A LOT of people, in a lot of places, seem to be missing a trick.
It’s to do with a model that has been named Best of the Best in its category of the 2016 international Red Dot design awards yet last year sold less than 700 cars.
Optima seems an optimistic enough name yet for some reason Kia’s suited and booted saloon hasn’t hit it off with many admirers.
Whether much will change in the coming months is uncertain; what’s definite is that the new, second generation Optima is a car of multiple virtue – and it’s got the looks to match.
But then the number and extent of the changes with this car compared to its predecessor is significant, from its upmarket driver-focused cabin and longer, more elegant profile to its new state of the art technologies.
For starters, the fresh interior also means that what was already impressive space for all occupants has just got better still – and with its 50 per cent stiffer bodyshell the car’s driving dynamics are sharper than before.
Kia makes no bones about its target audience – the fleets, so all four variants of the Optima feature an upgraded version of the Korean brand’s 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine, mated with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission.
The claim is of fuel savings and CO2 emissions reductions of up to 25 per cent over the previous model, and with whole-life running costs and benefit-in-kind taxation so crucial to sales the effect will surely prove positive over time.
Private owners aren’t forgotten either, road tax falling by £90 per year with manual versions and by £150 with the automatic after the first initial registration payment.
That’s not all, as the initial trio of trim grades – 2, 3 and 4 – is increasing over the coming months to include GT-Line and GT versions, while a plug-in hybrid model with all-electric drive range will be added before the end of the year along with an estate.
What customers are getting is an Optima that’s both refined and lively to drive, with plenty of low down pulling power and terrific composure at speed on the motorways, though the steering could do with a touch more feedback.
For the traveller needing to pile in boxes of samples or a family packing in everyday paraphernalia, the boot is long and deep and the rear seats split and fold 60/40. Cabin stowage is also good.
And of course a prerequisite for a driver munching the motorway miles is a comfortable driving position, something the Optima’s lumbar support is designed to ensure.
As for creature comforts there are plenty across the range, the likes of a touchscreen navigation system, Bluetooth, audio streaming, rear view camera and USB charging points on every car.
There’s also a wireless charger for mobile phones or MP3 players.
Capped off with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and Kia’s standard seven-year warranty it all adds up to a comprehensive package – one with a look of real prestige too.
MODEL: Optima 1.7 CRDi 3.
ENGINE: 1,685cc, 4-cyl diesel.
POWER: 139bhp at 4,000rpm.
PERFORMANCE: 0-62 in 10.0 secs, top speed 121mph.
ECONOMY: 55.4mpg Urban, 76.3 Extra Urban, 67.3 Combined.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 110g/km.
BiK RATING: 20%.
INSURANCE: Group 20 (1-50).
PRICE: £23,495 on the road.
WHAT’S HOT: Style, equipment, space, economy.
WHAT’S NOT: Steering feedback.
RATINGS (Out of 5)
LOOKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
EQUIPMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
RIDE AND HANDLING . . . . . . . . . 4
PERFORMANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
VALUE FOR MONEY . . . . . . . . . . . 4