2010 Kia Optima Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 2, 2010

The 2010 Kia Optima doesn’t have the excitement of its newest small cars, the Soul and Forte, but it does have strong appeal based in practical attributes like interior space, comfort, and value for the money.

In order to assemble the most useful review for shoppers looking for a mid-size sedan, TheCarConnection.com has consulted a wide range of review sources presenting some of the most useful highlights in an adjacent Full Review. And here in TheCarConnection.com’s Bottom Line, editors have driven the Optima and bring firsthand observations, along with pros, cons, and other pertinent information.

The Kia Optima remains one of the most affordable and value-packed—yet anonymous-looking—mid-size sedans, aiming at families who really want a new car despite a tight budget. The Optima continues to favor comfort and frugality over styling or sophisticated technology options, but it keeps its target audience in mind with top-notch safety features. Last year Kia gave the Optima a slight design refresh and a revised engine lineup.

Inside and out, Kia keeps it simple with the Optima’s design. The 2010 Optima has nice proportions as a whole, but up close its details appear a bit derivative, with details picked up from past Camrys, Accords, and the like. Cabin appointments weigh function over form, with chunky rotary knobs and a straightforward instrument panel, let down only by full materials.

There’s only one sensible way to order the 2010 Kia Optima: with the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes a healthy 175 horsepower, while the optional 2.7-liter V-6 makes just 194 horsepower. With the V-6 a bit heavier, the difference between the two engines is virtually indistinguishable—and the four-cylinder gets better fuel economy (22 mpg city, 32 highway). A five-speed manual comes standard on the four-cylinder models, but others get a good five-speed automatic transmission. The Optima clearly prefers comfort over performance, though it handles well enough for most commuting and shuttling needs. In addition to their price and fuel economy benefits, four-cylinder models ride and handle slightly better than those with the V-6.

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The mild redesign received by the Optima last year yielded improved comfort for the already-spacious interior. Front headroom can be tight with the available sunroof, and the Optima still doesn’t have very supportive seats, but it does have one of the roomiest cabins in its segment, with good backseat legroom and headroom. There’s also a big 14.8-cubic-foot trunk that will swallow more gear than most of the Optima's competitors. Up close, cabin materials are a bit dull, but the stark simplicity might be appreciated by some.

Kia hasn’t forgotten about safety in any respect; it has all of the features now expected in a mid-size sedan, and it fares well in official crash tests. Tests from the federal government yield top five-star results in both frontal and side-impact tests, while the insurance-funded IIHS gives the Optima its top "good" rating in frontal offset protection and an "acceptable" rating in side impact protection. Front side airbags are standard, along with side-curtain airbags that cover both rows, and front-seat occupants get active headrests.

Kia typically sells its vehicles with a lot more standard equipment than is typical for the class—making up for the lack of sheer sophistication with an impressive roster of standard features (and few factory options)—and the 2010 Kia Optima is no exception. Items that are normally relegated to top luxury trims—including cruise control, keyless entry and alarm, a manual tilt and telescopic steering column, and steering-wheel audio controls—are all included on the base Optima. The Optima LX, meanwhile, adds dual exhaust outlets and alloy wheels when equipped with the V-6. And at the top, with the Optima EX, you get fog lamps, solar glass, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a leather steering wheel, and automatic climate control. Also included on the EX is an Infinity premium sound system. The top-of-the-line edition basically brings a sportier look to the EX, with metal pedals, aluminum trim, and black leather.

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