KIA Launch

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OPTIMA CHARGES AHEAD

With hybrid power now upper most on many buyers list of must haves, any manufacturer that doesn't offer at least one or more within their range is now guaranteed to see their sales fall. But with the recent introduction of their self-contained Niro petrol-electric hybrid along with the ultra-green credentials of their record breaking Sportage, Kia has now turned its attentions towards their mid-American styled Optima saloon. In an all-out effort to improve what at best are lacklustre sales and a lack of badge appeal, the fleet orientated saloon at best sells a thousand units a year. Compare this to over twenty-seven thousand Sportage in a little over eight months. Initially introducing two new variations with a third more sporting model and engine upgrades on the way, the new models should not only enhance the Optima's company car aspirations but also expand the model's presence within the family car market.

Complete with more aerodynamic, smoother lines bodywork and more efficient patterned alloys shod with 215/55R17 rubber, Kia has brought the Optima's drag coefficient down to 0.25. However, unlike the Niro the Optima PHEV saloon is a more conventional plug-in petrol-electric that requires access to recharging facilities. Powered by a fuel injected 2-litre, 154hp 4-cylinder petrol transversely mounted engine and a 66hp lithium-ion electric motor that together produce 359Nm of torque, a three hour quick charge or nine hours of conventional main electricity provide the Optima PHEV with over thirty miles range. Working in conjunction with the petrol unit, onboard computers allow the petrol engine to cut in when required whilst the car regenerates electric power under braking and whilst cruising on a light throttle. Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission the Optima PHEV hits 60mph in a little over nine seconds with a potential top speed of 119mph, the car still sits on conventional MacPherson strut suspension at the front and multi-link double wishbones on the rear with anti-roll bars at each end.

More conventional in respect of power source the new Optima Sportwagon or estate is for many likely to generate increased interest in the Optima. Ostensibly the same as the standard saloon even down to an identical wheelbase and overall dimensions only the roof rails adding 5mm to the Sportwagon's height, the estate now offers 552 litres of cargo space with the rear seats upright and an impressive 1,686 litres rear seats folded with an additional 1,800kg towing capacity. Retaining the same Euro 6 139hp 1.7 4-cylinder diesel although it's rumoured a larger, more efficient diesel is destined for the car, the much preferred 6-speed manual transmission allows the driver a more direct input into exploiting the unit's 340Nm of torque.

The Sportwagon's most notable difference over the saloon is the ride and handling. With a reworked rear suspension designed to accommodate the Sportwagon's marginal increase in weight plus the increase in cargo capacity has resulted in the Optima Sportwagon exhibiting much improved handling. Far better balanced than it's saloon counterpart, the Optima Sportwagon at last demonstrates and allows the driver to exploit this Kia's chassis dynamics, the car now flowing more easily through bends along with a far more relaxed and composed overall ride under general and motorway driving. And like many saloons that receive the estate car treatment, the Optima Sportwagon is actually a far more attractive vehicle than the three-box saloon from which it is derived.

With a GT-Line version of the Sportwagon already launched in Europe due to make an appearance on the UK market along with a more powerful engine, the Sportwagon and PHEV should significantly enhance the Optima's presence in the D-segment market. Equally, whilst the PHEV will suit only certain owners, the Sportwagon should also increase the Optima's ability to challenge the established brands and models within fleet leasing.

Prices for the Sportwagon start at 22,295GBP for the entry level '2' rising to 25,895GBP for the '3' 7DCT, the pending GT-Line 7DCT 30,595GBP whilst the PHEV saloon is listed at 31,495GBP.



                                                By: Mark Stone





KIA Launch Munich Optima SW & PHEV

KIA Launch Munich Optima SW & PHEV