Optimal deal for fleet sector
Despite a couple of annoying features, there's a definite feelgood factor to the Kia Optima, says, Campbell Spray
'YOU really like driving this car, don't you?" remarked the one whom the dog loves more than me.
"Ah yes, at least I understand it all," I replied as a medley of electric and hybrid cars had left their mark on, respectively, my stress and intelligence levels.
The Kia Optima is a very straightforward, sharply presented, good-looking saloon hoping to make serious conquests in the sector that is led by the Toyota Avensis but has also recently had a very strong entrant in the form of the Hyundai i40 from Kia's Korean sister company.
The Optima has been doing so well in the USA over the last two years that we are only getting it now, which means the car is likely to be updated over there while sales here are only getting into their stride.
It is an extremely pleasant drive. Without any pretensions, it is precise and confident to go exactly where you want it to with minimal roll and just enough grunt from the 134hp 1.7 diesel engines to effortlessly compete on the motorway.
The version I was driving was the "Platinum" option and was coming down with kit including leather seats, 17" alloys, twin panoramic roof and electric memory front seat. However, not everything was up to par: the driver's seat might almost do orbits of the moon but there was almost nothing for the passenger, so that the two front seats could be at massively different heights; the reversing camera which comes as part of the rear view mirror just isn't big enough for the job; anybody forced to sit in the middle of the back row of seats would be very uncomfortable very quickly; and the alloys were so flush with the tyres that I predict they will look very scraped sooner than you can say "watch that kerb".
Yet the car gives business fleet strength to Kia's already impressive range of small cars and SUV/crossovers. Of course a major factor with all Kias is the phenomenal seven-year fully transferable warranty which will be a special bonus for business users trying to settle their costs.
Kia's Ireland MD James Brooks says that after being absent from this important segment in recent years Kia is "delighted to be back with this attractive sedan", which the parent company's chief design officer Peter Schreyer says embodies "bold, athletic and visual sporting energy".
When such a person tells me their car is "frumpy, pedestrian and like the back of a bus to look at" I will have great respect! Nissan Tiida clones, where are you?
The price for the entry level EX Optima is €26,995 and, while it does come with a rake of kit, it is the platinum model at €28,995 which should do well. However, if you want automatic it is almost a staggering €4,000 more and goes up two bands in road tax to €481 from the manual's €225. In that respect there are a number of competitors which are already in the lowest banding. It is real dogfight in this sector, with the Avensis and VW Passat very much lifting their game recently.
The Optima won't make as much impact as its i40 sister from Hyundai, which is priced much the same but seems a rather more finished package and, despite the same engine, is more economical. But that won't worry Kia; it now has a good entrant in the fleet sector. I was rather taken with the car. On paper it is a good deal and there is definitely a feel- good factor about it. But then I am an optimist and whether I could live with the few annoying features I have listed is another thing altogether. But then the dog was happy and I exuded happiness too.