As with most mid-size four-door sedans on the market, the 2014 Kia Optima is offered in several different performance flavors--all including a four-cylinder engine under the hood.
A 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection is standard on all but the SX model. It's a little coarse when you need to access its full potential, but it's plenty perky in the mid revs and works very well with the six-speed automatic transmission.
Those with more of a penchant for performance--yes, those who would have chosen the V-6 in the past--will find plenty of satisfaction in the sporty SX model and its 274-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine--along with paddle-shifters for the automatic. Here the Optima feels a step more aggressive than V-6 models of the Camry or Accord, in light-footedness if not brute-force acceleration.
The Optima Hybrid, with its electric-motor system and lithium-polymer battery pack that pair with a four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission (not a CVT), has been retuned for better drivability. It now has a higher-capacity lithium-ion battery, with the powertrain providing 199 hp of combined power and 235 lb-ft of combined torque, to yield acceleration that feels about on par with the base four but with better mileage (36 mpg city, 40 highway).
In past model years, we've found the Optima's steering to be a little on the firm side in feel compared to many other models in this class. With a rather firmly tuned suspension and reasonably good body control, the Optima has a lean, confident feel on a curvy road.
With the new Drive Select system that's included in the SC model, you get several modes that command different transmission shift points and steering weighting. We'll update this with driving impressions as soon as we can test the system.