Kia Optima

A Kia that looks like a Jaguar – does it drive like one too?

Price: from £19,595
Engine capacity: 1.7 litres
Top speed (mph): 125
0-60mph (seconds): 10.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 57.6

The Optima is a thing of beauty, and you don't get a chance to say that about a Kia very often. Sleek, smooth and classy, its looks in part a deliberate attempt to mimic the proportions of expensive rear-wheel drive luxury saloons.

The Optima, like all of its Mondeo-class competitors, has front-wheel drive, but visual tweaks and hard work mean that, badges and grille apart, it looks a bit like a Jaguar. It's a real credit to Kia's design chief, ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer, who has played a vital role in the company's rise since 2006.

Once you get inside, though, the Optima is, perhaps inevitably, a lot less Jag-like. Instead of good old British wood and leather, or classy touches like Jaguar's famous gear selector that automatically rises from the centre console when you start the engine, you get a fairly standard cabin that's broadly comparable with its competitors.

That means it's roomy, tasteful and well-equipped – but not too exciting. The relevant comparison here, though, is with Kia's previous big saloon, the Magentis. In many areas, that now looks and feels not so much like the Optima's immediate predecessor but a car two, or perhaps even three, generations older, and nowhere is the difference more obvious than in the Optima's interior.

Compared with the Magentis's old-school Korean detailing, the Optima's cabin is a shrine to the principles of surprise and delight. And the big advance compared with the Magentis is also very noticeable when you get out on the road. The Optima is a reasonably tidy handler but it's the new car's drive-train that represents the big step forward. In other markets there are several engine options, including petrols and hybrids but UK models are all being fitted with Kia's smooth and strong 1.7-litre diesel, at least for the time being, a sensible decision given local buyers' preferences.

A few years ago, I'd probably have been telling you that this was another area in which comparisons with Jags, despite the Optima's flowing looks, were out of place, but now I'm not so sure; even Jaguar has bowed to the inevitable and started offering four-cylinder diesel engines in its big cars, so some XFs won't actually sound that different to an Optima.

One area where an Optima can't quite match a Jag, though, is in terms of its optional automatic gearbox, which has six speeds, whereas Jaguar has started rolling out eight-speed boxes to most of its models. On the other hand, Magentis automatic were four-speeders, and the last time anyone got excited about one of those was probably around 1982.

Although the Optima is a pretty decent effort, Kia doesn't expect it to sell in huge numbers in the UK; the Magentis had such a low profile here that the company is now effectively a new entrant in the hard-fought Mondeo class. That won't bother the Koreans, though, because much of the buzz generated by this car's glamorous looks will rub off on the rest of the Kia range, and they can already sell pretty much every Optima they can make to the Americans, who have gone for it in a big way. Kia seems to be pretty much unstoppable at the moment, and the Optima can only add to the momentum.

The competition: The Optima is most likely to be competing for sales with its half-sister, the Hyundai i40, and the established champ among budget badge big saloons, the Skoda Superb.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

    Email Designer

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Psychology Teacher

    £110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

    Food Technology Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week