A few years ago, Kia wasn't a brand you'd name when thinking of stylish vehicles, but all that's changed. Today's Kia Optima is one of the best-looking family sedans you can buy--and it's packed with features to take on the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, and Hyundai Sonata. But is it the mid-size sedan we'd choose?
The Optima isn't just about looks--when it was redesigned in 2011, Kia turned it from an also-ran in family sedans, into a roomy, efficient new four-door. But styling has gotten that point across--it's almost Audi-like with its sloping roofline.
The cockpit's a match for the sheetmetal. A big set of gauges are easy to read, the center stack is canted towards the driver, and features large, easy-to-use buttons. Some of the trim is a bit on the drab side, but overall we like the look.
There are three different powertrain options in the Optima. The base model is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at up to 200 horsepower. Our tester features the available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 274 horsepower. If you want to be as green as possible, there's a hybrid model which features a lithium-polymer battery pack and a four-cylinder engine--but because it's not the smoothest hybrid drivetrain on the market, we prefer the other four-cylinders.
No matter which powertrain you choose, gas mileage is at least 33 mpg on the highway, and the base four-cylinder engine option has a 35-mpg highway rating. Opt for the hybrid and that highway rating jumps to 39 mpg.
The Optima has earned top safety scores across the board, and was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. For 2013 front active headrests are standard, and you'll also find front seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags on the safety list. There's also Brake Assist and Hill Assist Control, which will prevent the car from rolling back when starting uphill. Bluetooth is standard, but a rearview camera is an option.
Like most other Kias, the Optima's a strong value with a long feature list for the money. Even the base $21,000 Optima includes cruise control, USB port, satellite radio, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. The mid-level $23,000 EX adds dual-zone climate control, smart-key with push button start. The nearly $27,000 sporty SX trim adds the turbocharged engine, nicer gauges and trim, and heated-and-cooled front seats. Our SX Limited test car is loaded with a price tag of about $35,500. It features LED daytime running lights, sharp looking 18-inch chrome wheels, a black headliner, and Nappa leather seats.
Infotainment is the only weakness in the Optima's feature list. The UVO voice-control system can't be paired with navigation. Kia's dropping the Microsoft-based system next year for a phone-based system that just works better.
So what's the bottom line with the 2013 Kia Optima? It's a sensible family sedan, first and foremost--it's just one that happens to have a generous dash of style.
For more information be sure to read our full review of the 2013 Kia Optima here.