To make this Optima a slightly more rewarding driving companion, Kia has stiffened the body, tweaked the suspension and added a redesigned rack-mounted motor-driven power steering system. The result’s an improvement but still leaves the car lacking the kind of response and feel that enthusiasts will be looking for. Still, there aren’t many people like that shopping in this car’s Mondeo-sector medium range market segment. For more typical drivers in this class, it’ll be more significant that this car now offers exemplary refinement, while ride quality, though a little unsettled at lower speeds, is pretty good at higher ones.
Under the bonnet, all mainstream models share the same 1. 7-litre CRDi diesel engine, this time slightly torquier and more powerful than before, developing 139bhp and capable of more efficient returns – up to 67. 3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 110g/km of CO2. This time round, this unit can also be mated with the 7DCT seven-speed auto transmission, a gearbox that’s now notably smoother and more efficient. If you really don’t want a diesel, then Kia offers two further options: a 242bhp 2. 0-litre T-GDI petrol unit in the minority-interest GT flagship model. And a more relevant plug-in hybrid variant that combines a 2. 0-litre GDI petrol engine with a 50kW electric motor paired to a 9. 8 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack. This derivative’s capable of a 33-mile all-electric driving range and can deliver a scarcely credible set of quoted running cost returns – 166. 1mpg on the combined cycle and 37g/km of CO2.
A lot of this car’s success to date has had much to do with the way it’s been styled, so once again, Kia has plenty to thank Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer and his team for. This second generation model looks very similar to its predecessor, though this time round is actually longer, wider and a little taller than that car was. The longer profile certainly gives it a little more road presence and, as before, the wedgy shape with its high, hunched shoulders and low glasshouse would suit a premium badge. Which pretty much says it all.
The key design changes though, have taken place at the wheel, where the improvements over the previous model are considerable. As is the current trend, there are fewer buttons and the fascia is divided into upper and lower control zones, these separated by this horizontal chromed strip which enhances the increased width of the cabin. Key as usual in this class of car is the centre dash infotainment touchscreen, 7-inches in size on the entry-level model or 8-inches if you got a variant fitted with the excellent harmon kardon premium 10-speaker sound system.
Thanks to this second generation model’s extra length, height, width and 10mm of extra wheelbase, the cabin back here offers 25mm more legroom and 10mm more headroom than before, enough to make it one of the few in this class able to comfortably seat three adults over longer journeys.
Let’s take a look out back. The lid rises to reveal a rather narrow opening aperture, but get beyond it and you’ll find that the extra body length has delivered 5 more litres of extra bootspace than the previous model could provide, the total rising to 510-litres.
In summary, we think that this car has much to offer for those willing to look beyond the established contenders in this segment and give it a try. The extra cabin room will please families and it’ll certainly be a very smart set of wheels for the middle-ranking managers who sweep backwards and forwards across the country, from motorway service areas to shiny industrial estates then home again.
As for the established brands, well if they’re smart, they’ll be taking this car very seriously indeed. Because potentially, that’s what an increasing number of thoughtful drivers might already be doing.