Kia Optima

Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi

3 ISG

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

THIS might come as a shock - not everyone is in love with crossovers and SUVs.

Hard as this might be to perceive in view of the vast numbers of high riders on our roads, there's a real alternative which is often cheaper and more driveable.

It's called an estate car. Or, in the modern idiom a sports tourer, station wagon, Avant or touring.

Whatever the terminology, it is an estate with a huge loading platform and a tailgate. And most importantly it is much more practical than a normal three-box saloon without the extra weight and maintenance of four-wheel-drive.

Among the most stylish, reasonably priced offerings is the Kia Optima Sportswagon, a mid-range estate that blends decent performance with 50mpg economy yet it is large enough to make a fully loaded trip back from Ikea with kitchen sink and essential flatpacks.

In fact, the rear cargo deck can absorb 552 litres of luggage with five adults on board and an extra 1,100 litres if the backs seats are folded down - enough for most families. The platform is usefully low making loading heavy items an easy job.

The same width and length as the saloon on which it is based, the standard roofrails marginally increase the height. I drove the 1.7 CRDi 3 ISG version which at under £25,000, comes lavishly equipped with sat nav, full connectivity, DAB radio, LED fog lights, heated front seats and premium sound system.

Power comes from an established 1.7-litre, four cylinder diesel that pushes out a reasonable 139bhp. While the Optima won't exactly light up the Tarmac, it's quick enough to satisfy most long distance drivers or families with acceleration to 62mph in under 10-seconds and a max of 124mph.

Fuel is sipped at a miserly rate with around 50mpg being quite attainable. The official average is 64.2mpg and emissions are an impressive 113g/km.

In its latest form, the Sportswagon is refined and comfortable with a suspension system modified for British roads which copes well with pockmarks and potholes without being too soft. Hence cornering remains relatively roll-free and reassuringly precise.

Noise levels are subdued thanks partly to the good installation of the diesel unit plus acoustic damping, and there's little disturbance from wind noise due to its clean shape. Road rumble over some surfaces can break the general silence, however.

The car I tried was fitted with six speed manual gearbox but a seven-speed dual clutch automatic system is available. The standard manual box is swift enough with an easy change and a light clutch.

The cabin is smart enough if a shade bland. The centre console is angled towards the driver and well finished with the upper part concentrating on display and the lower section focusing on controls. Buttons and switches are kept to a minimum as is the current trend.

FAST FACTS

Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi 3 ISG

Price: £24,495

Mechanical:138bhp, 1,685cc, 4cyl dieselengine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 9.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 64.2

Insurance Group: 20

C02 emissions: 113g/km

Bik rating: 19%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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