance version being introduced early next year.

Prices start from £22,295 for the entry level 1.7 CRD "2" rising to £30,595 for the GT Line S.If you are looking for green motoring the new, 202bhp plug-in hybrid saloon will set you back £31,495.

The good news with the PHEV that you won't have to pay any road tax with and it has an extraordinarily high official fuel consumption of 176.6 miles per gallon. Think 55 to the gallon in everyday conditions.

While Kia hopes the new Sportswagon will also appeal to the private buyer it's a car which it admits is unashamedly aimed at business users and as such is very well equipped.

Even the entry-level "2" version comes with roof rails, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touch screen which boasts European mapping, a reversing camera with an exceptionally sharp picture, dual automatic air con, dual projection headlights and cornering lights.

Step up a level to "3" and you get a larger touch screen, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, 18-inch alloys and more powerful headlights. Both specs come with a six-speed manual gearbox

If you can stretch to the flagship GT-Line S you get black leather upholstery, a powered tailgate, a seven-speed automatic gearbox, high beam assist LED headlights, blind spot detection, a panoramic tilt and slide sunroof and rear cross traffic alert to warn you of approaching vehicles as you back out of parking spaces.

Having travelled to Germany to drive the cars ahead of the UK on-sale date it soon became obvious what a strong competitor this new estate is.

On the road it's quiet, refined and very comfortable on long journeys. Just what the businessman ordered in fact.

The manual gearbox has a nice silky action and the satellite navigation system is the most precise one I have come across yet, ensuring you are left in no doubt which turn to take.

The 1.7-litre, 139bhp engine used in all Sportswagons is torquey and delivers respectable acceleration of 9.8 seconds from 0-60 miles per hour for specs "2" and "3" and 10.7 seconds for the GT-Line S. All have a top speed of 124 miles per hour.

Kia has been criticised in the past for its cars not being frugal enough but the company says manual versions of the Sportswagon will average an impressive 64.2 mpg and auto versions 61.4 mpg - with emissions of just 113 g/km and 120 respectively.

An if that's not enough for you there's always the 202bhp hybrid saloon with its 2.0-litre petrol engine and 50kW electric motor - and economy to satisfy the most Scrooge-like driver.

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