2014 Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi Manual Saloon Review – Modern Looks, Huge Spec, Great Price

Good looking & individual, impressive spec level, roomy & comfortable, well-priced, 7-year warrenty

Cumbersome manual gearbox & heavy clutch pedal (on our tester), diesel engine frugal but uninspiring, ‘damage-prone’ speaker in boot

2014 Kia Optima?

The 2014 Kia Optima is one of the best-looking saloons on the road today, regardless of price or marque  - KIA Optima 3 manual 1.7 CRDi Review

For whatever reason, you don’t see many Kia Optima’s on the road – at least in the U.K. – although they sell very well in other markets around the world, such as the U.S.A. However, you may well start seeing more now thanks to the latest 2014 upgrade with its new super-sharp design, which make it stand out well from the crowd of Vauxhall Insignia’s and Ford Mondeo’s that seem to dominate the lower-end of the company car market.

Actually, that’s exactly the market sector that Kia are aiming this new Optima at; the company car/sales-rep-mobile, and while there are plenty of the above-mentioned rivals buzzing around the roads, what’s this Kia got going for it that’d temp you away from them? We were sent the 2014 Kia Optima 3 manual to test and find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The super-sharp and aggressive front states it means business, the premium-looking front light clusters sport neat LED running lights at the upper edge - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review The '2' and '3' trim grades get the cool quad ice-cube type front fog lights seen on the Pro_Cee'd GT - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

With styling cues taken from its brother the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT, the 2014 Optima saloon is an immediately-attractive car, rather than one that takes time to grow on you. Overall, the design is contemporary and physically the car looks high-end. The super-sharp and aggressive front states it means business, the premium-looking front light clusters sport neat LED running lights at the upper edge, and all models come standard with corning lights too, while the ‘2’ and ‘3’ trim grades get the cool quad ice-cube type front fog lights seen on the Pro_Cee’d GT, while all Optima’s have the modern cut-out sections just above the front fogs.
the back itself somehow looks tough, with bold, jutting edges and LED light clusters which look absolutely fantastic when lit up.  - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review Around to the rear, and the Optima continues to look good. A stubby boot lid with a high edge matches the side shoulder line - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review
From whatever angle you view the Optima, there’s something very planted and solid about its appearance and quality comes to mind when you look at the car. From the side, a high shoulder line, narrow side glass and nicely chosen 17 or 18 inch alloys wheels give the Kia a somewhat sporty look, and should you spec the highest grade Optima 3 you’ll get a contrasting gloss black roof as a twin panoramic glass sunroof comes with the car. We were sent the Optima 3 in the White Pearl colour, and with the black roof it looked very striking.

From the side, a high shoulder line, narrow side glass and nicely chosen 17 or 18 inch alloys wheels give the Kia a somewhat sporty look - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 We were sent the Optima 3 in the White Pearl colour, and with the black roof it looked very striking. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Around to the rear, and the Optima continues to look good. A stubby boot lid with a high edge matches the side shoulder line, and the back itself somehow looks tough, with bold, jutting edges and LED light clusters which look absolutely fantastic when lit up. All said, the 2014 Kia Optima is one of the best-looking saloons on the road today, regardless of price or marque and if a cars design is a high priority when choosing your next rep-mobile, then you’ll want to seriously consider the really rather tasty Kia Optima.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

After testing all but a couple of the Kia range, I’ve now come to expect only good quality interiors on any of the new range and I’m happy to report that the Optima does not disappoint. I really like the interior on this new version, and if you like your cars loaded with gadgetry the fully-loaded Optima 3 we had on test is the one you’ll want to buy. if you like your cars loaded with gadgetry the fully-loaded Optima 3 we had on test is the one you'll want to buy.  - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Open a door to any spec of Optima, and I think you’ll be impressed on its design alone. While the ‘1’ grade gets fabric seats, they’re not half bad lookin’ y’know, and while there’s no touchscreen in the dash, the stereo unit that replaces it is decent, and the rest of the dash is pretty much on par with the two higher-spec models. I’d describe the Optima’s cabin as very impressive regarding fit, finish and materials used.

