REFRESHED and doing battle in the tough mid-size saloon market, Kia’s Optima is a high-spec, value-for-money alternative to the mainstream opposition.

The Optima has been around for a few years, but not that you would have noticed. It seemed to get buried beneath a clutch of other cars in this shrinking sector of the market.

But following a refresh there’s much to like about the new Optima. Sleeker, plusher, loaded with class-leading technologies, more refined and yet more engaging to drive, it is up to 25 per cent more fuel-efficient. The official average fuel consumption figure is 67mpg.

Subtle tweaks to the car’s nose and tail hide a more comprehensive update inside and under the skin. Improvements to overall refinement have resulted in a quieter cabin, while there’s more standard and optional kit available, such as blind spot and lane departure warning systems.

And such is Kia's confidence in its stylish saloon that it has added a sportswagon version to tempt fleet buyers.

The sharp-suited Optima has nothing to fear in the company car park. The car’s decidedly European styling cues sit comfortably with the less adventurous looks of many of its rivals.

A large saloon like the Optima - and its sportswagon counterpart - is designed from the outset to be accommodating, and the four-door Kia doesn't disappoint. Although the main focus is on front seat occupants, there’s also ample room in the back for business associates or the family. The generous size boot is also a big plus and the cabin isn’t short of useful oddment storage options.

Kia has worked to ensure the Optima delivers a refined and soothing driving experience in a bid to rival the products of the established European players. It has largely paid off, with the Optima easily capable of munching the motorway miles and distancing the driver from poorly surfaced roads. The sole 1.7-litre diesel engine option delivers a strong performance, and remains reasonably quiet when pushed hard. Don’t expect the Optima to rival the German sports saloons for outright performance though, as Kia’s aim was to major on refinement and comfort.

In its refreshed state boasting more kit and visibly higher quality levels, the Optima offers budget-savvy buyers a credible alternative to the wares of the more established brands.

Three trim levels are available, paired with either a six-speed manual or a new seven-speed (7DCT) dual-clutch auto transmission.

The Optima was the first car in its class with a wireless charger for mobile devices. It is also available with a 360-degree around view monitor a smart park assist system that automatically steers the car in and out of parallel or perpendicular parking slots, autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist to switch the lamps between full and dipped beam automatically and rear cross traffic alert, which warns drivers about to pull out of a perpendicular parking space into the path of a vehicle approaching from the side, are also available.

With the Idle Stop & Go (ISG) engine stop/start system as standard, CO2 emissions of manual models are 14 per cent lower at 110g/km, while fuel economy improves to a highly impressive 67.3mpg. An even bigger improvement is apparent with the new 7DCT dual-clutch auto gearbox, which replaces the previous six-speed torque converter unit. Emissions tumble by 25 per cent, to 116g/km, while fuel economy is now 64.2mpg.

A plug-in hybrid Optima, offering a commuter-friendly all-electric drive range, has also been added to the saloon range, while both the saloon and sportswagon are available in top-of-the-range GT S trim.

All of this is supported by increased passenger and luggage space and improved practicality thanks to the car's enlarged dimensions, while the boot capacity has risen from 505 to 510 litres, and there is a wider opening.

With its sensible economy and emissions ratings, plus that all-important seven-year warranty, the Optima makes a lot of sense for both private buyers and company car users.