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This duo can keep Kia sales soaring 

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KIA has just celebrated a record-breaking year in the UK with sales rising by almost 14 per cent – from 78,489 in 2015 to last year’s 89,363.

New car sales have been healthy with a two per cent rise in 2016 and they’ve been extremely good for Kia.

The company has tripled UK sales in just eight years and is confident it can reach its target of 100,000 cars per year.

I’ve just been sampling two of the models that are helping Kia soar to success.

I had back-to-back drives in Optima Sportswagon and Sportage models.

And these two stylish and top-value cars show exactly why Kia is flying high in the UK.

The Sportswagon is Kia’s first big estate model – arriving just last September.

It was well worth the wait though as it gets top marks for looks and has a spacious interior and lots of storage space.

There is a 552 litres cargo area, including two useful under-floor trays and this extends to 1,686 litres with rear seats folded.

The three trim levels available just now are the same as the Optima saloon – 2, 3 and GT-Line S with a sporty high-performance GT version on its way.

The high level of standard equipment matches that on the saloon but with certain additions.

These include roof rails on all trim levels, luggage area DC power socket, one-touch folding rear seats handle, a luggage side partition and towing connection preparation.

The level 3 test car also gained a luggage rails system, boot lip trim and privacy glass in the rear doors, rear quarterlights and tailgate.

Equipment on the test model included an extremely comfortable eight-way power adjustable driver’s memory seat with electronic lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, eight-inch colour touchscreen, satnav, rear view camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth with music screening and a premium sound system with eight speakers.

There’s no shortage of driver’s aids and safety equipment, and this includes cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert.

The 3 model also comes with 18-inch alloys, cornering lights, LED rear and front fog lights.

There is just the one engine choice – Kia’s 1.7-litre CRDi turbo diesel unit.

The power comes through a slick six-speed manual transmission that enabled smooth and quick changes up and down the gears.

The engine proved to be a little noisy when started but was fairly quiet as it moved up through the gears and settled down at motorway speeds.

There is plenty of power from the 139bhp engine with this big estate coming smartly out of the blocks to reach 60mph in 9.8 seconds.

With a top speed of 124mph, the Sportswagon cruised along well at maximum speed limits and it was also pretty agile when cornering for a large estate.

And there was plenty of punch when dropping down gears for overtaking manoe-uvres.

Fuel economy figures are also impressive, capable of 64.2mpg combined, 74.3mpg extra urban and 54.3mpg urban.

If you’re after a load-lugger that also has stylish looks, the test model Optima Sport-swagon, priced at £24,495, could be the model for you.

My second test model was a Sportage 1.7 CRDi 2 Eco.

This is Kia’s most popular car in the UK and the fourth generation model will continue to attract buyers.

It’s one of the most stylish small SUVs on the road and there are lots of choices with six trim levels, four engines and three gearboxes available.

The test vehicle came with six-speed manual transmission.

Again, there’s a generous level of standard equipment similar to the Optima but being a grade below, this model missed out on items like the power adjustable driver’s seat although the seat did have power lumbar support.

As expected, there is plenty of versatility thanks to the 60/40 split folding rear seats.

There is more legroom and headroom front and rear than in its predecessor and boot capacity is also increased to 491 litres, rising to 1,480 litres when the rear seats are folded.

You do need to do a little more gear changing but the 109bhp engine responds when extra oomph is required.

The Sportage offers sharp accurate steering and displayed excellent grip as I pushed it along some winding country roads.

With a top speed of 109mph it cruised smoothly and quietly on the motorway and did feel quicker off the mark than its 11.1 seconds to 60mph figure.

I enjoyed my few days with the Sportage, which like the Optima, had easy-to-use steering wheel mounted controls.

It’s pretty frugal as well, consumption figures being 61.4mpg combined, 67.3mpg extra urban and 52.3mpg urban.

And like every other Kia, these two models come with the company’s excellent seven year/100,000 miles.

The test model was priced £22,050 and like the Optima Sportswagon, the Sportage should keep Kia sales rising.