We drove the Kia Optima Sportswagon 1,7 CRDI: your elegant and able companion

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Kia goes from strength to strength, and impresses not only with stylish design, but also so with state of the art technology. Indeed, the Kia design department under the expert management of former Audi stylist Peter Schreyer, produced with this midsize Optima range some very good looking automobiles, with the Sportswagon version showing elegant and fluent lines. But as said, there is also the technical side of things. Here the vast resources of the Hyundai group truly tell. Engine, transmission, suspension and platform are totally up to the mark in its D segment. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Station wagon with style…

The Optima Sportswagon test car looked indeed very good in its metallic white, with subtle chrome accents enhancing the overall look. The grille has the typical Kia brand shape, this time embedded in a well-proportioned wrap around setting. Indeed, the headlights flow harmoniously over in the grill, or vice versa if you like, looking rather imposing but nevertheless quite elegant. The accent lines and profiles on the sides and rear enhance and underline the flowing elegance.

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This Kia is directly inspired by the Kia SPORTSPACE Concept, which was presented in 2015 on the Geneva Salon.

Harmonious, flowing lines are also found in the interior and dashboard, with the instruments bearing a remarkable resemblance to the iconic examples seen in the brand with the four rings.

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We like this clean, businesslike styling, and so we can only applaud it. Even the gear lever of the automatic 7 speed Dual Clutch auto box is very reminiscent and has the same shape and “feel” of my personal Audi A5 3.0 l V6 TDI Cabrio, which nothing to be ashamed of really; actually, I liked it very much!

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Comes with all this the excellent quality, look and feel of the materials, with the top surfaces of the dashboard being covered with a very good looking quality material, which is also very nice to the touch.

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We also liked very much the well styled cluster surrounding the central touchscreen, with its very tasteful brushed aluminum surrounding upright strips acting as a very elegant frame.

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Of course, the use of navigation and infotainment is intuitive, and even the novice will find its way easily around. More about the host of driver assist functions below.

Having found a comfortable position in the electronically adjustable front seats of the top equipment version we drove, it is time to start our drive. The starting knob in brushed aluminum is effectively reminiscent of the upmarket look and feel of this Optima, and conveys to you the impression that you are behind the wheel of a quality built car.

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Kia attaches of course great importance to its entry in the D segment with this Sportswagon, and we have to admit that they did a very good job with this one, which will surely attract new clients both in the private and business sector. Mind you, the Kia Sportswagon is built in Korea, in the Kia factory situated in Hwasung, but is aimed exclusively to the European market.

Smooth and frugal

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The smooth 1,7 liter Diesel engine confirms this. It starts up totally quiet, vibrationless, and delivers excellent pulling power and torque, through the equally smooth 7-speed dual clutch auto box. Engine and transmission are ideally mated together, gearchanges being not only smooth but also timely in function of the driving circumstances and the performance asked.

It’s needless to say that this Kia Optima feels totally well at home in town, on the open road and the motorway, and reveals itself as a formidable, well balanced driving machine.

We left the gearlever in the “D” position most of the time, as the transmission knows exactly what it has to do in every situation, but it is good to know that there are paddles on both sides of the steering wheel column when you take this Optima to the mountains for instance.

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Performance leaves little to be desired, given the Optima’s kerb weight of 1560 kg and the 1,7 liter engine size. The engine develops 141 HP at 4000 rpm, with 340 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm. Acceleration from 0 to 100 is absolved in 11,1 seconds, top speed being 203 kmh.

The manufacturer quotes average consumption to be 4,4 liters/100 km, with some restraint and anticipation it was well possible for us to stay around 6 liters/100 km in urban driving, between 5 and 6 liters on the open road. CO2 emissions are given to be 120 g/km in the 7 speed dual clutch auto version, with the Indle Stop/Go package of course.

State of the art inboard electronics and infotainment, with Android Auto and Apple Car Play…

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In this segment, both for the business and private markets, state of the art infotainment is a must, and the Optima therefore is equipped with a 7 or optional 8 inch touchscreen, DAB radio (our test car had even the Harman Kardon system, 490 Watts strong with 8 speakers, external amplifier and subwoofer) and links into Android Auto (5.0 Lollipop or higher) and Apple Car Play, for 5 series IPhones or newer. Both systems operate with voice command, noblesse oblige…

This time, we could fully enjoy our MP3 music files, as the Optima sports a Clari-Fi TM technology to expand again the compressed files to their full glory.

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Of course one enjoys the full range of Kia Connected Services, and in conjunction with TomTom you get up to date info about speed controls, traffic situations, weather, etc. And this is totally free for the Kia driver, up to 7 years!

Your phone can be wirelessly charged, and of course there are USB sockets fore and aft.

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A host of driver assistance systems is also installed, like Smart Cruise Control (SCC), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which recognizes both pedestrians and cars also at longer distances, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which we appreciate more and more, High Beam Assist (HBA), Speed Limit Information Function (SLIF), Blind Spot Detection (BSD) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert – RCTA. In ‘City’ and ‘Urban’ modes, the Autonomous Emergency Braking operates at speeds between 8 and 60 kmh.

Precise and entertaining handling.

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The Sportswagon has electronic power steering, and one can opt for electronically controlled suspension,  wich was installed in our test car. It is even standard equipment in the 2 liter GT models, which we will also drive for you in the coming weeks.

The Optima feels totally at home when driven with spirit, and is totally predictable at high cornering and straight line speeds. The brakes are of course also totally up to their task. By the way, the Sportswagon has Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) as standard equipment. This system ensures stability by interfering in the Electronic Stability Control System (ESC) and the electronic power steering, when it detects any loss of grip.

Practical

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The Optima body earns its 5 stars at the NCAP crash test, thanks to ultra-high strength steel elements in body and platform, and offers the necessary practicality one comes to expect in this segment.

The luggage volume (VDA norm) with the rear backrests upright is an impressive 550 liters. The rear backrests can be split in three ways: 40:20:40. One can also lodge the luggage cover in a space beneath the luggage area, so you don’t need to leave the cover at home when you have to carry a high load which fills the whole compartment…

Conclusion

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The Optima Sportswagon is Kia’s very convincing entry into the D-segment. It impresses with style, mechanics, driving pleasure, workmanship and finish, and offers all the roominess and practicality one has come to expect from a station wagon in this class. It is fully equipped in the top version(s), and is attractively priced too. Infotainment, navigation, driver assistance systems, all this leaves nothing to be desired. We also liked the very intuitive commands of it all, making you feel at home right away.

We will soon test also the petrol engine 2 liter GT version of the Sportswagon, just stay posted…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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