Full 2014 Kia Optima Review
What's New for 2014
The Kia Optima cruises into 2014 with a variety of small changes. On the outside, you'll find updated front and rear styling. Inside, Kia has improved the front seats for greater comfort and restyled the steering wheel. There are also some new features, including keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors and new display screens.
Family sedans have traditionally had a certain bland aesthetic as automakers have calculated that safe and inoffensive styling will appeal to the widest possible market. But a few years ago, Kia (http://www.edmunds.com/kia/) showed how it's possible to buck that conservative tradition with its stylish Optima. With sheet metal that's bold enough to be genuinely striking, the 2014 Kia Optima makes an assertive statement, and is an ideal choice for the buyer seeking family transportation that stands apart from the pack.
Of course, there's more to the Optima than its attractive fascia. The Optima's modern cabin is pretty comfortable and can be fitted with rather impressive features such as ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a voice-command system. Kia has upped the Optima's safety features this year as well, and that goes along nicely with the car's impressive safety scores. When you add in the Optima's very generous warranty, it becomes clear that this Kia represents a compelling value proposition.
Still, the Optima might not be the best choice for some buyers. If you're looking for the family sedan with the roomiest cabin, the Kia Optima falls short of choices such as the 2014 Honda Accord and Volkswagen Passat. Nor does the Optima have the lock on style and substance these days, as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata (the Optima's mechanical twin), 2014 Mazda 6 and 2014 Nissan Altima are all very impressive from just about every facet. Nonetheless, the Optima's many strengths make it a solid pick, particularly if you're looking for family transportation that blends value with va-va-voom.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Kia Optima is a midsize sedan that comes in LX, EX, SX (normally aspirated and turbocharged variants) and Limited trim levels.
The LX comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The LX's optional Convenience Plus package adds an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), laminated (i.e., quieter) front door windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, Bluetooth audio connectivity and Kia's Uvo voice command telematics system.
With the EX, the upgraded windows, power driver seat and auto-dimming mirror come standard. You also get 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning vents and leather upholstery.
Opting for the EX's Premium package further equips the EX with a panoramic sunroof, the rearview camera, Uvo, a four-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, driver memory settings and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio. To this you can add the Technology package, which adds rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, an 8-inch touchscreen display and a navigation system.
The Optima's SX trim level is equipped similarly to the EX, but also has 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED taillights, upgraded gauges with an integrated display screen and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The SX with the turbocharged engine also comes with xenon headlights. For the non-turbo SX, a Premium Technology package bundles the contents of the EX's Premium and Technology packages. For the turbocharged SX, the Premium and Technology packages are again separate.
If all of this just seems too confusing, you can just pick the top-of-the-line Limited, as it loads up at the buffet line with the complete contents of the EX's optional packages as standard. You also get 18-inch wheels, the xenon headlights, unique interior and exterior trim, LED foglights, an electronic parking brake and premium leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2014 Kia Optima is front-wheel drive. The LX, EX and SX come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 192 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque is optional on the SX and standard on the Limited. All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy with the 2.4 liter is an EPA-estimated 27 mpg combined (23 city/34 highway). EPA-estimated fuel economy with the turbocharged engine is 24 mpg combined (20 city/31 highway).
In Edmunds performance testing, a loaded Optima EX went from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, which is an average time for the class. An SX with the turbocharged engine went from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which is also an average time for a family sedan with an upgraded four-cylinder or V6 engine.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Kia Optima include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional, as are rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot monitoring system. The optional Uvo telematics system includes roadside assistance and collision notification.
In Edmunds brake testing, an Optima EX came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, a distance that's a couple of feet shorter than the segment average. The turbocharged SX made this stop in 125 feet, still acceptable for this class.
In government crash tests, the Optima earned a top five-star rating for overall safety performance, with five stars awarded for overall frontal- and side-impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Optima a top score of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Optima earned an "Acceptable" rating (second highest) in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test and a "Good" rating for its head restraints/seat whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
First impressions of the 2014 Kia Optima's interior are usually favorable. There's a distinct European and modern look to the design, and overall interior quality is helped by an abundance of soft-touch materials. These impressions are further bolstered in the Limited trim level by the high level of standard equipment and premium leather upholstery.
Kia's Uvo (pronounced "yoo-voh") electronics interface system is similar to Ford's Sync system (both are powered by Microsoft). Uvo provides voice control of cell phones and MP3 players as well as other services, such as POIs and turn-by-turn navigation. In our testing of Uvo, we've found that it works quite well. The touchscreen interface in navigation-equipped Optimas is easy to use for navigation purposes and operating the stereo.
The Optima has a fairly spacious cabin, with comfortable seats and a useful amount of legroom front and rear. Headroom (particularly in back) is a bit tight due to the car's rakish, coupelike roof line. Taller consumers should definitely think twice about getting the optional panoramic sunroof, as it further decreases headroom. The Optima's 15.4 cubic feet of trunk space is about average for its class.
The 2014 Kia Optima rides comfortably without isolating you from the environment, although the car's numb steering (with its artificially high effort) is less praise-worthy. The overall driving experience is certainly pleasant and better than average for the segment. SX and Limited models come with a sport suspension that contributes to slightly sportier handling, though some may find ride quality in these models a little too firm.
The high horsepower ratings on both engines are tempered somewhat by the fact that we've measured only average acceleration times. We've also found that the turbocharged engine is particularly sensitive to hot weather, and acceleration is noticeably slower in such conditions. But in general driving, the Optima feels suitably powered, and the transmission is responsive and shifts smoothly.