Kia Optima Sportswagon (2016-2019) Review
Stylish, spacious and good value. The Kia Optima Sportswagon is a practical large family estate car
Strengths & weaknesses
- Spacious, well-equipped interior
- Comfortable seats and smooth ride
- Plug-in hybrid brings low company car tax
- Diesel engine is noisy when accelerating
- Expensive hybrid option
- Expected to lose value quickly
In little more than a decade, Kia has gone from making cheap and outdated motors to producing well-made cars like this Kia Optima Sportswagon that you might buy for its style alone.
There’s enough legroom in the back to stretch out and the boot is big enough that you’ll be able to take a child and their possessions to university. The 552-litre boot expands to 1,686 litres when you put the rear seats down - which you can do easily with a single pull handle. That’s more space than you’ll find in the Ford Mondeo Estate, Mazda 6 Tourer and Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer. The Skoda Superb’s vast 1,950-litre boot has it beaten, though.
The Kia strengthens its appeal with a starting price of £22,455 for what is a well-powered diesel car (this figure doesn’t take into account the Kia Optima deals available). It’s more than £1,000 cheaper than equivalent models but still comes well-equipped with a sat-nav, reversing camera and big 17in alloy wheels that give the car an imposing look. An updated car, due later this year, is likely to improve this further.
The most expensive car in the range is the petrol-electric hybrid version called the PHEV. Plug it in to fully charge the batteries and it will run for up to 38 miles on electric power alone, which is seven miles more than Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid Passat GTE. beyond that, the petrol engine will take over.
This results in some impressive fuel economy figures (almost 202mpg) but the reality is that it all depends on how you drive it: over short distances, you may not need to use any petrol but on longer journeys, which require more use of the engine, 45mpg is more realistic. Business users benefit either way, thanks to low CO2 emissions of 33g/km, reducing company car tax. It's worth noting that the Optima PHEV saloon has a smaller battery than the Sportswagon and a reduced electric range.
The PHEV car comes well equipped with sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, climate control, imitation leather seats and wireless phone charging. You can upgrade the diesel model to match but at this point, the Optima’s price comes uncomfortable close to that of a BMW 3 Series Touring, which is a better car.
That’s because driving the Optima SW isn’t quite such a polished experience. The diesel engine isn’t as smooth as you’ll find in a Mazda 6 Tourer or Skoda Superb. At times the car can be slow to get going when you press the accelerator, which can be alarming if you’ve just pulled out to overtake. The PHEV version is only a little quicker.
The Optima Sportswagon is not as stable in corners as the Mazda, Skoda or Ford Mondeo estates. It leans if you turn too quickly, making it uncomfortable for rear passengers, and the steering is very light, making it less accurate when you’re looking to drive precisely on narrow roads.
With limited demand expected, the Kia is likely to lose value faster than rivals, such as the Passat GTE. For this reason, although its price may be lower than some, monthly finance payments will be similar to other large family estate cars, whether you buy new or used.
That said, it’s decent family estate with plenty of space and equipment, and a seven-year warranty (limited to a maximum of 100,000 miles). A five-star safety rating from the independent Euro NCAP organisation in 2015 is reassuring too, although some useful equipment, such as automatic emergency braking is optional. There are two sets of Isofix mounts in the back for secure attachment of child seats.
|Warranty||7 years / 100,000 miles|
|Boot size||552 litres|
|Tax||Free to £205 in first year, £130/£140 thereafter|
Best Kia Optima Sportswagon for...
Best for Economy – Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV
Keep your journeys short and this version of the Optima won't use a drop of fuel, with a range of at least 25 miles on electric power alone and up to 38 if you're gentle. If you make longer journeys regularly, the diesel is a better bet as the hybrid can actually be less fuel-efficient.
Best for Families – Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi 2 7DCT
The smooth automatic gearbox takes some of the strain out of driving, while 2 spec includes power points in the rear to keep electronic gadgets charged up, as well as a rear camera for less stress while parking.
- 2016 The Kia Optima Sportswagon goes on sale
- September 2017 PHEV version goes on sale
- Autumn 2018 Updated Optima Sportswagon, with improved equipment levels and a petrol option is due to go on sale
Understanding Kia Optima Sportswagon names
There are four trims in total (2, 3, GT-Line S and PHEV). Each higher level means more equipment and a larger price.