The front seats are nice and wide, whilst still having enough bolstering to keep you from shuffling around too much in the twisty sections of road, and the rear seats are nicely angled for a good level of comfort, and again they’re wide whilst supportive – at least the side ones are, as for the most part manufacturers still seem to think it’s okay to say a car is a 5-seater when in reality the middle seat is only good for short journeys. Surprisingly, and considering it’s only a shade over £25,000, the Optima 3 has both heated and ventilated seats up front, as well as two-stage heated side seats in the back! That’s really impressive kit for a car this price.
The front seats are nice and wide, whilst still having enough bolstering to keep you from shuffling around too much in the twisty sections of road, and the rear seats are nicely angled for a good level of comfort - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review In the '3' there's a large panoramic sunroof in the front and one for the rear passengers too, both of which have automatic blinds on. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Leg room is decent in the rear, and the cabin is a decent width so there’s good elbow room too. The only gripe rear passengers had was that because of the high shoulder line and narrow windows of the car, inwardly they felt it confined almost, regardless of the physical room you have. If you want it to be more light and airy, I’d go for the ‘3’, as there’s a large panoramic sunroof in the front and one for the rear passengers too, both of which have automatic blinds on.

The 2 and 3 trim levels have lots of soft touch plastics and rubberised parts, plus high-gloss and satin-finished plastics give it a classy appearance. On the same trim levels, you also get an absolutely brilliant Infinity sound system tailored to the Optima’s cabin, and which is of really high quality. Included are 12 speakers with a large 4″ centre speaker, plus an 11-channel 550-watt amplifier and an 8″ subwoofer. It’s so powerful that the bass will vibrate the glass in the wing mirrors, should you want to. The 2 and 3 trim levels have lots of soft touch plastics and rubberised parts, plus high-gloss and satin-finished plastics give it a classy appearance. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

In the centre of the dash is a 7″ touchscreen system with sat nav, bluetooth with voice recognition and a reverse camera with decent definition. It’s certainly a well-thought-out and ergonomic system to use, regardless of whether you want to access the phonebook to call someone, change the audio settings, or use the satellite navigation.

However, two things irked me slightly. Firstly, a popular 40-minute route I and many other drivers use regularly simply would not come up as a route option on the sat nav, no matter how I tried to input it. It’s the shortest way to get to and from the destination by miles, but Kia’s navigation unit wouldn’t have it. Bizarre. Secondly, Kia chuck all this tech and gadgetry on the Optima and yet there is no DAB (digital) radio available on even the highest-spec model! I’ve not idea why this is, but it’s certainly a negative in a digital age.

In the centre of the dash is a 7" touchscreen system with sat nav, bluetooth with voice recognition and a reverse camera with decent definition. It's certainly a well-thought-out and easy system to use - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual review

The steering wheel and driver’s instrument panel are smartly-designed and laid-out. The leather-trimmed ‘wheel is thick and comfortable to hold, with an array of controls which at first look overwhelming to use as there are so many, but in actual fact they’re well-marked and well-placed. The dials are crystal-clear and nicely lit, and the 2 and 3 models have a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen too, featuring fuel stats and a menu for various settings.

While it’s hardly going to change a buyers mind there’s something that bugged me that it badly-placed on the Optima; the button for the PPAS (Parallel Park Assist System) – or the one that makes the Kia park itself – cannot be seen as it’s almost hidden behind the steering wheel, and I found getting to it is awkward. Not a great idea considering that often you need to press it while the car is still moving slowly. The steering wheel and driver's instrument panel are smartly-designed and laid-out. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

With 505 litres (rear seats up), luggage space is decent and – as is the norm – the rear seats also filled down to create more room. However, there’s a large rear speaker in the parcel shelf which is not boxed-in underneath, and therefore is susceptible to both taking damage itself should something solid be rammed into it, and to also damage an item pushed against the speaker and fittings.

Considering Kia go to great lengths to make sure their interiors are well-designed I’m surprised by a few basic oversights that Kia should not have missed; the lack of DAB radio, the badly-situated PPAS button, and the uncovered rear speaker protruding into the boot area, but overall the Kia Optima has an impressively high-end interior for a impressively low-end price. It looks the business, and it’s comfortable, roomy with plenty of useful tech too. With 505 litres (rear seats up), luggage space is decent - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Engine & gearbox

For the UK, the Optima is offered with a choice of exactly one engine. Kia are obviously aiming the car at business users for the most part, and it’s both cost-effect for them and and by far the more popular choice of fuel for ‘company’ cars. The engine in question is the 1.7 CRDi and was developed in Germany. It’s fitted with a variable-geometry turbo for good power output throughout the rev range, and Kia say it’ll produce similar levels of power compared with a 2.0 litre engine from Japanese and European rivals.

