By Mike Torpey on 2016-08-29 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Space, style and
seduction from Kia
KIA is a car company on a roll - and it's gathering serious momentum.
Springtime saw a new generation Sportage hit the SUV scene, followed in midsummer by the brand's first dedicated hybrid crossover model the Niro.
Now the Korean manufacturer is poised to steal the spotlight again with its sharpest looking vehicle to date, the new Optima Sportswagon.
Sexy and estate aren't words commonly found in the same sentence, but this latest offering from Kia has genuine catwalk appeal.
When a design concept called the Sportspace appeared at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show a few eyebrows were raised - it really looked the business - and the Optima Sportswagon has stuck to the brief.
Front view or rear, the stylish effect is the same from a car designed in Europe to be sold exclusively in Europe.
Of course looks alone don't guarantee sales, and the Optima saloon updated last year has certainly struggled to attract buyers, but in the Sportswagon's case the figures tally and the boxes are begging to be ticked.
This is Kia's first tilt at the family estate market - it expects to shift 3,000 in the first year - and buyers seduced by the wagon's allure needn't be worried about compromised practicality.
Space is the first frontier for estate cars and room behind the rear seats - 552 litres - is plentiful and includes a pair of underfloor storage boxes. Drop down the 40:20:40 seats and it more than triples.
A wide tailgate and low lip make it simple to load heavier items and higher spec variants add the likes of a powered tailgate, sliding luggage rails and built-in harnesses.
A stand-out feature of the upgraded Optima saloon was its user-friendly cabin, which is extended to the Sportswagon, so you get soft touch plastics, sensibly positioned instruments and touchscreen, a minimum of switches and ample space for five - even in the centre rear seating position.
As a combination it all works nicely, with a high quality fit and uncluttered feel.
Staying connected is of course a prerequisite so every car comes with Android Auto, and later in the production run Apple CarPlay, linking the Kia to the user's smartphone and its apps, texts and hands-free calls.
That's in addition to USB charging points and, in the flagship model, a wireless charger for your mobile.
Just a single engine option is available, Kia's 1.7-litre turbodiesel which delivers 139bhp and an impressive 340Nm of torque. The headline stats are 0-62 in 9.8 seconds (10.7 auto) and a top speed of 124mph.
On the European launch route over a variety of Bavarian roads out from Munich, the Sportswagon proved an enjoyable car to drive and returned an average 48 miles per gallon, compared to the official combined figure of 64.2, with the six-speed manual transmission.
There was plenty of pull in the mid range and supple feel from the suspension, though the steering is on the light side.
That said, this is a car that feels smooth and clean-winded, as well as being insulated from exterior noise and vibration.
As for green credentials the Idle Stop & Go engine stop/start set-up is standard, manual models emit only 113g/m of CO2 (120g/km auto) and if you go for the 7DCT dual-clutch auto gearbox you can switch between Normal, Eco and Sport drive modes.
The UK line-up echoes those available for the Optima saloon in the shape of 2, 3 and GT Line S trim grades, while a more sporty high performance GT version is due early next year.
All are well equipped with the emphasis on catering for business users and include the company's seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty.
Prices start at £22,295 for the Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi 2 variant rising to £30,595 for the GT Line S 7DCT model.
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