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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5

The Optima Sportswagon is a very convincing alternative in the family estate class. Granted, it’s not all that great to drive, but it has plenty of other stuff going for it. It looks great, it’s very spacious and practical, it’s very well equipped and it’s very affordable to buy and run. For a lot of buyers, that’ll be enough.

Reasons to buy

  • Sharp, individual looks
  • Generous equipment
  • Affordable prices

Running costs for a Kia Optima 3/5

Estate rivals like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat both offer hybrid options that will score especially well with fleet drivers and save significant money in Benefit in Kind if that’s a factor in your decision making. And the lack of that in the Optima Sportswagon range will likely rule it out for those buyers. If you’re doing big miles or running it privately this may be less of a concern and here the Optima’s figures look reasonably competitive, at least for the diesels. The sole petrol option is powerful but pretty poor on emissions.

Reliability of a Kia Optima 4/5

Kia has a respectable record for reliability, with the brand achieving mid-table respectability in the manufacturer rankings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. The study doesn’t have any data on the Optima itself – probably because the car hasn’t sold in big enough numbers for there to be a decent sample size – but the performance of the brand as a whole should provide some peace of mind. So should the fantastic warranty provided as standard, which stands at seven years/100,000 miles. You can also transfer the warranty to the next owner of the car, which makes it a more attractive proposition when you’re selling on.

Safety for a Kia Optima 3/5

All Optimas come with the usual safety it, including six airbags (including full-length curtain ones), Isofix top-tether child seat mounts and a tyre pressure warning system. Disappointingly, Kia insists on reserving driver assistance technology like blind spot warnings, lane keeping assistance, speed limit info and automatic emergency braking for fancier models and doesn’t even let you add them as options lower down the range. In this day and age that seems a bit tight-fisted.

How comfortable is the Kia Optima 3/5

Ride comfort is the most important thing about the way any family car behaves on the road, and unfortunately, things aren’t exactly optimal in the Optima. In particular, the ride feels too firm too much of the time, and especially at low speeds. There is a flipside to this and that is excellent handling, the Optima feeling secure and stable through the bends with no unwanted pitch or roll. The steering is a little too light and it can’t quite match a Ford Mondeo but it’s a contrast with the top-heavy feel of most SUVs.

The Optima's interior won’t rival a Passat but you might well be surprised by the impressive quality. The dials are clear and feature a central digital information screen that is easy to read, while the dashboard layout is simple and logical.

Carrying capacity is a deal-breaking area for any estate car, and the Optima Sportswagon does a pretty sterling job. The Optima’s boot has more than just size on its side as well. The opening is big and has no lip, while depending on the grade of car you choose, you can also have a collection of rails and tethering points to keep your load secure.

Features of the Kia Optima 4/5

Confusingly, the Optima’s trim structure misses a step, starting at ‘2’ trim. Even this version comes with most of the must-haves, along with a fair few nice-to-haves. These include dual-zone air conditioning, cruise controland a touch-screen infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, CarPlay/Android connectivity and a reversing camera. Upgrading to ‘3’ trim earns you powered driver’s seat adjustment, heated front seats, upholstery with added faux-leather panels and an upgraded stereo with a bigger touch-screen. The GT-Line S model gets full leather, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic roof, a wireless phone charger and adaptive cruise control.

Power for a Kia Optima 3/5

There is a petrol option for the Optima Sportswagon and it’s powerful enough to be considered a sporty option but suffers in terms of fuel consumption and emissions so will cost a lot to run. The 1.6-litre diesel will be a more appealing option for most buyers, pulls well from low revs and is available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed ‘dual-clutch’ style automatic. The latter might seem attractive and is smooth once underway but can be unnervingly hesitant in traffic and when you need to make a decisive move like pull out of a junction or join a roundabout.