Kia Optima SW estate (2016) revealed: the Optima you might actually want to buy

Published: 18 February 2016

► Kia Optima Sportswagon unveiled in Geneva
► Warm GT version to join range later
► Plug-in hybrid Kia Optima in development

While you’d be forgiven for forgetting the saloon even exists, such are its poor sales figures, the Kia Optima Sportswagon represents a change of tack for the Korean firm in a few crucial ways. 

First, the car we’ve been poring over is something European Optima buyers have been crying out for: an estate. Next, there’s a warm GT version on the way (fast estate, anyone?) and last but not least, a plug-in hybrid version of the saloon is coming too.

Five of every six Optimas sold in the UK are set to be Sportswagons, which gives you an indication just how important this car is. That name, in our minds, is vastly inferior to the Sportspace concept car it’s based on, which was unveiled at last year’s Geneva show.

Its 553-litre boot isn’t as big as rivals like the VW Passat or Skoda Superb, but it beats the Ford Mondeo Estate’s, and that’s not exactly tiny. It also wins over the saloon because its boot aperture is far bigger and the load lip lower – both valid reasons to take a tourer over a three-box car.

So tell me about this hot Kia Optima Sportswagon GT

Hold on a second. Kia’s GT models aren’t meant to rival M-cars and AMGs. As we found with the pair of performance Ceed and Proceed GT models, they represent a sportier, but not truly sporty, drive.

But with ex-BMW M Vice President Albert Biermann now charged with making Kias handle properly – reportedly proclaiming ‘this is not a GT’ as he threw back the keys following an initial drive of a prototype at the Nurburgring – all the signs are there that this could be a bit of a shock.

How does it look on paper?

Not too bad. It’s still exclusively front-wheel drive, with the GT making use of a new four-pot 2.0 turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine. It produces 242bhp and 260lb ft, which is sent through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

You’ll get bi-modal adaptive suspension too, which is controlled either by flicking to ‘sport’ mode or by G-force sensors picking up your enthusiastic driving.

The very same rack-mounted steering system as seen on the dynamically impressive Sportage promises an assured front end, while multilink rear suspension makes the recipe for fun all the more tempting.

Keep an eye out for our first drive of this model to see what Biermann and his team are really made of.

Didn’t you mention a Kia Optima plug-in hybrid?

Indeed. There’s a version of the saloon on the way that promises barely believable things for those who pay tax based on CO2, with the real winners here being company car drivers.

A claimed carbon dioxide output of 37g/km will raise a few eyebrows – it beats the BMW 330e we drove recently, for instance – and the claimed fuel economy the firm is targeting is 166mpg. We all know you’ll struggle to hit that figure in the real world, but a theoretical maximum range of 33 miles on electric power alone is going to significantly cut fuel costs for many drivers.

The drivetrain is comprised of a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-pot petrol with 154bhp and a parallel hybrid system fed from lithium-polymer batteries, all driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

This won’t be anything like as quick as the GT version, with a combined power output of 202bhp and 276lb ft making for a 0-62mph trip in 9.4 seconds.

Time for the obvious question

So why not join the dots here and offer a plug-in Sportswagon – the car we’re all (probably) crying out for? It’s coming, don’t worry. Expect it by the end of 2017, with slightly worse fuel economy and CO2 (it’s heavier and less aerodynamic) but far more appeal for the UK market. 

Read more of CAR’s 2016 Geneva motor show coverage here

Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 Geneva motor show

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

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