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A Kia Optima Sportswagon review. You spoil us… I know, I get it. The Kia Optima Sportswagon is, I don’t think Kia will protest, not the most scintillating machine you’ll read about on TopGear.com today. But never mind. It is Kia’s first D-segment wagon (think Mondeo and Superb rival), and is also an entirely European effort. Designed in the West, sold only in the West. No ‘one world’ cost-cutting here. So what’s remarkable about it? It’s reasonably handsome, like all Kias. Next year there’s going to be a lukewarm, quick-ish version, called the GT. Meanwhile, we’re making do with the sensible 1.7 CRDi diesel, in mid-range ‘Sportswagon 3’ trim. There’s also a 2, and a range-topping GT Line S. There’s no ‘Sportswagon 1’. Weird.
Enough spec semantics. What’s good about the Sportswagon? Besides being handsome? It’s spacious. Certainly roomier inside than a Mondeo and more logical too. The eight-inch touchscreen makes up in usability what it lacks in resolution, the controls are all extremely sensibly placed and the buttons are large too. It’s like driving along in one of those Ee-Zee Use mobile phones for pensioners that only do voice calls and the odd text. The boot, meanwhile, has a handily low loading sill for chucking your stuff over, so the dog won’t require the fence-jumping ability of a Grand National winner to reach the 552-litre boot. This becomes a near-1,700 litre cavern with the rear seats folded. So it’s a useful thing, though the test car’s squeaky, rattly luggage cover would drive a liver surgeon to drink. Any good to drive? Well, it’s hardly dripping with potential for the 200bhp+ GT. The electric steering is so twangy it feels like the mechanics are made of elastic. There’s a surprisingly amount of body roll too. So it’s not a dynamically talented piece of kit. On balance it doesn’t feel as chuckable as the Sportage crossover. But it feels churlish to savage the Optima for not being a stirring drive when, well, it’s hardly a priority. A 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds and 124mph top speed is the definition of unremarkable pace. Pleasant six-speed gearshift, mind. What Optimas will be doing instead of setting lap records at the Nürburgring is plodding along the M1 with a nasty Toddington services coffee loshing around the cupholder. They’re workhorses. And if that’s the mileage you’re doing then the noticeable wind and tyre roar will get a bit tedious. As will the world’s squeakiest luggage cover. Up side? The seats are Volvo-comfortable. And there’s no higher praise. How much, then? Kias are cheap, right? They’re no longer absolute bargain basement stuff, but that’s because they’re also no longer European-imitation own-brand stuff. They’re worthy, well-thought out products with monster warranties. So, the Optima Sportswagon starts at £22,295. The mid-range ‘3’ comes complete with 18-inch rims, the eight-inch touchscreen, a Harmon Kardon hi-fi, electric seats, LEDs in every light cluster and gangster glass. Okay, tinted windows. Thusly, it’s £24,495, and is actually a lot of car for a sub-£25k pile of money. Not that many of these things will be bought at retail price. They’re fleet stalwarts through and through, and with Band B CO2 emissions from 113g/km and a real-world 46mpg versus a claimed 64mpg, they’ll make company car sense. And if that sounds like we’re struggling for something cooler to sign off with, you’re absolutely right. Roll on the quick one, eh…