New Kia Optima on the way
Kia will launch its new Optima family saloon in November, following its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in a couple of weeks. The outgoing Optima has had some small success in the dwindling mid-range four-door market, but Kia hopes that a greater emphasis on CO2 emissions and the possibility of a new estate body style could boost it up the sales charts this time around.
Once again, the styling of the car has been overseen by Kia's design director Peter Schreyer and while it certainly carries on from where the outgoing car left off, it's a bit sharper, a bit leaner and bit more upmarket looking. It's also a little more spacious - there's an extra 10mm in the wheelbase and it's 25mm wider overall. The boot now grows to a pretty massive 510 litres.
It's also a little more slippery through the air - with a Cd of 0.29, although that's still a little high for the class.
Kia says that the interior has been the subject of a serious upgrade in terms of quality and build, and it's also supposedly more driver-focused than before with the centre console tilted more sharply towards the driver.
The body shell is claimed to be 50 per cent stiffer than before, thanks to liberal use of Ultra High Strength Steel, and it's a little lighter too - by 8.6kg. Kia is chasing the all-important five-star NCAP rating for the car, and all Optimas will be fitted as standard with driver, driver knee, passenger, two front side and two curtain airbags.
Kia is also claiming that its Automatic Emergency Braking out-points the competition by using two radars - one for short range and one for higher speeds and longer range, which allow it to avoid or mitigate collisions at speeds up to 60km/h (for pedestrians) and 80km/h (for other cars).
Kia is also chasing greater refinement with the Optima - and has even gone to the trouble of making the alloy wheels 83 per cent stiffer in order to try and reduce road noise and vibrations. Needless to say, it's also claiming class-leading handling for the Optima and it will come with optional electronic dampers, which the driver can tailor to their needs through a Sport/Normal/Comfort switch.
The most important news for Irish buyers is that Kia has at last brought the 1.7 CRDi diesel engine's emissions under control. The outgoing Optima was never offered with the lower-emissions 115hp version of that engine (found most commonly in the Hyundai i40) and so missed out on Band A tax ratings. The new version of the engine makes no such mistake - it actually gains an extra 5hp, bringing it to 141hp, but the CO2 plummets to 110g/km, thanks in part to a standard-fit stop-start system. Torque has also increased to a healthy 340Nm.
Europe gets the option of a 2.0-litre 163hp petrol engine, which we don't get here, but we will eventually get the plugin hybrid option to go with the diesel. Kia is also teasing the possibility of a high-performance version of the Optima.
Gearboxes will be either a standard six-speed manual or a new seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic, which has already gone on sale in the recently updated Kia cee'd. It has CO2 emissions of 114g/km when fitted to the 1.7 CRDi engine in the Optima - a massive 40g/km improvement over the old Optima auto.
Oh, and if you really, really fancy a Kia Optima estate... just wait. The Sportspace concept at this year's Geneva Motor Show gave an obvious hint towards the possibility of a handsome shooting brake spinoff, but Kia hasn't officially confirmed the car for production yet. It is, corporately speaking doing a lot of nodding and winking though.
Kia Ireland has told us that it expects to have the saloon in showrooms by mid-November.