The previous Kia Optima was one of the forgotten medium saloons, offering striking styling and a comfortable interior, but failing to register with many fleets.

Kia is hoping its new model will make a much greater impact, however, thanks in part to the upcoming plug-in hybrid and Sportswagon estate versions.

What should give the new Optima a much better start are its residual values, which stand at 38.2% for our 1.7-litre diesel test model – placing it around 3-8% ahead of most direct rivals and even beating premium German rivals including the BMW 3-series and VW Passat.

This means that costs for the well-equipped 3 model stand at 48.7p per mile, undercutting the similarly specced Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 150 Titanium (52.8ppm), Vauxhall Insignia 1.6 CDTi 136 Elite Nav (52.7ppm) and Mazda 6 2.2d 150 SE-L SNav (51.2ppm). More premium competition comes in the form of the slightly slower Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI 120 SE Business (47.9ppm) and the more powerful Volvo S60 2.0 D3 150 Business Edition (49.3ppm).

Emissions of 110g/km lag slightly behind the most efficient rivals, however, meaning that benefit-in-kind bills are a little higher than the Volvo’s £69/£138 figure (for 20%/40% taxpayers, respectively) at £78/£156, although these are pretty closely matched with Ford, Mazda, Vauxhall and VW equivalents.

The Optima’s diesel engine is one of its main strengths, pulling strongly and smoothly from low engine speeds, while not producing much noise, unless worked hard. Adding to the relaxed driving experience is a comfortable ride and a light, easy-to-judge clutch.

The vague steering, though, offers an irritating keenness to self-centre, while the brakes don’t respond as quickly as expected to pressure on the pedal.

Similarly, the automatic handbrake function (where the car holds the brakes when stationary without drivers having to press the handbrake button and wait for it to engage) could also be set up better, as it requires substantial pressure on the brake pedal before operating.

This means it doesn’t always engage when expected, negating the function’s purpose of making life easier for the driver.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of space in both rows of seats and a large boot, although the narrow boot opening is not as practical as the hatchbacks available on the Mondeo and Insignia. The interior feels high quality and easy to navigate, meanwhile, but the satnav system and radio controls aren’t as logical to
use as rival systems.

As a fleet machine the Optima presents a strong case, with more kit than most drivers will ever need and low overall costs. Despite high refinement levels, it doesn’t drive as nicely as Ford, Mazda or Volvo rivals, though, with a few small irritations, including a dimwitted automatic handbrake.

Consequently, while the Optima appeals on paper, users after a sharp-handling vehicle will be better served elsewhere, with the Volvo S60 also offering BIK savings.

Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 3

Model price range £21,495-£28,895
Residual value 38.2%
Depreciation £14,490
Fuel £4100
Service, maintenance and repair £2125
Vehicle Excise Duty £40
National Insurance £2135
Cost per mile 48.7p
Fuel consumption 67.3mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 110g/km (20%)
BIK 20/40% per month £78/£156
Warranty 7yrs/100,000mls
Boot space 510 litres
Engine size/power 1685cc/139hp