First drive review: 2016 Kia Optima Sportswagon

A refined cabin and acres of space mean this Kia is no longer the group outsider and, overall, is a great budget alternative to the class-leading Germans.

The D-Segment estate has become a much maligned class in recent years, primarily because families have shunned these once favourable vehicles and swapped them for SUVs and crossovers including Kia’s own Sportage among many others.

How does the Sportswagon fair against pricier rivals, and can it fend off its nemisis, the ubiquitous crossover?

KIA Optima

1.7 CRDi ISG 3 5dr DCT

  • Profile:
  • 3+23
  • Mileage:
  • 10k Miles p/a

£252.30

Per Month, EXC VAT

Business Users Only

Business Leasing Deal by: UK Car Contracts

So, Kia is guilty of aiding and abetting this crossover craze. Will it redeem itself with its all-new Optima Sportswagon? We spent a bit of time with this new load-lugger to see if it can help drag the family estate’s image out of the doldrums.

The Sportwagon’s designers clearly had the latest and greatest German offerings in mind.

From the outside at least, it’s off to a promising start thanks to a low-slung appearance and an elongated front end – the Sportwagon’s designers clearly had the latest and greatest German offerings in mind when they were penning their drawings. Some estates suffer from an awkward, ungainly appearance, but with the Sportswagon we think on par with its saloon sibling in the looks department.

Walk around the back and the angular wraparound tail lights keep everything in proportion – not something every estate manages to pull off. Style-wise, park up next to a Skoda Superb or a Mazda 6 in this and you won’t feel underdressed; it’s a classy looking car.

It's a good looking, well proportioned car from all angles.

Step inside and things are just as easy on the eye. The dashboard makes use of soft-touch materials, while an aluminium central console houses some useful cubby holes and, on our GT-Line test car, a wireless phone charger. Handy!

Even the most basic models feature satnav, a reversing camera and cruise control.

Kit levels are impressive across all trims, so choosing a Sportswagon over mainstream rivals should mean you’ll get more for you money. Even the most basic models feature satnav, a reversing camera and cruise control. Range-topping GT cars get the addition of a full leather interior and panoramic roof along with automatic emergency braking.

Looks and quality aside, the key to a great estate will always be a capacious cargo bay. The Sportswagon doesn’t disappoint on this front either, with its 553 of boot space is more than the mainstream Mondeo and Insignia offer. There’s ample room for four adults to sit comfortably, too.

A clever rear seat splitting set-up makes the cavernous boot even more adaptable.

Want to know more about the Sportswagon’s rivals? Read our load-lugger cross test.

A usable 40:20:40 split means the rear seats are endlessly adaptable, and a flat boot load lip will make lifting heavy and bulky items out of the boot as easy as it can be. If you really need to maximise space though, the Sportswagon can’t touch Skoda’s Octavia. It’s obvious that Kia has prioritised style and quality, over ensuring the Sportswagon is a class-leader when it comes to space.

A single 1.7-litre turbo diesel is currently the only engine available

A single 1.7-litre turbo diesel is currently the only engine available and, while its 137bhp is adequate for most people’s needs, the motorway-dwelling sales execs the Sportswagon needs to win over will expect more power. Up against a Volkswagen Group 2.0 TDI, the Kia feels a little ponderous.

One thing the diesel does well with is economy which, with the help of a Stop/Start system can be more than 60mpg. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s likely the Sportswagon will get a more powerful diesel and a range-topping petrol option in the near future, anyway.

The cabin is well-screwed together and only uses high quality plastics – a far cry from Kias of old.

Engine apart, it’s a comfortable, capable cruiser from a driver’s point of view. It feels planted on the road, soaks up the very worst pot holes, while the absence of any body roll proves that Kia has gone to town with its designs now – it’s more than just skin deep.

The absence of any body roll proves that Kia has gone to town with its designs now – it’s more than just skin deep.

Our test car was also fitted with Kia’s latest seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox – a great idea if you do a lot of miles. Changes were seamless, and there is of course flappy paddles behind the wheel should you feel the need to use them.

Along with the latest Sportage and Niro, the Sportswagon is yet more proof that Kia has seriously upped its game, but should you choose one over the aforementioned crossovers? If you value space over street cred, we think the answer is a resounding yes.

A viable alternative to run-of-the-mill crossovers, but what about other estates?

So it’s a viable alternative to the run-of-the-mill crossovers, but what about other estates? The refined cabin and acres of space mean it’s no longer the group outsider and, overall, the Sportswagon isn’t quite on par with class-leading German rivals, but it certainly comes close.

Model tested: Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line

List price:£28,745
Top speed:191mph
0-62mph:9.8secs
Official fuel economy:61mpg
CO2 emissions:113g/km
Car tax band:C / £30
Insurance group:19
Engine:1.7-litre turbo diesel producing 137bhp.
Luggage space:552 litres

Average lease rate for tested model:
*Personal lease rate: £262 per month / *Business lease rate: £272 per month

*Average monthly lease rates calculated using ContractHireAndLeasing.com data and based on typical 6 + 35 10k deals. Correct at time of writing.

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