QUITE why I should feel optimistic after spending some time with this week’s drive — the
QUITE why I should feel optimistic after spending some time with this week’s drive — the all-new 2016 Kia Optima — is a bit of a mystery.
Was it merely a play on the name that attracted me? The word optima is the plural form of optimum — according to my dictionary defined as “most favourable or advantageous; the best”.
Now that would fit because every carmaker deems its products to be the best. And truth to be told, Kia is currently producing some very good cars across its model range.
So maybe my intuition about the name Optima is not so far off the mark. These are, at present, optimum economic conditions for selling cars. In the US — the second largest car market after China — there is every reason to be optimistic about new auto sales.
According to the Wall Street Journal, US car sales in 2015 “jumped to a record, clearing a peak last reached 15 years ago”. American motorists have been buying new because of cheaper fuel, rising employment and low interest rates.
In the UK car sales have increased for four consecutive years — and though there has been talk of a slowdown that upward trend has shown no sign of abating in the first part of 2016. So there is cause for optimism all round as far as our favoured mode of transport is concerned. Not so in Europe, where there has been a slowdown, but Britain has benefited from that misfortune, too.
Anyhow, let’s not get carried away here. After all, what’s in a name? We all know that most car names are pretty pointless and that’s why in the modern age most carmakers prefer to refer to their products by numbers. That’s not to say that some car names aren’t attractive. I have discussed this before in this column and cited some favourite models, mostly American — the Ford Thunderbird/Mustang, Dodge Charger, Pontiac Firebird — the list goes on. But Kia’s Optima is far more sober-sounding, though quite fitting for this mid-range five-seater, four-door saloon. The Optima is aimed at the sober-suited business and fleet world.
And the Optima now stands a good chance of shining, for it has been much improved for 2016. The all-new Optima features an advanced new seven-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT).
Kia’s new DCT is capable of handling the higher torque outputs of the turbodiesel engine and, the Korean carmaker says, has been “engineered to offer a sportier driving experience with instant gear changes”. I like these smoother automatic boxes and I think the DCT is a winner, although it was not the “sportier driving experience” that I found most satisfying about the Optima.
Actually, I found the most comfortable driving style for me in this diesel Optima was in eco mode, which I even found a pleasant experience during long-haul motorway driving.
Eco mode may not have been given to bursts of driving power — as in the slightly less comfortable sport mode — but I felt the car was happier going at a strong steady pace. “Greener” too, which was a bonus. The Optima was a surprisingly economical car for one that appears big on the outside and is certainly capacious inside.
When equipped with the new DCT, the 1.7-litre CRDi engine sees its CO2 emissions drop to 116 g/km, a 40 g/km improvement. This, says Kia, enables a 25 per cent improvement to the car’s CO2 output, ensuring best-in-class emissions for a diesel automatic. This is another very competitive sector with most rivals coming in at around and upwards of the £20,000 mark.
The Kia Optima for 2016, especially when the hybrid version just launched at the Chicago Auto Show comes to the UK, is definitely one to look at if you are considering this type of saloon.
Kia Optima factfile
The all-new Optima, Kia’s contender in the all-important UK fleet and business saloon market, is priced from £21,495.
• Four versions are available, all powered Â by an upgraded EU6 Â version of Kia’s efficient 1.7-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine, now paired with either a six-speed manual or a new Â seven-speed (7DCT) dual-clutch auto Â transmission.
• Refined new interiors with higher quality materials.
• More space for every passenger in new cabin.
• 50 per cent stronger body shell and a range of active safety Â technologies.
• Smooth ride and more agile handling, with optional electronic Â suspension.
• Plug-in hybrid version unveiled at 2016 Chicago Auto Show.
• Lower emissions from seven-speed double-clutch transmission.