Performance – Normally, base models of high volume vehicles usually come with a small and fuel efficient engine that barely has enough power to move its weight around. That is not the case with the Optima. While it is a relatively small engine at just 2.4L of displacement, it produces 192 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. That is more power than the new Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord and yet the fuel efficiency is still comparable to the less power competitors. The Optima manages to achieve a fuel rating of 8.9L/100km in a city and 5.7L/100km on a highway on regular fuel. That is not class leading but it’s not the worst of the pack either and in the real world, it’s actually quite good. For those that want even more fuel savings, Kia offers the Optima as a hybrid as well. On the other end of the scale, there is another engine option for the Optima with a lot more power. The Optima SX gets a smaller 2.0L engine that is turbocharged and is capable of producing 274 hp. That is comparable to a V6 but with better fuel efficiency on a highway.
To drive, this base model Optima does a relatively good job of keeping the driver engaged to the business of driving. Sure, it understeers if you go way too fast into a corner but it’s very easy to control the car at the edge of its limits. That powerful engine provides more than enough grunt to accelerate the car onto a highway on ramp or to overtake slower traffic. Also the 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth when shifting through the gears and also quick when in “manual” mode. Although, a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel would be a nice touch and a bit more engaging to the driver.
Comfort – The interior cabin design is something that Kia’s engineers hit out of the ball park. It looks as modern and up to date as the latest cell phone from Apple. All of the buttons and knobs are where you’d expect them to be and you instantly know what each one does without having to resort to the owner’s manual. There are however two things that irritate me about the design of the dashboard. First is the amount of buttons on the steering wheel, I counted 14 buttons in total. Secondly, the display on this base model has the same type of display that you’d find on a car from the early 1990’s. It just looks dated. Happily however, if you opt for the navigation and infotainment system, the ugly red LCD display is replaced by a 4.3” touch screen display that looks like it’s from the same century as the car.
The interior space of the Optima is abundant for both front and rear passengers. Leg and head room is plentiful even for taller occupants except for the back headroom is a little bit “snug” due to the Optima’s slightly coupe-ish design. The ride quality of the car is sublime thanks to the dynamic dampers on all four corners of the car. Bumps and dips on the roads are easily absorbed by the shocks and nothing of the outside world gets translated into the comfortable cabin. It is also a very well refined vehicle as it is able to drive at 100km/h and inside the car it’s as quiet as a church.
Odds and Ends – On the outside, the Optima is one of the more elegant looking mid-size sedans in the market. It doesn’t have a grille that looks like a shark’s mouth or a boring typical sedan silhouette. It’s a grown up car with smooth lines and shapes that don’t distract the eye. On the top SX Turbo model, it is fitted with LED fog lights and taillights along with the industry standard of upgraded wheels. All in all, the Optima can be mistaken for a luxury sedan that costs twice as much.
Speaking of prices, this particular car with the sunroof option is closer to the $26,000 CAD mark which is a little bit more expensive than it’s competition from Ford and Toyota. But Kia is offering up to $4000 back here in Canada and that does bring it right back into contention with its American and Japanese rivals.
Thank you to West Coast Kia for providing the vehicle and visit their website to view this and other vehicles that are available for purchase or lease. www.WestCoastKia.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.