New Cars

The Kia Optima 3. Unsung hero or close but no cigar?


‘It’s certainly a handsome car’ I thought as i approached the Kia Optima for the first time.

When you consider the company car sector, there are a few names that always crop up. BMW, Audi, Vauxhall, Ford, Mazda and so on. Kia is not one of those names that crops up in company car circles. That’s the reason I was so keen to drive the Optima.

Kia Optima 3-1 (1280x851)

With Mondeo and Insignia test drives under my belt, I thought the Optima would make an interesting wild card. I do like an underdog.

The test car was the very well-appointed Optima 3. It has all the bells and whistles and compared to even the Vauxhall Insignia Elite Nav, it eclipses the competition when you compare standard specification.

There are 3 trim levels in the Optima line up, 1, 2 and 3. 3 is the highest spec and In typical modern car style it is crammed with electronics. It has all of the features you would expect from a well specified BMW or Mercedes and then some.

Inside the Optima 3 you are greeted with full leather upholstery and 8 way electrically adjustable driver’s seat. The front and rear seats are heated and the front seats are ventilated. There are brushed aluminium trim details all over the place and the steering wheel and dash are covered in buttons.

Kia’s 7″ sat nav is good, the infinity 12 speaker sound system is ok and the build quality is faultless. The materials used are generally high quality with a good feel. No cheap plastics or squeaky dashboards here.

The Kia Optima 3 has a whole host of active safety features such as blind spot detection (whatever that is), LKAS (Lane keep assist system) and hundreds of other anachronisms. It’s even got self-parking (PPAS) which is my pet hate. If you can’t parallel park a car, you clearly can’t drive. Having said that, it works really well. So if you can’t park, can’t stay in your own lane, don’t pay attention to the road ahead so need help to brake and can’t switch you own light or wipers on, this is the car for you.

The layout of the controls and feel of the buttons and switches is typically non-European but that’s not a bad thing. Inside and out, this is a very accomplished car and not a bad place to spend a few hours while you navigate the dilapidated, road work infested UK motorways.

Take it from me, if you choose the Optima 3, you won’t be left wanting.

On the outside it’s a similar story. The Optima 3 has great lines. It’s a good looking car.

Standard on the 3 are features such as Xenon headlights, LED running lights, side skirts and rear spoiler plus 18″ wheels.

Kia Optima 3-4 (1280x851)

Tinted glass, panoramic sunroof and many, many other details and features come together to make a great package.

So that’s it then, job done, decision made. Reps and middle management up and down the country will be dumping their A4’s and Mondeo’s for the Kia Optima 3?

Not quite.

There are 2 big issues with the Optima. The first is the engine. It’s a 134bhp, 1685cc turbo diesel engine. It’s just not enough when you compare it to the 163bhp Insignia or the 160bhp Mondeo.

That’s only part of the problem. The biggest issue is how the engine delivers its 134bhp. The lag is unacceptable. In this day and age, there is no excuse for the appalling power delivery.

I’ll give you an example; you’re approaching a roundabout in second gear, low revs, and there’s a gap. You put your foot down to accelerate and……….nothing. You slowly pull out, waiting for the turbo to spool up which takes for ever.

I simply couldn’t live with it long term. I only had the test car for a few days and i wasn’t sad to see it go.

In all other respects it is a perfectly good car, well, in almost all other respects.

So, let’s address the elephant in the room.

It’s a Kia. I can’t ignore it any more, it is what it is. Parked in the company car park, you can’t avoid the badge snobbery.

Kia Optima 3-7-ss

Because it’s a Kia, it needs to be either better than the competition, cheaper or both.

Better than the competition is a bold statement. It isn’t better but it is as good.

So that means it must be cheaper.

The Optima 3 is £27,350 OTR which is about the same as a Mondeo Titanium to the same specification and about £2,000 more than the Vauxhall Insignia Elite Nav to the same specification.

Bother have more power and a better engine than the Optima.

So as a company car driver, faced with the choice of the trusted Mondeo or Insignia or the Kia something or the other, what would you go for?


Sorry Kia. Good effort but no cigar this time.


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