15 December 2016
Review: Kia Optima Sportswagon
Indeed, most makers of estate cars now find some different way of describing them. So we have Sportbrake, Tourer, Sportswagon. Such as the first Kia Optima Sportswagon. One of the nicest of the latest batch, actually.
First, though, let’s take a look at the segment, where the medium-sized car now represents roughly 10pc of all car sales. Dominated in order by the top five models, VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Toyota Avensis and Opel Insignia.
It’s hard for the smaller makes to impact here. In Kia’s case, a registration of some 425 Optimas this year is respectable against a total of 14,500 or so medium cars in the mass-market arena. But it’s still a tough push, and they’re very glad to have the Sportage SUV as their very popular top seller.
Now to the Optima Sportswagon. Estate style cars in general are only around 8pc of sales in Ireland (though much more popular in other, larger markets in Europe, like Italy, and Germany). In the medium car segment here, the proportion is possibly a little higher, maybe 11pc. So, it’s still worth having a presence there.
And the new Optima wagon is really good in the presence department. The edgily elegant front end is now familiar to those of us who notice the Optima saloon in its latest version. But from the A pillar where the roof rails set a new line to the estate rear, the designers have done a really good job of providing an attractive alternative to the saloon. In particular, the kick-up from the waistline to the tailgate nails nicely what’s often a difficult transition in style terms.
You drive cars of this size easily. Not for the sound and fury, but for their relaxing qualities in a traffic environment that particularly in Europe tends to be intense and stressing. The Optima scores nicely in this need, and in all my journeys it was a pleasant experience. The 1.7 diesel is well insulated from the cabin, and murmurs in the background. The manual gearshifter is sweet and precise, as expected from all makers these days. Steering, braking, and all general driving activities are exactly as they should be in this car.
The space with the wagon format offers 552L of cargo capacity with all seats in use, and that can be modified in a wide range of ways because all three rear seats can be individually popped down, easily by one-touch levers. There’s a safety barrier net to keep stuff from wandering in the back.
It’s a really nice family car, with lots of capacity and an elegance in a traditional wagon that the SUV format will struggle to achieve. For sure, the preferences that there are in Ireland at the moment, mean that the Optima Sportswagon won’t be flooding onto our roads in massive numbers. But I reckon those that do roll out of Irish Kia showrooms will be very much appreciated by their discerning owners.
The price is €29,950, plus charges.