If you asked me back in January what one of the best midsize sedans was, I would have instantly shot out the name Ford Fusion. We are now three months later and I have to say, “What just happened?” Remember Kia and Hyundai? You know, the Korean car companies. They used to make cars that you really did not want but you could afford them and they seemed to be safe enough. Them times are a changin’ and now the Korean car companies are not only making affordable cars, they are making cars you want to buy. Crazy concept, I know.
The new Optima and Sonata are sisters. They share their platforms and powertrains although the sheet metal and interiors are completely different. With everything from Bluetooth to navigation, these cars are every bit the car the competition is. In fact, as standard on two upper trim levels of the Optima, Kia has now even launched Uvo, a new infotainment system licensed through Microsoft and based on the same underpins as Ford’s SYNC. Uh oh….
With three powertrain options ranging from a 2.4 liter direct injection four cylinder that achieves 35 mpg on the highway (yes, you read that correctly) to the new hybrid, the Korean car makers are making strides. Let’s not forget that direct injection turbo charged four cylinder 2.0 liter putting out 274 hp while still achieving 34 mpg on the highway. That alone is impressive but really, all these numbers are impressive in their own right.
The look of both these cars is distinctive. Exterior styling has sculpting and strong lines while interior styling in both is just terrific. No longer are these “budget cars.” The reality is that these are terrific looking cars. I overheard that a certain OEM was cursing under their breath at the New York Auto Show when the numbers on the hybrid and turbo engines were released. That in itself is a sign of the changing times. Do not just take my word for it just look at these cars.
I have recently been telling my friends how great Hyundai and Kia have become. They have come a long way. They have the product but the problem for some is still perception. Many of my closest friends (car friends and non-car friends alike) have scoffed telling me “I would never drive a Kia/Hyundai.” When I ask why, they exclaim how “junky” (their term not mine) they are. I am going to venture a guess that the new Optima (which is just gorgeous) and new Sonata (again, a real looker) might help change their minds. If not, it really ends up being their loss. I am not sitting here and blindly saying these two heavily refreshed cars are the absolute best in the segment (they will be for some consumers). There are plenty of great cars in this midsize segment to choose from. I am merely saying this is a wake up call and the other OEM’s need to be watching and taking notes. Kia and Hyundai should be seen as a serious threat because they are coming for you.