We recently had the pleasure of being asked to review a Kia Optima Sportswagon, to be a little more precise, a 2.0 GDi PHEV automatic. Stylish and full of mod cons, the Optima PHEV is Kia’s first plug-in hybrid model. We had the car for the weekend. Two days wasn’t long, but we tried it out the best we could in that time in a bid to unleash its full potential!
The bodywork is such a sleek and attractive, aerodynamic design. I love the metallic blue chrome trim that compliment the ‘ECOplug-in’ badging (although it would be nice if the alloy wheels had been colour coded to match!)
As well as being an aerodynamic shape, it has an active air flap grille and specially designed bumper to improve the airflow over and around the car as you drive. It is front wheel drive and as is necessary for a family car, it has five doors.
The interior is stylish (black cloth with faux leather upholstery). It’s very comfortable and has five seats, so enough for an average sized family. The front two seats can be heated, as well as the steering wheel. I wish I had this on my Yaris, as the steering wheel seems to always be ice cold to the touch at the moment!
One of the things that stands out the most is the sheer amount of space. Even with Autumn’s car seat in the back, you have so much leg room as a passenger. When I’m in my husband’s Skoda Fabia, I feel fairly cramped as my seat is always further forward than I’d really like. With my legs fully stretched out, there was still room in front of my feet (although I am only 5’3″ on a good day). There’s lots of leg room in the back too and plenty of space in the boot!
As well as this, there are also lots of cup holders and good sized door pockets. The glove box is an ample size too. An arm rest containing two cup holders folds down from the middle seat in the back and the arm rest at the front can be used for storage too. I have my priorities straight and used it for doughnut storage!
When the cup holders and various things at the front aren’t in use, you can simply hide them away so everything looks nice and tidy. I love it, it’s all just so well designed and pleasing to the eye.
Kia aim to lower the average CO₂ emissions of their range by 25% by 2020. Sales on hybrids have doubled in the UK and mainland Europe over the last 5 years and are expected to reach 700,000 a year by the end of this decade. The Optima PHEV is the first Optima in the UK with a petrol engine and is capable of travelling 33 miles on electric power. This would be well suited for our commute, which is around 30 miles. When you are running on electric power, the car is so quiet and smooth.
The batteries are located under the rear seat and in the spare wheel well, so they don’t infringe on the amount of room in the car (there is 307 litres of luggage space). Unfortunately, we didn’t see any petrol stations with electric charging points on our travels so we didn’t have the opportunity to recharge. However, the on-board plug-in point is located on the left hand front wing. The car is supplied with a cable which can fully recharge the 360-volt lithium-ion polymer batteries in 3 hours.
To make parking much easier, there are front and rear parking sensors as well as a reversing camera system integrated into the Sat Nav screen. This is a feature I love as I need all the help I can get parking when I have a crying toddler in the back!
The Sat Nav itself is brilliant. Kia Connected Services powered by TomTom gives you speed camera, weather, traffic and local point of interest information. As you go along, you can see where the nearest petrol stations are too. The 8″ touchscreen is the perfect size.
There is connectivity for Android and Apple smartphones as well as a wireless mobile phone charger. You can also connect via Bluetooth. We tried this out for phone calls, as well as playing music. It worked very well and the speakers were amazing. There are 8 of them in total, including a 4″ central speaker, a 490 watt external amp and 8″ subwoofer. The microphone for phone calls is over the driver’s side, so if the passenger wants to talk, they simply have to speak up a little. We mainly listened to music on the DAB radio (which has MP3 compatibility) as there was such a great selection of radio stations available to listen to. This particularly appealed to me, as I could listen to Planet Rock rather than having to listen to pop music!
This 6 speed automatic has a top speed of 119 mph and can go from 0-60 in 9.4 seconds. It has an all-electric range of up to 38 miles and hybrid range of up to 695 miles. To compensate for the added weight of the battery pack, the suspension and brakes differ from the diesel Optima. The suspension feels great and the car handles well, while the enlarged brake discs provide good, responsive braking.
So, all of the above sounds great, right? But was it practical for day to day family life? Here’s how we put it to the test.
On the Saturday, the weather was freezing and it was drizzling outside. All of us had colds and didn’t venture out until the afternoon, even though we were excited about trying out the car! We went for a nice drive in the countryside on the Hoo Peninsula. We stopped at Cooling Castle, home of famous musician Jools Holland to take some photos.
