Auto Review: Kia's upscale Optima

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
- Contributed Photo

There are few car manufactures that have grown as fast as Kia has the last few years, and people have discovered that not only are Kias an affordable alternative to many other makes out there, they have competitive, interesting machines in nearly every category as well.

The Optima is their midsize entrant that combines a touch of luxury as well as a sporting personality in one practical sedan. This year, Kia has added a Limited version to the their top-of-the-line SX trim level, so you get all the comfort and tech amenities at a still affordable price. The Optima also has a very sophisticated drivetrain that blends performance and economy with a decent measure of refinement.

The front-drive Optima SX rides on a 110-inch wheelbase and its aggressively-styled body uses an extensive amount of high-strength steel that is low in weight but aids in overall rigidity. The engine on the SX is a 2-liter Theta II Turbocharged Four that has Direct Injection and pumps out a respectable 200 horsepower. As is becoming common with the latest generation of turbocharged engines, the Theta II goes about its business with little drama; it just boosts power so you think you’re driving a vehicle with a larger-displacement mill. The days of big peaks and valleys in power delivery due to the turbocharger needing to spin up seem to be disappearing. This fine engine is complimented by a very smooth six-speed Sportmatic Automatic transmission that was as unobtrusive as it was well-calibrated, and the manual mode added some sporting feel to an already responsive chassis. Where some sedans in this class have suspensions that are tilted more towards a cushy ride, the Optima is a bit stiffer, and as a result, handling is crisp, without undue body lean or wallowing. Brakes are also quite responsive; another very welcome trend in the class as a whole.

The interior of the Optima is very spacious, and the new Limited package for the SX makes for a very classy cabin. The instrumentation is straightforward and clear, with a full-color graphic trip computer and very logical controls. The front seats are like the suspension in that they favor firmness and support slightly over deep cushioning, which is not to say this wouldn’t be a great choice for those who spend long days on the road. The comfort level is impressive, and the rear seat is not only unusually roomy, but well-contoured as well. The optional Premium Touring Package includes a panoramic sunroof that makes being a passenger in the aft cabin all the more interesting. To add additional fuel to the Optima’s road trip résumé, the trunk is a very usable 15.4 cubic feet to haul everybody’s gear. Top this off with excellent Infinity Audio and a Navigation System with Sirius Traffic capability, and you have one capable traveling companion.

The 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited is EPA rated 22 MPG city/33 highway and has a base price of $26,800. With options, the MSRP was $35,275.

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