Kia fights back in dwindling D-car segment

The second-generation Kia Optima.
The second-generation Kia Optima.

By Gerry Murphy

As the pie gets smaller for D-Segment cars, the fight for a share of that pie is greater among some car makers. Market leaders like the Toyota Avensis, Volkswagen Passat, Opel Insignia and the Ford Mondeo are all shedding numbers with the growing popularity of the SUV market stealing their thunder.

However, some families and particularly the fleet segment still prefer the large saloon and that is why it remains a hugely important sector. Generally they are better to drive, come with a big boot and have more leg room than the taller alternative.

Kia has been knocking on the door of this segment for some time and when they introduced us to the Optima a few years ago and now the second generation of the car has been on sale here since January.

In many ways, the car is a sister model to the Hyundai i40 but, the Optima offers a much more premium look. They haven’t spared the chrome inserts on the exterior and with the Platinum version that I have been driving and the specification levels seem higher too.

Kia chiefs themselves say that the new model offers greater refinement and improved ride and handling over the outgoing model. This I would agree with and despite the steering weight being a little bit on the light side, the overall road manners displayed are rather impressive where a Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) is fitted as standard. That gives the car stability under braking and cornering by controlling the car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and electric motor-driven power steering if it detects a loss of traction.

Kia offers the car in three trim levels EX, Platinum and GSE, all powered with their tweaked 1.7D power unit. Specification in the EX model  is decent and with a starting price of €27,950, it includes 17” alloys, sat nav, climate control, lane departure assist and speed limit Information as standard.

The volume model is expected to be the Platinum model at €31,450, which is the featured car in this test and it has a host of additional features including 18” alloys, full leather seats (heated front and rear), 12-way memory seat for the driver, heated steering wheel and Xenon lights. Also added in the Irish range are lane keep assist and speed limit information.