Kia Optima: It's got the look

  • We say hello to the BMW lookalike
  • Optima Tech trim offers good levels of kit
  • On-the-road price is just £21,695

Interesting. I've only had the Kia Optima two weeks and on three separate occasions people have likened it, lookswise, to a BMW.

Now this will really please the great and the good at Kia. The Korean car maker has dined out on its reputation as a budget brand that builds strong, no-nonsense vehicles that are cheap to buy and, with an extremely long warranty cover, cheap to run.

The inference then is that they shouldn't be much cop to look at and in the past that would be a fair assumption, but the latest raft of Kia models are much slicker and easy on the eye. The new cee'd, for example, is a sleek hatchback that should make Ford Focus diehards think twice about making the same old decision at the dealership, and the Sportage is arguably one of the best looking soft-roaders on the market.

The Optima joins Kia's good-looking brigade then. My flatmate, who used to own a BMW, said: 'What's got into Kia? This looks like a Beemer. Just hasn't got the badge, that's all.'

Now you might consider that unkind, but when you consider that Kia is purportedly a mainstream and not a 'premium' brand, this is a hearty compliment.

The theme continued. Only a day later I had parked up outside the New Hope Trust charity shop in Watford to drop of some stuff that I didn't want and a volunteer, clearly in the know about all things motoring, said: 'This is the Kia Optima isn't it? It's cool - it looks like a BMW'.

Even my sister, who knows absolutely bog-all about cars, said. 'Is that a Kia - looks like a BMW.'

I'm not sure that it looks that much like a 3 Series, or a 5 Series for that matter, but when I first saw the car close up at the UK launch earlier this year I did think to myself when following a dark blue Optima driven by a fellow hack that it did look rather smart.

Initial impressions have proved positive, at least exterior-wise, but inside the story continues in that vein. The car that I am running is the company-car-driver-friendly 134bhp 1.7-litre CRDi Tech version (the Optima only comes with a 1.7-litre diesel in the UK) and even after a few runs back and forth from work it is proving very user-friendly in all departments. The all-important average fuel consumption hovers around the 50mpg mark and to drive, it's very pleasant, the only gripe is that you do get a little bit of turbo lag.

We'll deal with the kit list on a later update but with a sat-nav and parking sensors the Tech trim appears generous. The on-the-road price is £21,695, which isn't bad for what is a sizeable four-door saloon. It's also something of a bargain when you consider that its supposed doppelganger, the BMW 3 Series diesel, starts at £24,080 with nowhere near the same levels of kit.

Of course, it is a little churlish to compare it with a BMW 3 Series since it still doesn't have the cachet of the German car maker, but the Optima Tech's main rival, the Ford Mondeo Business Edition diesel, is £100 more, so it is priced competitively especially when you factor in the attractive seven-year warranty.

So, first impressions are good, but this Kia will have to continue to impress if it is to break the stronghold that established brands such as Ford and Vauxhall currently have on the company car market. We'll have to wait and see.

What do you think of the Kia Optima? Get your opinions published in our Owners Reviews section here.

Current mileage: 2,885 miles

Average mpg: 47.3mpg