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2013 Kia Optima SX Review By John Heilig

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2013 Kia Optima SX

By John Heilig
The Auto Channel
June 15, 2013

Model: 2013 Kia Optima SX
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4
Horsepower/Torque: 274 hp @ 6,000 rpm/209 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Wheelbase: 110.0 in.
Length x Width x Height: 190.7 x 72.1 x 57.3 in.
Tires: P225/45R18
Cargo: 15.4 cu. ft.
Economy: 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway/27.3 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.
Curb Weight: 3,385 lbs.
Sticker: $35,275 (includes $775 inland freight and delivery, $7,700 in options)

The Bottom Line: The unheralded Kia Optima needn’t be. The Optima is a good driver, it’s comfortable on long journeys, and provides easy entry and exit, even for senior citizens.

Looking at the Kia Optima you get a surprise. You expect the car to resemble the Hyundai Sonata, which it does to a certain extent. True, it doesn’t have the Sonata’s Fluidic Sculpture design, but the Optima is more conservative and still looks good going down the highway.

What you don’t expect is the Optima’s “four-door coupe” styling that resembles the similarly sized Volkswagen CC or the larger Mercedes-Benz CLS. These are two cars that knocked my socks off the first time I saw them, and impressed me again when I recognized it in the Optima.

The Optima isn’t all looks, though. With a turbocharged inline four under the hood that delivers a healthy 274 horsepower, the Optima can not only get out of its own way, it can pass other cars that are mired in their own lack of power. The front-wheel drive Optima gets the power to the wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission that has paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The paddles are a positive on winding roads, and we used them on our favorite uphill and downhill test routes. With the paddles, the Optima turns into a far sportier vehicle than you’d imagine.

Where the Optima shines is on the highway. Here is a very comfortable Interstate cruiser, as well as a local driver that gets you to the supermarket with a minimum of fuss.

The smart steering wheel has cruise control, audio and trip odometer switches. We found that sometimes you can hit some of these buttons accidentally, but I’m certain that with more time behind the wheel this problem would disappear.

We had a minor problem at the start with the head restraints. Mine was fine, but my shorter wife found discomfort with the way it hit her in the back of the head. The head restraint can be raised or lowered, to a point, reducing the problem.

To mitigate the head restraint “problem,” the front seats are both heated and cooled, although not at the same time. In addition, the front seats are firm and comfortable, with good side support.

I was impressed with the excellent rear legroom. To qualify this, I always check the rear legroom with the front seat in my normal driving position. This gives a measure of consistency to my opinions. The rear floor is flat, so a third passenger can actually sit there in reasonable comfort. With no center passenger there is a fold-down arm rest. All four doors have room for water bottles, and all four have assist hand les over them.

My granddaughters were impressed with the huge sunroof that extended back over the rear seats. Only the front half opened, but they were happy to get a view of the sky above them.

As with most cars, the rear seat backs fold to provide extra storage when necessary. There is a frame around the pass through that slightly restricts the size of the stuff you can pack all the way through.

A minor difficulty we had with the rear seats was that the seat belt receivers had an annoying habit of disappearing into the seat, especially with a child booster seat installed.

With the pushbutton start and stop you must find a place to locate the key fob. There is a small cubby at the base of the center stack that will hold them. It also holds your iPod or MP3 player, but you must use the Kia connector to make the iPod work. This connector not only has a USB plug at the end, but it also has an AUX plug. Without both being plugged in, the iPod won’t work. However, we had all the other entertainment options if we didn’t have a plug. We did, so we listened to our personal music.

There is a clear infotainment display in the center of the dash that gives you the entertainment options (like what you’re listening to), but also has a clear map to tell you where you’re going.

The center console itself has a pair of staggered cup holders that is a good idea. With two similar drink containers in use, it’s much easier to find the one you want with the cup holders staggered. Behind these is a deep center console with a tray that offers multiple levels of storage.

Excluding the minor problems we encountered with the Kia Optima, we fully enjoyed driving it. There are many vehicles that we would gladly throw away in favor of the Optima.

2013 The Auto Page