SOME years ago the thought of paying nearly £30,000 for a Kia would have been treated with derision.
Kia was once regarded as just another budget brand from South Korea out to provide cheap and cheerful motoring to the masses.
But this thinking no longer applies because Kia had grown to be a big hitter in the UK and not the nine days wonder some at its birth here predicted.
It seems that Kia just cannot put a foot wrong and is a fast mover in terms of product development and evolution.
A case in point is the Optima, a Mondeo/Passat-sized saloon that features all the Kia virtues of sharp design, long warranty and driver enjoyment.
The original Optima did not enjoy quite the success that was expected of it. So Kia thought again for the second generation and produced a model which in my books just cannot lose.
It features more modern and very bold exterior styling and a much improved cabin in which high quality materials have been utilised.
A longer, more dynamic profile sets the stage for Optima to sweep buyers off their feet.
It has become more driver-orientated with its 50 per cent stiffer bodyshell offering much improved driving dynamics.
Its market target is the fleet world and it has been honed to suit the business driver with an upgraded version of the company's 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine, mated with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
However, it has a distinct pull towards the private market with bags of room beckoning customers back to larger sedans from the burgeoning crossover market.
Kia believes plenty of people are still after a big saloon car and is going all out to prove it.
With that master touch of chief designer Peter Schreyer, this car is streets ahead of the previous model in all areas.
Kia has increased the wheelbase by 10mm, the width by 25mm and the height by 10mm. The bodyshell is made with 50% more high-strength steel than before.
This helps to increase torsional rigidity by 50%, helping safety, refinement and handling.
Active safety features available, such as lane-keeping assist, an around-view monitor, active cruise control, automatic braking, a rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The 4 specification model I drove which costs £28,895 features a refined power flow, elegant driving manners and 126mph performance. Zero to 62mph comes up in 10.6 seconds and combined economy is 64.2mpg.