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Kia Optima and Renault Laguna in the test: newcomers vs regular players

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Kia Optima and Renault Laguna in the test
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C larus and Magentis. Is that your doorbell? Maybe gray middle class? Kia? Right. And what did they look like? Uhh - I don't know. To forget. It is precisely this effect that has so far caused the Koreans to fail in the middle class. To change that, they brought Peter Schreyer, ex-VW and Audi man, into the team as the new head of design six years ago. Since then, the brand has been driving forward with increasingly powerful models. That causes a stir, design awards and bottlenecks in production. For this reason, too, the Kia Optima is only now arriving in Germany, because the high demand in Asia and the USA delayed the market launch in Europe for over a year.

Kia Optima with an impressive number of extras

The cause is clear at first glance: With its bold design and lush dimensions, the sporty-chic sedan attracts more attention than the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6 combined. Kia has also caught up in the interior design. The top version of the Kia Optima Spirit not only attracts with neatly sewn and well-contoured partial leather seats including heated seats (optional in the rear) and cooled, electrically adjustable driver's seat, the driver-oriented center console also pampers with elegant-looking imitation leather and wood. Large, clearly marked and illuminated keys make operation easier, and plenty of shelves for storing CDs, water bottles and cell phones. Even the navigation system can be easily activated via the high-resolution touchscreen.

Kia charges 33,090 euros for the Optima 1.7 CRDi Spirit, but it packs an impressive number of extras. Even the leather armchairs mentioned, the navigation system, xenon headlights, eleven-channel sound system, reversing camera and parking and lane departure warning systems are standard.

Renault Laguna is rather cautious

With a base price of 30,200 euros, the Renault Laguna dCi 150 FAP Dynamique is significantly cheaper, but Renault customers would easily have to pay an additional 4,000 euros for the equipment delicacies of the Kia Optima. If there is. Because if you order the automatic start-stop system, which costs 200 euros, you are not allowed to book heated seats or a larger navigation system. Annoying, because the standard TomTom navigation system is neither easy to read nor as easy and intuitive to use as the one in the Kia Optima. Modern features such as lane departure warning orRear view cameras are not even available for the Laguna. Not to mention the seven-year manufacturer guarantee that Kia grants up to a mileage of 150,000 kilometers.

Even optically, the Renault Laguna prefers the reserved, almost shy appearance. Its body is 15 centimeters shorter, flatter (ten millimeters) and narrower (19 mm). The hood reaches up to the license plate, daytime running lights are only optional, and there is no trace of pithy air intakes or molded side skirts. The two chrome-plated tailpipes seem almost a bit exaggerated.

Lots of space for rear passengers in the Kia Optima

The sober appearance continues in the interior. The cockpit and center console convey little flair. In addition to some chrome parts, black and gray plastic surfaces dominate. Lovelessly punched out fan lids, cheap ventilation nozzles (in the rear) and a sloppy floor mat do not exactly contribute to a more cozy atmosphere. The seating comfort and the space in the rear do not come close to that of the Kia Optima.

In return, the Renault Laguna presents itself with a large tailgate and an easily accessible trunk (450 liters), which also has a few In the Kia Optima, on the other hand, you have to fill the 505-liter trunk through a much smaller opening and pay attention to the free-standing hinge brackets. The cheap hat rack with exposed speakers and cabling makes it clear: Kia has to save somewhere too.

In addition, the secluded rear of the Kia Optima ensures little joy, which even makes parking professionals despair. A massive C-pillar and the design kink in the rear windows make bicycles and fences disappear in equal measure. Anyone who stretches and turns around hectically during the parking maneuver will sometimes bump their head against the roof liner - in all seats. The two-part panoramic sliding roof (in a package from 1,290 euros) takes its toll here.

In the zero hundred sprint, the Kia Optima lags behind

Renault passengers are also spared the pithy, nail-like undertone of the 1.7-liter diesel. With 136 hp and a maximum of 325 Newton meters, it accelerates the 1.6-ton Kia Optima to 100 km /h in 10.3 seconds - with significant vibrations right into the steering wheel and a pronounced starting weakness.

The 150 hp two-liter diesel in the Laguna, on the other hand, burns much more cultivated and also pulls powerfully. 8.9 seconds for the zero hundred sprint are great, and the 200 km /h line on the clearly legible speedometer is not an unattainable goal. It's just a shame that the switch box with its indifferent ways keeps robbing you of joy. There is agreement at the pump. With only 0.1 liter difference in test consumption, the diesel engines (both with a start-stop system) remain closeat the seven-liter mark, five liters are also feasible.

The differences in driving behavior are unusually clear. Despite precise and direct steering, the deliberately comfortably tuned Kia Optima irritates even on the highway with a spongy, sluggish driving behavior. On the winding country roads of the Swabian Alb, it surprises time and again with a rear that pushes outwards. Often only the rigorously intervening ESP can still prevent cross-stay. Mind you: It is a front-wheel drive! So, dear Kia engineers: Please improve!

Renault Laguna is more nimble and agile

The Renault Laguna shows how it works properly. In spite of the equal driving comfort, it approaches the curvy Alb much more light-footed and more agile, remains reliably directional even on sharply braked corners and pulls out of tight turns faster thanks to the sensitive ESP. A vote that, in combination with the powerful diesel, can really put you in a good mood. It's easy to get over the slightly jerky steering, which is not immune to drive influences.

As quickly as the Laguna drives the Kia Optima out of every bend, it ultimately scores in almost every rating. All that remains for the dashing candidate for promotion from Korea is victory in the cost chapter and the certainty that they will not be forgotten.

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