For much of its life, the Kia Optima has been firmly pegged as an also-ran vehicle. Introduced as Kia's first midsize sedan, the first-generation Optima couldn't promise the refinement, documented reliability and assured resale value of its key Japanese competitors. The second-generation Kia Optima followed much the same anonymous playbook, though with considerably better results.
Kia's latest, third-generation Optima is a different animal entirely. With sleek styling, plenty of standard features, potent engine choices and substantial value, the current Optima is a top pick for a midsize family sedan.
Current Kia Optima
Under the skin, the current Kia Optima is very similar to the Hyundai Sonata, but to Kia's credit, the Optima has a distinctive European flair to it. Inside and out, the Optima looks and feels like a much more expensive car than its humble price tag would suggest. Optimas are available in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX and SX Limited. There's also the Optima Hybrid, which comes in a single trim.
Standard equipment on the LX includes alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a stereo with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The EX and Hybrid add luxury features such as automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry and leather upholstery. The SX gets a turbocharged engine, a sport-tuned suspension and unique styling touches. Option highlights include a navigation system, the Uvo voice-activated electronics interface, a premium sound system and heated and ventilated front seats.
Optima LX and EX models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the LX, while a six-speed automatic is optional and standard on all other Optimas. The SX and SX Limited boast a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.
The Kia Optima Hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. Combined, the two power units are good for 206 peak hp and work through a six-speed automatic. The EPA estimates the Hybrid will achieve 36 mpg in combined driving.
In reviews, we've found that the Optima stands out thanks to its distinctive styling and upscale interior. Headroom is a bit limited, however, and taller drivers would be well advised to test the car with and without the sunroof. On the road, the Optima has a pleasant ride quality without feeling too isolated. The base engine will likely satisfy the vast majority of drivers, while the turbo is the pick for more spirited pilots. The Hybrid, however, is a bit of a disappointment. Its braking and acceleration in city traffic is uneven and unpredictable, and fuel economy trails that of competing hybrid sedans.
Read the most recent 2014 Kia Optima review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Kia Optima page.