The 1.7 CRDi has 124 bhp at 4,000 rpm, along with 269 lb ft (325Nm) of torque between 2,000 - 2,500 rpm. 0 - 60 mph is done in 10.2 seconds with the manual (one seconds more for the auto), and you’ll hit 125 mph at the top end. KIA Optima 3 2014 Review

The 1.7 CRDi has 124 bhp at 4,000 rpm, along with 269 lb ft (325Nm) of torque between 2,000 – 2,500 rpm. 0 – 60 mph is done in 10.2 seconds with the manual (one seconds more for the auto), and you’ll hit 125 mph at the top end.

With regards to official EU fuel economy tests, the manual version reads as follows: urban: 49.6, extra urban: 64.2, combined: 57.6 (UK mpg). CO2 emissions are fairly low at 128 g/km, and 158 g/km for the automatic. The Optima is available with either a manual or automatic gearbox, both 6-speed, aside from the ‘1’ spec, which is manual-only. The manual’s versions come with ISG (intelligent Stop & Go), while the auto’s have Drive Select Mode’s with an Eco setting.

Normally I don’t state company car specs as they bore me, but the Optima warrants it, so here goes: company car tax bands (BIK) are 20% for the manual, and 26% for the auto.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6336

Up to now, I’ve been happy with the drive of every Kia we’ve been sent for test, and I didn’t think the Optima would be any different. However, I was surprised to discover a couple issues with the car this time.

From the moment I took the 6-speed manual Optima out I noticed that gear changes are not slick or positive from first to third, in fact they’re notchy and awkward and at times 1st to 2nd was a real pain to select. Even going from third to second can be a messy and cumbersome process with botched changes a-plenty.

The clutch pedal is also noticeably heavy and several times I found myself grinding gears, which very rarely happens on any of the other manual cars we’ve tested. I’ve never had a problem with Kia’s manual gearboxes or the clutch before, so this was a strange. Actually, it was enough to make city driving more pain than pleasure; to the point where I was glad to get my destination and rest my weary left leg.

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6285

Once you get up to motorway speeds and out of a situation where you’re changing gears at low speed constantly, the Optima becomes much more likeable. It’s a great cruiser and has plenty of torque at higher speeds, which is excellent for overtaking. Its long sixth gear makes for comfortable and relaxed cruising over long distances, and inside the cabin it’s a relaxing place to sit. Actually though, while wind noise is well deadened, sound from the tyres is still fairly obvious. Whilst not noisy per se, it’s also not as quiet as I expected either.

A positive for the Optima is its handling set-up, which allows for a comfortable ride across the typical terrible UK potholed road, but also surprised with more agility than I expected, making quick runs down winding routes decently fun as the Optima sticks to the tarmac well under pressure (from my right foot). Should things go awry, you’ll be glad that the Optima packs an array of computer wizardry to keep you on the straight and narrow as much as possible, including Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), stability control (ESC), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), brake assist, as well as ABS and emergency stop signalling (ESS).

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review self parking system

This is how Kia’s Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) parked the car in this space; perfectly and just centimetres from the kerb.

The Optima ‘3’ has Kia’s Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) system, and I actually found it rather handy on a few occasions. It’s completely easy to use (you control just the clutch and brake) and works superbly, usually parking within only a few inches of the kerb and gets into spaces you think it won’t. I tried it with a really tight space (see photo) where I honestly thought it wouldn’t have a chance of getting into, but it did, shuffling back and forth until it was sat perfectly between the two cars and close up to the verge. Impressive, and a bit of tech I really like.

For me, the Optima’s steering felt a little too disconnected and not as tight or accurate as I like, but then why compare it to something like a hot hatch when it’s a family saloon/company car. Let’s say the steering suits the car. If you want something more accurate, go have a play with the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT.

The Optima is nice car to drive overall, and the 1.7 CRDi engine gives okay torque and power while still returning respectable fuel economy. On the ride and handling side, Kia have done well in setting up the car and I can’t complain on that side of things. It does the job of cruising very well, but I found city driving to be a pain due to that clumsy manual gearbox and heavy clutch. If it was just the test car I was sent, fair enough but because of this I’m recommending you try a manual first and if it’s as rubbishy as I describe, go for the automatic version. Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6323

Price

(Prices: May ’14) The 2014 Optima starts at £19,700 and goes up to just over £27,000 for the ‘3’ automatic. The most popular model – and the one I recommend buying – will be the ‘2’ spec Optima, as you still get a generous amount of kit for a shade over £22,600. A hefty saving over the ‘3’ versions. I felt the car was worth the asking price, as the all-round quality and design both inside and out is of a very high standard.

