Kia Optima is big on style

Kia Optima 2
Kia Optima 2

KIA really does mean to do the business big time when its newest UK arrival goes on sale on February 1.

The Optima is firmly aimed at fleet sales and company car drivers are in for a bit of a treat.

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

They might have given the thumbs down to the offer of a Korean-made car finding its place on their driveways just a few years ago but that has all changed.

Kia has made its mark here with some stunning little models recently – and now it’s time to see the company make a serious bid to win sales in the highly-competitive D-segment.

Ford Mondeo is champion of this sector but this and other competitors are about to lose sales to a bold new challenger.

Main reason, I reckon, for Kia’s new flagship to become a real player is its looks.

Chief designer Peter Schreyer has come up trumps again by producing an ace that will win a lot of admirers.

First impressions usually count and I wasn’t alone when I praised the Optima’s looks at the car’s launch.

It is as stylish as any of its rivals with a coupe-like profile and bold flared wheel arches that add to its muscular appearance.

The interior is bright and airy and materials range from good to very good depending on which spec you choose.

I found there was lots of headroom and legroom and that was the same for front and rear passengers.

The fascia is tilted towards the driver so seeing the clear instrument panel isn’t a problem.

The engine choice when deciding on which model you want is easy – there is only one.

Kia has decided to offer just diesel power in its UK Optimas and this is a 134bhp 1.7-litre unit which proved efficient, particularly in the six-speed manual version.

Smartly

This saloon model moves smoothly and smartly off the starting blocks and with a top speed of 125mph cruised along at motorway speeds.

Those going for the six-speed automatic transmission will find it slightly slower and will also lose out considerably on fuel economy – they’ll also pay and extra £1,500.

Drivers opting for manual will be able to achieve excellent consumption figures of 64.2mpg (extra urban), 57.6mpg (combined) and 49.6mpg (urban).

They will also benefit from lower company taxation rates thanks to the 128g/km CO2 emissions.

The Optima was agile enough and I didn’t have any complaints about ride comfort from my two passengers on a 90-mile trip.

There was minimal wind or road noise and business drivers will welcome the comfort on those long motorway journeys.

Optima is available in Kia’s familiar 1, 2 and 3 trim grades, with mid-range versions offering Luxe or Tech trim at the same £21,695 price. Entry level model costs £19,595 with the Optima 3 manual £24,495.

Standard spec is high and don’t forget it also has Kia’s unique seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty.

The 1 trim list includes alloy wheels, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth with voice recognition, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control and speed limiter.

Mid and top grade specs include automatic de-fogging system, cornering lights, a superb 12-speaker Infinity sound system, reversing camera, parallel parking assist and cooled, ventilated driver’s seat.

While the Optima is a new arrival here it comes with a sparkling CV.

It was first unveiled at the New York Auto Show in 2010 and such is the demand in the US that production started in Georgia to meet growing orders.

Soared

Home-ground success came instantly as Optima – named K5 there - soared to become Korea’s top-selling car within a month of leaving the showrooms – becoming the first Kia to reach that number 1 slot.

Kia’s corporate sales in the UK have gone through the roof – up by 145 per cent between 2010 and 2011, and its gleaming Optima can only add to that success.