Hyundai Sonata Vs. Kia OptimaEnlarge Photo
Once you've narrowed down your choices to the South Korean-designed pair, though, how can you choose between them? Here at TheCarConnection, we've rated them identically, which makes the choice even more difficult. For the most part, it comes down to styling, though there are subtle differences in handling too that may tip the scales in one direction.
The Optima and Sonata have much more in common than any other two mid-size four-door family sedans--no surprise, since Hyundai has owned Kia since the early 2000s. Both are powered by a range of four-cylinder engines, from the base normally aspirated models with about 200 horsepower, to the 274-horsepower turbocharged versions, with six-speed automatic or manual transmissions. Our pick: either with the turbocharged four and the automatic, a good pairing that executes quick highway passes without much turbo lag, replicating V-6 power without the drain on gas. Base fours are rated at 35 mpg highway--but turbo fours still earn an EPA-pegged 34 mpg highway. We've driven both hybrids, and think they have promise, but those models (at 34/39 mpg) need more drivetrain refinement—and more real-world mileage gains—before we recommend them.
Both the Sonata and Optima share some suspension and steering fundamentals. Each has an all-independent suspension with a very taut, borderline firm, ride quality, and electric power steering that has more heft and slightly more realistic feel in the Optima.
Interior and trunk space is quite similar, too, with lots of front-seat leg room and head room, with above-average knee room in the back seat and head room that's fine for all but six-foot adults and those any taller. Both the Optima and Sonata could use more comfortable seats with longer bottom cushions, especially on base models; heated seats are an option on either, as is leather trim. Trunk space and small-item storage are quite good.
In safety and features, the Sonata and Optima have been leaders for their brands and for the latest generation of family sedans. Both have earned excellent safety scores from the IIHS and NHTSA—although in the latest test from the IIHS, the small overlap frontal impact test, the Hyundai Sonata earned a 'marginal' rating while the Optima earned an 'acceptable' rating—a step better. That means that the Optima earns the new Top Safety Pick+ designation while the Sonata is only a Top Safety Pick.
Bluetooth is standard on both, and a rearview camera can be had on either. Among other features, Kia's UVO uses voice commands to run phone and audio controls, but it's not available with the optional navigation system. Hyundai layers human operators with other OnStar-like features with its BlueLink service.
Ultimately, we think these two are so close in packaging, pricing, and features that the choice between Hyundai's Sonata and the Kia Optima comes down to looks. Save for minor differences in handling and features, the big difference is styling. Would you rather have the fluidic sculpture of the Sonata, or the dynamic, almost Audi-like appeal of the Optima? In either case, you'll be driving something so far removed from the Korean automakers' past, it's almost unrecognizable.
|2013 Hyundai Sonata||2013 Kia Optima|
|With a standout design; perky performance; great gas mileage; and exceptional value for the money, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata is one of the best buys among mid-size sedans.||The 2013 Kia Optima adds generous dashes of style and sophistication to what's otherwise a sensible, frugal, and spacious mid-size sedan.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Hyundai Sonata has a handsome and smooth but adventurous look, and remains a standout among staid mid-size sedans.||Read moreCrisp, focused details and a smooth, Euro-influenced profile make the 2013 Kia Optima one of the best-looking mid-size sedans.|
|Read moreThe Sonata has strong, refined, and economical powertrains, but driving enthusiasts won't love the steering.||Read moreConfident handling and strong, economical powertrains give the Optima a lot of appeal; the Hybrid could be smoother, though.|
|Read moreWith comfortable seating and plenty of storage spaces, along with impressive materials, it's hard to find fault with the cabin appointments.||Read moreUncomfortable front seats are the only drawback of a quiet, composed, and roomy interior.|
|Read moreThis is about as good as it gets; the Sonata has earned excellent safety and crash-test ratings.||Read moreTop crash-test scores across the board highlight the 2013 Kia Optima as one of the safest sedan picks.|
|Read moreHyundai adds even more standard-feature content to the Sonata for 2013.||Read moreThe 2013 Optima has some extra standard features, as well as options you won't find in other budget-priced models; the limited availability of navigation is the only disappointment.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a fuel-efficiency standout—and that's on top of the base Sonata's 35-mpg highway rating.||Read moreThe 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid wows with its 40-mpg highway rating; but all the Optima models get great gas mileage.|
|from $20,895||from $21,350|
|from $20,010||from $20,400|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
Read Full Specs
Read Full Specs