Our Fleet Test Drive: Kia Optima - Final Report
03 December 2013
Author: Jack Carfrae
The Optima was hot property when we first acquired it, because, fresh off the production line in early 2012, it was a new and extremely handsome addition to Kia's range, signifying the growing firm's first serious attempt to take down unflappable upper medium contenders such as the Ford Mondeo and the VW Passat.
It began its year in our hands with BusinessCar contributor Guy Bird, which saw it subjected to heavy urban use. That wasn't the Optima's natural habitat, which may explain the shaky start, including a loose handbrake and an unfortunate episode where it was heavily scratched .
My 'life on the road' kind of driving allowed me to put the Kia to better use when I took the reins. As a motorway and A-road tool, it's superb; the engine note is a little abrasive but save for that it's quiet, comfortable and absolutely made for swallowing miles.
It's also a lot of car for the money. With a P11D value of £21,640, it's cheap enough to well undercut the aforementioned Mondeos of this world and is a far stronger head-over-heart proposition than the likes of the BMW 3-series and Audi A4, which, although premium, dominate the upper medium market.
The 2 Tech trim level packs plenty of standard equipment too, fleet highlights being an electric driver's seat, reversing camera and Bluetooth. Its time in urban service revealed that front parking sensors would have been handy (it's a big car) and I reckon a DAB radio as well as the easy-to-use touch-screen audio system  would make it all the more appealing.
Despite the examples we cited, the Optima's closest competition comes from a neighbouring stable. The Hyundai i40 (my previous long-termer), with which it shares virtually all of its major components, got the edge on the Kia from the outset. Not only did it hit the UK market earlier, but a like-for-like KwikCarcost comparison showed that the Hyundai  just came up trumps in just about every way - with final figures of 49.8ppm vs 53.4ppm.
It's a shame because the Optima is genuinely good at what it does and a worthy effort, but this smacks of parent company Hyundai being given the upper hand. I've no doubt that the odd software tweak here and there could reduce the Kia's 128g/km of CO2 to the point where it's competitive with the i40's 119g/km.
I always like the underdog, though, which is why I'm sad to see the Kia go.
- Good looking and great on motorways
- Trumped on costs and/or finish by rivals