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Kia Optima Saloon engines, drive and performance

2012 - 2015 (change model)
Performance rating: 3 out of 53.0

Written by Parkers Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

The Optima is available with just one engine – a 134bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine that’ll deliver a reasonable 325Nm of pulling power between 2,000 and 2,500rpm. Theoretically that’s pretty decent, but in practicality it’s not particularly punchy. Yes, it’s fine for sharp getaways in town centres but it’s no worse or better than other four-door saloons with diesel engines and we think the 2.0-litre Mondeo and the 2.0-litre Skoda Superb offer a little more when you get out on the open road.

Stats-wise an ordinary story is being told: the Optima, with the six-speed manual gearbox, will accelerate from 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 125mph. The heavier six-speed automatic version will get to 60mph from a standstill in 11.5 seconds, and then go up to 122mph if you keep your right foot planted to the floor. The Optima isn’t as fast as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia or Skoda Superb 2.0-litre diesels but it performs better than the Mazda6 2.0-litre diesel.

The Optima is decent on the road, and it does give its rivals a run for their money. It’s not quite as good as the Ford Mondeo or the Skoda Superb but it’s easily on par with the Mazda6 and fractionally better than the Vauxhall Insignia. The Kia has plenty of front-end grip and on turn-in it responds very well indeed. Steering feel is completely absent, but it is nicely weighted: light around town and firmer when you get up to speed.

Braking is solid and the manual gearbox is smooth. The car sits fairly flat when cornering but it feels fractionally nose-heavy if you are taking tighter corners at speed. Overall, it’s very capable and can be enjoyable to drive.