It was such a comfortable ride and the panoramic windscreen and dynamic cornering lights are very welcome features. One thing that threw us off was that when you first get into the car, the driver’s seat moves back to allow you more space to get in. When you close the door, it moves you forwards again. If you open the door again, the seat once again moves out, allowing you to exit the vehicle easier.
After our trip to Cooling Castle, we took a short trip down the motorway to visit the supermarket. This would give us the perfect opportunity to see just how good the boot space was, as well as testing the reversing camera system in the dark for the first time.
Although it obviously isn’t as clear as in the day time, it is pretty good in the dark. You can definitely still see very well and it makes it a million times easier to reverse park.
As we were on a bit of a slope in the car park, it was also a good time to test the hill assist. It almost made us wonder why we drive manual cars, as the hill assist makes things so easy as you don’t have to think about how much clutch and gas to use!
So, the final test in the car park was boot space! The 2nd row seats do split (40:20:40) and fold, which creates more room should you need it. This would also be helpful for occasions like buying tall plants from garden centres or when buying a Christmas tree, which are both things that we’ve struggled with in the past. There is definitely ample room for a family’s shopping and there would be enough room for a pushchair too.
On Sunday, we had a busier day ahead, so naturally the weather was much better and quite sunny! Unfortunately, there was a lot of salt on the roads so the car was already dirty. However, we decided to go for a trip up the motorway to the seaside before our afternoon plans.
As this was a longer journey, we tested out the cruise control and speed limiter. Of course, cruise control is always very useful on a motorway and the speed limiter was great for ensuring that we didn’t accidentally break the limit when we weren’t using cruise control. If you try to exceed the limit, the car simply won’t let you. We had a lovely, although short, visit to Whitstable and Tankerton slopes.
When we got there, I took advantage of the big passenger mirror in the visor to reapply my lipstick. Outside the car, it was freezing, but Autumn had a good run around.
I was very grateful for the heated seats when we got back in, as well as the fact that you can adjust them to be just perfect to ensure you have a comfortable journey.
We then headed back for Autumn’s swimming lesson and dinner with my family. We picked my Nan up and she was very impressed, but not as impressed as she was when we tested the steering wheel heating on the way home. What a luxury!
Okay, so obviously we didn’t do the safety tests ourselves, although we did appreciate the ISOFIX for Autumn’s car seat. Other safety features include ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM). It has Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), monitors the tyre pressure and, as previously mentioned, informs you of the speed limit where you are.
There are twin airbags at the front and side for the front seats, the head rests all adjust, there are door deadlocks, a seat belt reminder and more. The bodywork of the car is made of up to 51% high advanced high-strength steels and boasts side impact protection as well as front and rear crumple zones. You definitely feel like it is sturdy and a good, safe car in which to travel with your precious cargo.
One of the things that Kia are most famous for are their excellent warranties. With a purchase of this car, you get a 7 year/100,000 mile warranty. It also comes with a 12 year anti-perforation warranty and five-year paint warranty. You have KIAssist road side assistance for a year and there are many service packages available to suit your needs.
Where everything is in the engine bay is pretty straightforward if you know what you’re looking for. The dipstick is easily reachable for short people like me, which is good! The covers and positioning of things might be a bit of a pain if you’re tinkering under the bonnet, but it does keep everything looking neat.
I’ve looked at the prices of some parts and maintenance purchases, such as air filters and oil filters. These don’t break the bank and are similar prices to parts for close competitors, such as the Skoda Octavia. Tyres, meanwhile, start at around £60 for economy.
The bottom line
We really didn’t find many downsides to this car over the course of the weekend, we wanted to keep it, in fact. It was a dream to drive and we loved its shape and all of its features. One negative was that we didn’t know of anywhere to recharge the battery and I imagine we’d have had to go out of our way to do so. However, this is the future and so I’m sure charging points will become more commonplace at petrol stations over the next few years. Failing that, I know my nearest IKEA at Lakeside in Thurrock has charging points, so it might just mean more visits there!
So, has anyone got a spare £35,145 they don’t mind parting with please?
Disclosure: Kia kindly loaned us an Optima Sportswagon PHEV for the duration of a weekend for the purpose of this review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.