Drive’s Seán Creedon reckons that Kia could be in the running for European Car of the Year again with the new Optima…
Korean car company Kia came up with a great marketing ploy a few years back when they offered the first ever seven-year warranty on cars and jeeps.
That warranty, which is transferable to subsequent owners, was successful in people to focus more on the Kia brand.
In the past, Kia has produced fine jeeps such as the Sportage and Sorento. December 2006 brought the Cee’d, probably the carmaker’s best saloon car to date. As recently as last November, the small Rio was voted Continental Irish Motor Writers’ Car of the Year.
And now, Kia has moved up another notch with the introduction of the Optima, which I think is the classiest looking car they have introduced to this side of the world. This is the third version of the Optima, but the first edition to be launched in Europe. The Optima will compete in the mid-sized family saloon category in which its main competitors will be the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat, Opel Insignia and Toyota Avensis. I think the Optima should be more than able for the challenge.
The car, designed by Kia’s German-born designer Peter Schreyer (who, in a previous role, designed the Audi TT), features a new-look grille known as the Tiger Nose. It’s an immediately attractive feature that is complemented by the headlights and LED daytime running lights that really grab the attention. Overall, the car has a chunky but sporty appearance, and its high back end emphasises just how large the car is.
One of the first things you will notice when switching on the ignition is how the driver’s seat moves into the position in which you last set it. A nice touch. I drove an automatic version of the Platinum model, which comes with toggles on the side of the steering wheel if drivers wish to opt for manual gear change.
The Platinum model also includes attractive 17-inch alloys and a glass roof. The latter really brightens the interior, which is little on the dark side due to the black leather seating. Those seats, however, are extremely comfortable.
There are lots of safety devices and extras, including USB and aux ports. The controls on the dash are well laid out and there are plenty of slave controls on the steering wheel. The steering wheel itself has a lovely feel to it.
When you are reversing, the view from the camera is visible in half of the rear-view mirror; another really neat touch.