The elegant Kia Optima hits all the right notes

KIA has a new flagship model, the elegant Optima, a saloon with eye-catching design, high levels of standard equipment and very important low running costs.

KIA has a new flagship model, the elegant Optima, a saloon with eye-catching design, high levels of standard equipment and very important low running costs.

I have had the opportunity to take the wheel of the newcomer and immediately I was impressed by the cabin layout and the quality of the materials used.

The Optima is a global model for KIA which was first shown at the New York Auto Show in 2010. Weeks after going on sale in its home market, it became South Korea’s top seller, a first for the company.

Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, who has a great affection for all things aviation and both the exterior and the interior benefit from design cues associated with aircraft, stylish and uncomplicated.

Buyers will not have to ponder as to which engine to use; simply there is just one choice, a 134bhp diesel which is already proving popular in Sportage.

For Optima it has been further tweaked. Clearly KIA see the business sector as the prime target for this new model, however that is not to say that the private buyer will not enjoy the quality package that is on offer.

The Optima offers features never previously attainable on a KIA, including a high-end Infinity audio system; this delivers 550W of high-fidelity sound through 12 speakers in eight different locations throughout the car, including a boot-mounted subwoofer.

Self-parking, heated and cool-ventilated seats, cornering lights, panoramic sunroof, reverse parking camera and an automatic cabin defogging system are also available, as is a six-speed automatic transmission that is among the most advanced currently produced by any car manufacturer put this car in a luxury sector with a starting price sub £20,000.

While this is a saloon, it is quite versatile, the boot capacity has been enlarged to 505 litres and there is a lower lip to make the business of loading the car less strenuous.

The 60:40 split folding rear seats allow longer loads to be transported.

Other useful touches, a cooled glovebox, a centre console box, cupholders front and rear, a sunglasses holder, space for bottles in the front and rear doors, pockets in the backs of the front seats and a centre fascia tray large enough for a mobile telephone, conveniently located adjacent to AUX and USB points.

Safety always a priority and the Optima features large disc brakes on all four wheels, ventilated at the front, with anti-lock, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, giving the car class-leading emergency stopping power in all conditions, regardless of the force applied to the pedal by the driver.

Versions with automatic transmission feature a foot-operated parking brake.

All versions have Electronic Stability Control to counter any tendency of the car to skid out of control because of bad weather or over-exuberant driving.

This is linked to Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), which senses when the wheels on one side of the car are on a lower-grip surface than those on the other side, VSM then stabilises the car by reducing the amount of steering assistance if the driver is applying too much steering effort or increasing it if the driver is applying too little.

To alert other motorists to emergency braking, an Emergency Stop Signalling system is also fitted. This flashes the brake lights rapidly to warn following drivers.

Every Optima is fitted with front, side and curtain airbags, plus active front-seat head restraints to minimise the risk of whiplash injuries.

On the road the Optima delivers respectable performance figures, rest to 60mph takes 10.2 seconds in manual versions and 11.5 seconds with automatic transmission, while the respective top speeds are 125mph and 122mph.

Economy and the manual can achieve 57.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 128g/km, while the figures for the automatic are 47.1mpg and 158g/km.