If Hyundai had its sights on Lexus and Mercedes for the nifty Sonata sedan, surely Kia was looking at Jaguar’s XF for the stunning Optima.
Yes, that Optima, a boring but competent sedan that was as affordable as it was serviceable.
Kia has injected a great deal of style into this reworked Optima. It is a looker. There is much Jaguar in the car. That gives it a far more elegant look than any other car in its price class. Even the interior has a more upscale look than its Hyundai sister. While not Audi, it has a taste of that brand (the guy who did the interior worked for Audi once). The center stack is angled toward the driver, much like a Saab. It’s wrapped in a leather-like material. The steering wheel, which houses duplicate controls for audio and telematics, is wrapped in real leather, as is the gear selector. The gauge cluster is simple and neatly executed.
The Optima is classified as a mid-sized car by the EPA and it does have great room for a family of five. If the three rear passengers are tall, there can be some problems. The car’s profile is that of a coupe so headroom is a bit under average. Hip and leg room is fine.
Under the hood of the SX is a 2.0-liter turbo charged engine. This jewel provides 274 horsepower with 264 pounds-feet of torque. That torque is available as low as 1700 rpm which gives you one heck of a rush when you press the accelerator. Zero to 60 times have been clocked as low as 6.6 seconds. That’s fast for a family sedan. What’s better is that this turbo will return 34 miles per gallon on the highway and 24 in the city. That’s as good as some smaller economy cars.
The Hyundai and Kia share a basic platform but Kia decided to make its version more sporty. My SX test car was endowed with some very athletic moves. It’s the sportiest of the Optima models (LX, EX and SX). That doesn’t make it handle like, say, a Jaguar or even a Mazda 6, but it will hold it’s own with other cars in its class. The ride is comfortable, but firm. You can approach sweeping curves aggressively, just don’t get cocky. The steering is a tad numb, but the four-wheel independent suspension does communicate some feel. I wish the suspension was tighter so the engine could really give the car a workout. As is, I’d say it is more than OK.
All Optimas come with much useful standard equipment but the SX gets stuff the others don’t – a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels, Xeon headlights, LED taillights, leather and woven seats, high performance dampers, electric power steering, metal pedals and door sill plates and dual zone climate controls with rear air vents. Extra goodies include a technology package (backup camera, navigation system and upgraded stereo system) and a premium touring package that includes panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats and driver seat memory.
That raised the $25,995 base price to $30,840.
Yes, a $30,000 Kia. The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings in this county. There are those who scoff at this price, but put away your knives and daggers. You still are getting a lot for this price. You can scale back and buy one of the lesser models for far less. If you choose this version you get the look and feel of something that could cost more. The lengthy warranty will keep you covered nearly the life of the car. That’s great because you may want to keep this car a long, long time.