The 2010 Kia Optima Sedan: With Camry Sales Sliding Can Kia Make a Move in the Family Segment?

February 2, 2010

Although the advertised base price for the 2010 Kia Optima is only $17,995 that is only for the manual transmission base model which is no doubt "impossible" to find on dealer lots. And who wants a manual transmission when you are looking for comfortable, spacious and fuel efficient family transport?

Save the manual for that roadster you are going to buy when the kids leave the house. The worst part of this pricing trickery, however, is the fact that a base model with the auto costs a Nissan Altima-like $19,095. And lets just face facts: the Altima is just the prettier car of the two.

But before I pick on the poor Optima too much there is a neat and simple angularity to the exterior design that is kind of refreshing especially when viewed in context of the grisly-looking 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The interior is full of easy to understand controls and knobs that are delightfully tactile for such an inexpensive car. While this is a vehicle aimed at people looking for sensible wheels on a budget it doesn't remind you of that fact every chance it gets.

The interior of the 2010 Kia Optima may lack the design bravura of recent press hogs like the Forte and Soul but it appears built to last the entirety of that 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Even basic LX models come equipped with all the essentials (AC, power everything) plus cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, keyless entry and a decent 6-speaker audio system.

Uplevel EX models add leather upholstery, power seats, fog lights, bigger 16 inch alloy wheels, Homelink, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and an easy to use automatic temperature control system. Moving up to the EX from the LX costs just a little over $1,000 and is probably a worthwhile upgrade.

Also available on the EX is a pricey $2,200 Premium Package which gives you an Infinity Audio System with subwoofer, sunroof, power passenger seat, power adjustable pedals, upgraded wheels and most importantly a sliding sunshade for rear seat  passengers. A more sensible (and sensibly priced) idea is the optional $1,200 in-dash navigation unit. That is really inexpensive when you compare prices charged by the competition for their navigation units.

In perusing the review of the 2010 Kia Optima by Bengt Halvorsen in parent-site The Car Connection I found myself agreeing with Bengt that the most important choice you will be making is whether or not you want the 2.7 liter 194 horsepower V6 or the 2.4 liter 175 horsepower 4 cylinder. In addition to being a much older design, the V6 engine is also thirsty (20 city/28 highway) yet feels underpowered and thrashy. The four cylinder engine feels perfectly suited to this car, is much smoother and gets a respectable 22 city/32 highway fuel economy rating.

This being Kia, however, you have to know that they must go and do something a little bit different and they have not let us down with the top-line Optima SX sports variant. While you may not imagine this car is sporty this variant comes equipped with a sports tuned suspension, grippy half leather/half cloth seats, actual aluminum trim, blacked out lights and specially illuminated dials on the dash.

If it was me I would skip the SX and buy a nice automatic 4 cylinder Optima EX with the Premium Package and take heart knowing my next ten years were covered. Before signing on the dotted line, however, make sure your Kia dealer is discounting and that you have test driven the Suzuki Kizashi.

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