For much of its life, the Kia Optima had 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.
The third-generation Kia Optima, however, is a different animal entirely. With sleek styling, plenty of standard features, potent engine choices and substantial value, the current Optima stands as 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 (standard and turbocharged variants) and SX Limited. There's also the Optima Hybrid, which comes in a single trim.
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 output comes to 206 peak hp and it's sent through a six-speed automatic. The EPA estimates the Hybrid will achieve 36 mpg in combined driving.
Standard equipment on the LX includes alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface. The EX and Hybrid also include keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control and leather upholstery. The SX is equipped similarly to the EX but adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded gauges (with integrated display screen) and paddle shifters. The SX turbo also comes with xenon headlights. The Limited's perks include a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitor, the Uvo voice-command system, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, upgraded audio and a navigation system.
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 somewhat unpredictable, and fuel economy trails that of competing hybrid sedans.
Read the most recent 2015 Kia Optima review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Kia Optima page.