Regarding rivals, the Vauxhall Insignia is between £18 – £24,000 for the diesel versions, while the Ford Mondeo goes for £20–£27,000. Going for the Optima is the aforementioned good overall quality, along with an attractive cabin and a cool, contemporary and sporty exterior design which easily out-styles the competition.

2014 Kia Optima ‘3’ 1.7 CRDi manual verdict & score

The 2014 Kia Optima 3  - A lot cooler looking than the competition and appears more expensive than it actually is.

I really didn’t like the manual gearbox for its notchy and imprecise changes on first to third gears, plus the overly heavy clutch made it hard-going in city traffic. That may have been an issue with that particular car, so it’s worth a road test to see for yourself. Other than that, it’s a very good car to go for if you want high quality on a low(ish) budget. Personally, I’d like to see the Optima mated with a decently powerful petrol engine to go with the sporty looks, but there’s no plans for that in the UK at the moment.

The Optima has a lot going for it, especially if you’re looking at choosing one for your next company car. For a start, it’s a lot cooler looking than the competition and appears more expensive than it actually is. You also get that really nice cabin with lots of unexpected electronic goodies such as cooled and heated front seats, plus roomy and comfortable heated rear seating too (on the ‘3’). Performance from the 1.7 CRDi engine won’t exactly set your heart racing, but it won’t struggle at higher speeds and the suspension setup makes for a comfortable ride – perfect for those long motorway slogs.

 

Do you own a Kia Optima? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  7.5
Engine  6
Gearbox  6
Price  8
Handling & ride  6.5
Drive  6
Overall Score  7.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Kia Optima ‘3’ 1.7 CRDi manual
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights with LED running lights, parallel-park assist system, leather seating, heated & ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ABS, EDB, BAS, ESC, VSM, ISG, hill-start assist, cruise control, climate control, 7″ touchscreen system with sat nav, 12-speaker Infinity Premium sound system. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Automatic gearbox
The Competition  Vauxhall Insignia, Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord,
Price  (June 2014): £24,495
Engine  1.7 CRDi turbo-diesel, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Power, Torque  124 bhp @ 4,000 rpm | 269 lb ft (325Nm) between 2,000 – 2,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front-wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 125 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 10.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: New model not tested yet
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2 Urban: 49.6, Extra urban: 64.2, Combined: 57.6 | CO2: 128 g/km
Weight (kerb)  (min) 1,559 kg’s (3,437 lbs)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “2014 Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi Manual Saloon Review – Modern Looks, Huge Spec, Great Price”

  1. Karl

    I have a late 2012 model, level 3 trim, automatic. In my opinion the Optima sets itself up for a fall because it has the appearance of a prestige marque like Audi, BMW, Mercedes but is targeted to compete with the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. In light of this, my expectations were unrealistic but any minor failings are totally forgiven taking into account what I paid (dealer, ex demo car), all the toys on board and that seven year warranty. I have to remind myself I bought an economical diesel so the performance is more than adequate for everyday motoring and the interior is a very pleasant place to be for the driver and all passengers. The Optima replaced quite a well specified Mercedes CLS and the only thing I miss is the grunt but as I’m getting close to double the mpg, I’m not losing sleep over it. I have never driven the manual and your comments (if they are all like this) have reassured me that automatic was the way to go. Perhaps you should ask Kia for a quick drive in an automatic just to make the comparison. A fair review and informative photos as always.

  2. Karl

    ***UPDATE*** Optima 3 CRDi automatic – most of my motoring is short journeys but we have just got back from Wales (we live in Ipswich, Suffolk) and the Optima, with four adults and a boot full of luggage, averaged 48mpg at a ‘healthy’ pace on the motorways. It also returned 44mpg for everyday driving while we were there which always involved lots of hill/mountain climbs and numerous 30mph and 40mph limits through the villages. The outward and return journeys were around 6 hours each with just one small stop and no one on board was uncomfortable. Overall a great touring saloon and we saw just one other Optima the entire week if you are looking for exclusivity 🙂

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