If I asked you what the last generation Kia Optima looked like, you would probably have no idea. You would also probably not be able to tell me one thing about it. In fact, if you were looking at a group of de-badged cars, you probably couldn’t pick one out. That’s a problem. Though, once you see the new Kia Optima, you will have none of these issues.
Up front the new Kia Optima features the new corporate grille. Swept back headlights are actually much larger in person than one might think. In fact, the headlights are longer than my forearm.
Looking at the Optima from a side view, the front has a ridiculously long overhang. This is due to sharing its platform with the new Hyundai Sonata. Where the Sonata has swept back front end styling, the Optima has a more upright stance. This leads the front end to look rather large.
The rear doors feature an interesting king where the rear glass meets the C-pillar. This is unique, but does create a rather large blind spot. This can become an annoyance when backing up.
There is a chrome strip that traces the greenhouse. It starts at the base of the A-pillars and actually runs all the way to the trunk lid. This is a very interesting design piece that looks great on dark colored cars. The fake fender vents don’t bother me, but some will find them ugly.
One last controversial styling element on the SX Turbo are the wheels. The 18-inch wheels feature black paint and are flangeless. It seems many people do not like their design. Personally I found them to be unique.
The interior of the Kia Optima SX Turbo may be the most impressive interior of any Kia to date. Most of the dashboard is soft touch, while part of the center stack is leather wrapped. Speaking of the center stack, it is actually canted towards the driver. The buttons are grouped logically and finding what you needed quickly was easy.
Two minor gripes have to do with the touchscreen navigation and the heated/cooled seat buttons. I found the navigation screen to operate great, but the screen itself was about an inch farther away from me than I would have liked. The heated/cooled seat buttons for the driver and passenger were both on the right of the gearshift. This looks fine design wise, but when the gearshift is in drive, the driver can’t see the buttons. You are left to feel for which button is which, otherwise you must peek your head around the side.
Small gripes aside, the interior is well designed and the materials are surprisingly nice. The fit and finish is terrific. The interior of this Optima SX Turbo literally puts the Camry to shame.
The heart of the Optima SX Turbo is a 2.0-Liter turbo four-cylinder featuring direct injection. This set up is good for 274-horsepower and 269 lb-ft all sent to the front wheels through a one choice six-speed automatic transmission.
I had the opportunity to drive the Optima SX Turbo over 1,000 miles on my way to and from the Chicago Auto Show. On the highway I average 31.3 mpg cruising north of 70 MPH. While I was in the city I saw an average of 25.5 mpg. Seeing as the EPA rates the Optima SX Turbo at 22/34 I was pleased with the mileage. It’s worth noting it was below freezing with heavy winds during my time with the Optima.
I personally loved the programming in this transmission. It isn’t hesitant to downshift immediately when needed and always seems to be doing just what you want it to be doing. Sadly, that is a rare characteristic these days.
The power comes on strong and with barely any turbo lag. You are hit with the full brunt of that 269 lb-ft at a mere 1,750 rpms, and it is a flat torque curve all the way to 4,000 rpms.
You would expect quite a bit of torque steer with that amount of power all going to the front wheels. Surprisingly, there is really isn’t any.
While the power is linear, the steering is less than. At highway speeds the electric power steering is nicely weighted, but at parking lot speeds it is ridiculously over boosted. It feels artificial and gives no real feedback.
The suspension is also quite harsh. The SX supposedly has a sport-tuned suspension and high performance dampers. Now I personally like a firm ride, and the Optima SX Turbo is quite controlled on the highway and through a clover leaf, but sometimes the suspension come crashing down when hitting a pot hole. I literally thought I might have ripped a wheel off more than once. Combined with the 18-inch alloy wheels and low profile tires, some consumers will not be able to tolerate the harsh ride on a daily basis.
You can get the turbo engine in the EX trim level (for slightly less than the SX trim level). While I could accept the harsh suspension in the SX on a daily basis, many consumers might not feel the same way.
The Optima SX Turbo I was in had a sticker price of $30,840 after destination. This included the technology package and SX Premium Package.
After spending a week with the Optima SX Turbo, I almost feel anyone that would buy a Toyota Camry V-6 over this vehicle might be nuts. The Optima is a true value. With everything from heated rear seats to great fit and finish, this is one Optima you’ll remember.
Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia