You’re not alone if you always thought driving a Kia wasn’t worth your time. We don’t blame ya! For years, their line-up has been on the boring side, but when Kia Motors dropped by our office with the keys to the new Optima SX Limited, our shit-talking stopped.
The Optima is considered Kia’s flagship car. It’s classified as an entry-level premium sedan and its starting price comes in just a hair above $21K for the base model 2.4-liter. The price goes up when you step into a hybrid or turbocharged 2.0-liter. The model we tested was the SX Limited—basically the turbo Optima with every option you can order off the features menu, plus a few special aesthetic upgrades.
At first glance, this car doesn’t look cheap. In fact, it’s very well-designed with a sleek silhouette, the right amount of chrome accents, defined wheel arches, projector headlights and pronounced fender grilles. The SXL we tested came in the best color possible, Snow White Pearl, and it also features the LED daytime running lights, panoramic roof and rear spoiler. You have to admit…it’s a decent-looking car, right?
Next, we stepped into the interior. While many of you might think Kia interiors have been lackluster in the past, the Optima SXL was far from it. Equipped with all the bells and whistles, we sat in a gorgeous two-town leather cockpit which compliments the wood trim, black headliner and excellent dash design. Even the center console is engineered to make everything quite intuitive for the driver—we dig! The SXL also comes with a back-up cam, heated/cooling seats up front and heated rear seats. The bumps from the equipped Sirius radio is pretty damn good as well with an Infinity system providing the audio.
Lastly, we had two weeks to evaluate the driving experience on both long trips and daily commutes. When you think Kia, you don’t think of performance or power. And while you might think a 2.0-liter turbo might be a bit laggy for a vehicle this size, the Optima is surprisingly peppy. Lag is barely noticeable and the power delivery of the 247hp and 269 lb-ft of torque is very smooth and linear—feels more like a V6 than a turbo. Handling isn’t as solid and refined as a BMW, but it’s good enough and keeps you flat and planted on the pavement.
What’s going to bug you is the price for this top-end Optima. It comes in just above $35k. But for the value you get, there’s nothing Audi, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes offer that’s as powerful and packed with features as the Optima. Kia didn’t set out to build the ultimate luxury or race sedan but a classy, sporty sedan that’s fairly priced. – SD
2013 Kia Optima SX Limited
The Sticker: Pricing from MSRP $35,275
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged direct injection inline-4
The Power: 274hp at 6000rpm; 269 lb-ft at 4500rpm
Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: 6-speed Sportmatic transmission
Footwork & Chassis: MacPherson strut front suspension; multi-link rear suspension; front and rear anti-roll bars
Wheels & Tires: 18x7.5" wheels with 225/45R18 tires
The Competition: Hyundai Sonata GLS, Toyota Avalon XLE, Nissan Maxima SV, Lexus ES