It seems hard to imagine today, but less than five years ago Kia had never produced a performance car in its entire history. Now there are four with the introduction of the Optima Sportswagon GT to join the recently launched Stinger GT S, Kia's stunning new gran turismo.
There are clear links between the new Optima Sportswagon GT and the Stinger GT S. Both were developed under the auspices of Albert Biermann, Kia's Head of Vehicle Test and High-Performance Development.
Each of them is fast, dynamic but comfortable long-distance tourers rather than edgy, raw sports cars. For the Optima Sportswagon GT, Biermann has introduced electronic controlled suspension and uprated steering and brakes. All have been put through an extensive testing regime on Alpine roads, German motorways and at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
And the Optima Sportswagon GT is powered by a 2.0-litre T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engine which also one of the three engines available on the Stinger. The engine incorporates an Electric Sound Generator which relays the engine note into the cabin via an actuator so that occupants can enjoy its sporting timbre.
The award-winning styling of the Optima Sportswagon has been sharpened for the GT versions, but in a sophisticated rather than a brash way so as not to spoil the elegant lines of the models they are based on.
As the sporting flagship of the Optima range it also benefits from an extensive list of high-technology features to aid drivers and keep them connected. Standard equipment includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system, Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom™, Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ connectivity, a Smart Park Assist System (SPAS), a Speed Limit Information function (SLIF) and a wireless mobile phone charger.
The 2.0-litre unit in the Optima Sportswagon GT model develops a strong 241bhp at 6,000rpm, but of more use for a greater proportion of the time is the 353Nm of torque available from 1,400 to 3,500rpm, so that the car accelerates strongly at light throttle openings without the need for constant gear changing. The Optima Sportswagon GT can reach 60mph from standstill in 7.3 seconds and has rapid in-gear acceleration with all six ratios in the standard automatic gearbox.
The 2.0-litre T-GDi engine sits perfectly with Kia's policy of downsizing – using the smallest-capacity power unit for a given application while employing turbocharging and direct fuel injection to ensure strong power and torque. It features a scroll turbocharger, an electronically controlled wastegate and a new continuously variable valve timing system on both the inlet and exhaust sides to aid flexibility and responsiveness.
The driving flexibility it provides negates the need for high engine revs, minimising fuel consumption. The Optima Sportswagon GT is capable of up to 30.7mpg in the combined test cycle (NEDC 2.0), with CO2 emissions of 211g/km.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is linked to paddle shifters on the steering column so that more enthusiastic drivers can control gearshifts manually.
The Optima Sportswagon GT preserves the elegant, award-winning lines of other models in the range, but with subtle and sophisticated additions which clearly mark it out as the performance version in the line-up.
Kia has also modified the design of the Optima Sportswagon GT. For added style and on-road presence, the GT model feature new LED fog lamps and subtle gloss black mirror caps, side sills and air intake grille. Optima Sportswagon GT is distinguished by chrome dual exhaust tips.
The GT model stands out with its five-spoke 18-inch aluminium alloy wheels and satin chrome side strakes and door handles. At the rear, the GT models have a rear diffuser book-ended by dual exhaust outlets, and there are 'GT' badges on the tailgate.
Inside, the Optima Sportswagon GT models have the same refined, high-quality interior as non-GT versions, but with a more dynamic execution and function.
There are red leather sports seats with black bolsters and red stitching. The front seats feature an embroidered 'GT' logo and have larger side bolsters and taller thigh bolsters than other Optima models for added support. There is eight-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar adjustment on the driver's side, and both front seats plus the outer rear seats are heated.
The Optima Sportswagon GT also features aluminium pedals and a black leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel with red stitching. Like the seats, the steering wheel has a 'GT' emblem. A unique instrument cluster further reflects the car’s performance credentials, with a digital turbo boost pressure gauge and a meter showing the torque output at any moment.
Sportswagon ‘GT’ 2.0 T-GDi 6-speed automatic - £33,350