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 they have improved drivability compared to when they were first introduced a couple of years ago (now 36 mpg city, 40 highway).
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.
We should note that both of these models have received a modest refresh for 2014, with the Sonata receiving a sharpened appearance, an enhanced SE model, and other upgrades, while the Optima gets a sharper front-end design and a new luxurious EX-L model with a plush Nappa leather interior.See our full reviews on both of these models for more information on these updates.
|2014 Hyundai Sonata||2014 Kia Optima|
|The 2014 Hyundai Sonata remains one of the best buys among mid-size sedans--although with so many much-improved rival models, it's no longer such a standout.||The 2014 Kia Optima is a sensible and spacious four-door sedan, but it moonlights as something a little more stylish and adventuresome.|
|from $21,450||from $21,500|
|from $20,532||from $20,579|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
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