Kia Optima

Sportswagon 1.7 CRDI

Kia Optima Sportswagon, driving
Kia Optima Sportswagon, front quarter
Kia Optima Sportswagon, front
Kia Optima Sportswagon, rear
Kia Optima Sportswagon, rear quarter
Kia Optima Sportswagon, dashboard
Kia Optima Sportswagon, boot
Kia Optima Sportswagon, interior

STYLE is everything. Well, you'd expect designers to come out with that sort of sweeping statement.

But there's a strong case to be made for beauty and fashion in the motor industry...after all, few would dispute that more cars are bought with heart than with the head.

And it's significant that more and more estate cars are better looking than the saloons on which they are based - example: Audi A4 Avant, Insignia Sports Tourer, SEAT Leon ST and also, to my eyes, the new Kia Optima Sportswagon.

Unlike some rivals, Kia has managed to provide seriously generous luggage carrying ability with a wide tailgate for bulky loads and plenty of cabin space for passengers, yet still turn out a rakish profile with a distinctly sporting appearance.

For those who haven't been lured into the SUV camp, this sort of estate is the ideal compromise between fashion and versatility.

The £24,495 1.7 CRDi 3 ISG version I drove comes with a smart key that allows the tailgate to open automatically if it is in close proximity for more than three seconds - really useful when you have your hands full loading cargo.

Space in the boot when five are on board is a cavernous 552 litres, including some underfloor stowage for valuables. When the back seats are folded this grows to 1,686 litres.

The rear seats are split 40-20-20, so two people can still sit in the back if a long load is carried.

With interior passenger dimensions similar to that of a Mondeo estate there's decent leg and shoulder room. Despite the sleek rake of the hind-quarters, headroom in the back is ample.

There's no doubt this Optima is, as its name implies, is sporty to look at. But what does it hold for the driver?

The 1.7-litre diesel isn't the smoothest operator but punches out an acceptable 139bhp so 62mph comes up in just under 10 seconds and maximum is 124mph.

The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth enough and the long final ratio allows relaxed and economical cruising.

The emphasis is more on refinement than dynamism and there are times it feels somewhat less than athletic during swift cornering, though it's safe and predictable at all times. Despite its sporty nomenclature this is more a commodious family estate than a thrill machine.

In true Kia style, there are bags of kit as standard including LED front fog lights and rear lights, eight-inch touch screen sat nav, eight-way electric driver's seat, onboard computer and front and rear parking sensors.

Owners are protected by a generous seven year/100,000 mile warranty.

The facia is tastefully laid out with good quality finish and well fitted. It is split into upper display and lower control areas keeping the number of buttons and switches to a minimum and allowing the touch screen to enable many of the functions. This means the dashboard remains fairly uncluttered and clean.

With emissions contained at 113g/km economy is up there with the best.

FAST FACTS

Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDI

Price: £24,495

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

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 9.8 seconds

Combined MPG: 64.2

Insurance Group: 19

C02 emissions: 113g/km

Bik rating: 24%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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