Engine 1.7 CRDi
The diesel engine in the Kia Optima is badged according to its size (1.7 litres). The letters CRDi indicate that it's a diesel. The petrol-electric hybrid car is called PHEV and also has ECOplug-in badges.
Cars with an automatic gearbox have 7DCT in their name. This shows that there are seven gears, which use a dual clutch transmission system. Having two clutches makes changes faster and smoother. The PHEv version has a standard automatic.
Kia Optima Sportswagon Engines
Diesel: 1.7 CRDi
The diesel-powered Optima delivers fairly average performance for a car of its size, accelerating from 0-62mph in just under ten seconds. It feels slower, though, because the engine needs revving to really make progress, which makes it a noisy experience. Once you’re up to speed, the noise diminishes and the Kia cruises along smoothly. Official fuel economy is 64.2mpg, but the more realistic real-world figure is around 45mpg, according to the Equa Index, which measures fuel economy on public roads.
A more efficient diesel engine, as well as a petrol option will be added to the line-up when the updated version of the Optima goes in sale this autumn.
Until then, the only alternative is the plug-in hybrid PHEV power unit. This combines a 2-litre petrol engine with an electric motor powered by batteries that can be recharged from an external plug. On a full charge, the car can be driven on electric power alone for between 25 and 38 miles, depending on the speeds involved.
Fuel economy mainly depends on the distance that you drive: short trips with a fully charged battery won’t require any petrol use, while long-distance journeys will mainly rely on the petrol engine, reducing your mpg. More importantly for business users who pay company car tax, it emits 33g/km CO2.
Official fuel economy
61.4 - 64.2mpg
9.8 - 10.7sec
Petrol / electric
176.6 - 201.8mpg
Kia Optima Sportswagon Trims
2, 3, GT-Line S, PHEV
The diesel-powered versions come in 2, 3 and GT-Line S specifications, while the PHEV hybrid model is a trim all of its own.
Entry-level 2 cars have roof rails, power sockets in the boot, one-touch folding rear seats and 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the cars sat-nav with a 7in screen is standard, along with a reversing camera, front and rear USB ports, and digital radio with Bluetooth for hands-free calls and music streaming.
There’s an electronic parking brake, rather than a manual lever, and plenty of safety equipment, including hill-start assist that prevents the car rolling back during hill starts.
Upgrading to 3 trim increases the dashboard screen size to eight inches, while the driver's seat becomes electronically adjustable. Both front seats are heated. The black cloth seats also gain imitation leather panels and there's a Harman/Kardon premium sound system. There are larger 18in wheels, extra dabs of chrome, plus bright LED front fog lights.
Choosing a GT-Line S car provides a big technology upgrade. Standard equipment includes a wireless mobile phone charging station, a monitor that displays a 360-degree view around the car for easier parking, adaptive cruise control that keeps a set distance from the car in front, and automatic emergency braking that can stop the car to avoid a crash.
There’s a powered bootlid, black leather upholstery and mood lighting. It's the most premium package on offer but the price when new is over £30,000.
The hybrid PHEV model falls between the 3 trim and GT-Line S trims but adds a virtual engine sound generator for a sportier experience plus power source and status indicators, and an electric charging socket.
One minor grumble from Kia customers is the fact that they are unable to add much of the equipment to models individually. You have to choose the trim level that features the options that you want.
Kia Optima Sportswagon Reliability and warranty
Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is a sign of how reliable the car is expected to be. You also have the choice of a number of servicing packages, which offer fixed-cost, inflation-proof servicing deals for the first three years of ownership.
The company's cars perform well in the real world too. The 2018 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey ranked Kia the ninth most dependable brand out of 26. When cars did go wrong, owners reported electrical and interior trim issues that were more likely to prove annoying than leave you stranded at the roadside.
Used Kia Optima Sportswagon
The Optima Sportswagon's warranty is transferred when the cars is sold second-hand. You may even be able to extend it. Used Kias that are less than 18 months old, with under 18,000 miles on the clock may be eligible for a top-up, which resets the warranty to seven years - as if it was a new car.
The cheapest Optimas are saloons, as this version of the car went on sale a year before the Sportswagon estate. Prices for the Sportswagon start at under £17,000, or £230 per month wth a representative finance agreement, and mid-range 3 models are the most popular, with their larger dashboard screen and high-end Harman Kardon stereo.
Hybrid cars are relatively rare and prices for the Sportswagon PHEV start closer to £22,000, so you may find that the potential fuel savings don't make up for the higher cost.