Thursday 8 December 2016

Diesel shows it can get Optima result with Kia

New large saloon a big improvement

Published 31/01/2016 | 02:30

Kia Optima
Kia Optima

I suppose it is nearly alright now (and, more importantly, politically correct) to mention that diesels can be good for you too. I'll take a chance this week, anyway, because I have an example of how they can really save us money.

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We can rant all we like about noxious emissions but when something affects our pocket - in this case for the better - I think our political correctness goes out the door.

The Kia Optima is not a car with which you may be overly familiar. The previous rendition wasn't what you'd call a resounding success; the recession didn't help but, for some reason, I never liked it that much either.

This new one is more to my taste (though there are a couple of things I disagree with). It is a typical large family/fleet saloon in terms of design - crescent shaped, curvy and sturdy-looking. After initially dismissing it as bland, I think it is not bad-looking at all now.

And the inside, in my test car's case, was made all the more comfortable and 'upmarket' (I'm getting fed up with that word) by leather upholstery all round. It makes such a difference to how you initially feel about a car and, as we know, initial impressions tend to stick.

A glance at the spec sheet shows that even the basic version comes in with decent trim. That's the way this sector has gone now especially with the likes of Volkswagen pushing its highest spec Passat at a lower PCP interest rate.

Importantly, the Optima has a much quieter cabin now because Kia has suppressed noise from the tyres and, more notably, the engine which has been comprehensively overhauled. The latter is not totally new but it's had a lot of work done to improve fuel consumption and emissions. More anon.

I'm highlighting the leather etc because it is now all about people feeling comfortable and at their ease - especially for the high proportion who put up big mileage on cars like this.

The Optima competes in a sector where fleet drivers spend a long time behind the wheel. Rivals include the Passat, Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40 (a Kia cousin), Peugeot 508, etc. It's a competitive arena and for a relative newcomer poses a real challenge

This has a fair bit going for it, though. I had plenty of comfort and space in a well-thought out cabin; loads of room and plenty of equipment, good visibility and a sense of solid build - all important if you're in it for hours and hours every day. But as a driver I'd have preferred more forgiveness from the suspension and wheels.

I thought it a bit harsh on the ridges and ripples now prominent on so many roads in and around Dublin city centre. It was fine on the motorways and better roads.

I drove it a fair bit in all sorts of weather and on varied road conditions and I'm convinced the steering is far too light; it feels too remote. I'd say that is my major criticism of the car - and it's an important one because of the distances people tend to drive these motors.

But I couldn't complain at all about the 1.7-litre diesel engine. As part of the progress I mentioned, power has gone up a little. And it pulled well in the higher gears.

However, the eye-catching figure for ­potential fleet drivers, and for families, is the fall in emissions - down 40g to 110g/km.

In money terms, that means your diesel consumption should drop noticeably - even allowing for the reduction in prices at the pumps.

And your road tax will go down by €90 a year (€280 to €190).

Don't get me wrong, others do as well on that front (and have been doing for some time) but at least now the Optima can compete where heretofore it didn't.

No, it's not a flawless car and the light steering remains a drawback for me.

But there is no doubt it is now a substantial proposition (there is a fine boot) with a lot of equipment, comfort - and a seven-year warranty.

And with your running costs likely to be a lot lower, it's a timely reminder that diesel doesn't need to be the dirty word some people would like to think it is.

Kia Optima, family/fleet saloon. 1.7-litre diesel, 6spd manual, (141PS, 110g/km, €190 road tax, claimed 4.2l/100km).

Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto lights/wipers, 17ins alloys, 7ins navigation/camera screen, Bluetooth, lane assist, semi-leather seats, 4.3ins TFT. Platinum adds 18ins alloys, full leather, electric driver seat adjust, heated seats, LED fog lamp.

And GSE gets a panoramic sunroof, 8ins nav/camera display, 10 speakers, beige two-tone leather.

Prices from €27,950. Platinum €31,450, GSE €34,450.

Facts & figures

Kia Optima, family/fleet saloon. 1.7-litre diesel, 6spd manual, (141PS, 110g/km, €190 road tax, claimed 4.2l/100km).

Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto lights/wipers, 17ins alloys, 7ins navigation/camera screen, Bluetooth, lane assist, semi-leather seats, 4.3ins TFT. Platinum adds 18ins alloys, full leather, electric driver seat adjust, heated seats, LED fog lamp.

And GSE gets a panoramic sunroof, 8ins nav/camera display, 10 speakers, beige two-tone leather. 

Prices from €27,950. Platinum €31,450, GSE €34,450.

My side of the road

You'd wonder where people get off smoking in cars. I know they are not supposed to do it. I know it is illegal where children are present. Tell that to those you see everyday at some junction or other. I can't understand why anyone would do it. The hard part is enforcing the law. We give out about noxious fumes from our cars. What about the killer ones in our cars? 

ecunningham@independent.ie

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