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Hyundai Sonata Vs. Kia Optima: Compare Cars

2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
8.4
/ 10
TCC Rating
2015 Hyundai Sonata
2015 Kia Optima
8.4
/ 10
TCC Rating
2015 Kia Optima
By Bengt Halvorson
Deputy Editor
2015 Hyundai Sonata Vs. 2015 Kia Optima

2015 Hyundai Sonata Vs. 2015 Kia Optima

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In just a few generations, both the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima have gone from distant finishers high-ranked competitors that now rank in sales alongside vehicles like the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. It's all for good reason, thanks to great styling, excellent fuel economy, available hybrid models, and class-leading value.

If you have your eyes on this South Korean-designed pair, how can you choose between them? To start, there's one very important piece of information for 2015, and it might govern whether you buy now, or wait a few months. The Hyundai Sonata has been given a full redesign for 2015, while the Kia Optima carries over for one more year in its present form. You might expect that to give the Sonata the advantage, but it's not that simple, and here at The Car Connection they're still so close in appeal, value, and everything else that we've rated them identically. For the most part, it comes down to styling, though there are subtle differences in handling and features that may tip the scales in one direction.

Both of these models are powered by a range of direct-injection four-cylinder engines, from the base 2.4-liter normally aspirated models to the a turbocharged 2.0-liter four. The base model makes 200 horsepower in the Optima, while an 'updated' version of this engine in the Sonata is rated at 185 hp. Likewise, the Optima's 274-horsepower turbo engine now makes 245 in the Sonata. To Hyundai's credit, both of these engines are much more vibration-free in the Sonata. In both models, the six-speed automatics shift relatively smoothly and do well with the turbocharged four, allowing quick highway passes without much turbo lag.

At the frugal base end of the lineups, the Sonata's EPA ratings are now a slight step ahead, at 25 mpg city, 37 highway. And there are hybrid models (both of the same generation, as the Sonata Hybrid is based on the previous model); they're rated at 36 mpg city, 40 highway. Otherwise the new 2015 Sonata Eco rolls out a special powertrain that can't be found anywhere in the Optima lineup: a 1.6-liter turbocharged four with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox; together it's good for 28/38 mpg.

The Kia Optima has an all-independent suspension with a very taut, borderline firm, ride quality. Hyundai has improved the ride quality of the Sonata notably, and it's the pick of the two for that—and for general cabin quiet—although Kia added an acoustic windshield last year, and we still like the tuning of the Optima's power steering a bit better, as it has more natural heft off center and better weighting for quick maneuvers overall.

Interior and trunk space remains quite similar between these two models, whether you go by the dimensions or by practical usability. There's 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. The Sonata's seats feel modestly improved, and that's a plus; 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 impressive albeit not quite top-tier performers, going by the crash-tests from the IIHS and NHTSA, and we assign them the same '9' score. But the Sonata's clearly ahead if safety features matter—and if you're willing to pay extra for them. The Sonata does earn a 'basic' nod from the IIHS for frontal crash prevention, for the Forward Collision Warning system that's offered as part of the Ultimate Package on top models. The Sonata also offers blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and active cruise control. There's no true active-safety system on the Optima yet, although it does make a Blind Spot Detection system available on all but the base model.

Summary
Styling
Performance
Quality
Safety
Features
Green
MSRP
from $21,150 from $21,650
Invoice
from $20,295 from $20,715
Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway
29 (Est) 27
Front Leg Room (in)
45.5 45.5
Second Leg Room (in)
35.6 34.7
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© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.
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