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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Kia Optima

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Expert's Rating


MPG 23 City / 35 Highway
  • Excellent warranty
  • Solid stereo system
  • Solid power and torque
  • Outstanding value in class
  • Needs more rear seat leg room
, Automotive Editor -
Forget what you think you know about the old Kia Optima -- the latest version is a viable contender in the midsize segment.


Releasing the third-generation two years ago, Kia has produced an Optima heads and shoulders above preceding models. A sporty driving experience is realized by way of nimble handling and plenty of power from both of the available 4-cylinder engines.

For buyers worried about there not being a V6 offered, there’s no need as even the standard 2.4L Inline-4 with direct injection delivers 200 hp. Equipped on LX and EX trims, the 2.4L also gets high fuel-mileage that is estimated at 24 city/35 highway mpg. The other Inline-4 is equipped on the pricier SX trim and claims a little less fuel-mileage (22 city/34 highway mpg) yet a lot more power (274 hp @ 6,000 rpm). A turbocharger bears main responsibility, equipped on the 2.0L Inline-4 that puts out 269 lb-ft of torque as well.

New for 2013 is an SXL trim that features the 2.0L turbocharged engine as well. Every engine available in the Optima line-up is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-style Sportmatic shifting capability. The exterior sheet metal nicely stands out from the pack with styling formed by European influence. Although, this styling doesn’t bode well for passengers-in-back as the slanting roofline impedes on rear headroom. The small trunk opening is not a deal-breaker but may be problematic for bulky cargo. Still, the interior is roomy in front, plus the list of available comfort and technology features rivals some luxury sedans. Worth mentioning is the safety and warranty, both in which the Optima scores high.

For years the Optima’s main attraction was a bargain-level price, but since 2011 Kia’s midsize entry has caused shoppers considering other sedans, like the Nissan Altima or Ford Fusion, to give second thought to their decision. The Altima has been redesigned for 2013 and gets better fuel-mileage than the Optima. Also redesigned for 2013, the Fusion has lively handing and an interior cabin big on space and bland-styling. A turbocharged 4-cylinder is available on the Chevrolet Malibu, though it is less powerful than what is offered by Kia. As a sister-model to the Optima, the Hyundai Sonata shares many of the same parts and has an upscale interior.

Calling the Kia Optima a “cheap import” would be wrong on two counts. One, the Optima (for destinations in North America) is now assembled in West Point, Georgia and Two, including sporty performance and numerous upscale features, the Optima offers value at the top of the class.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Kia Optima
Starting price

2013 Kia Optima EX

Recommended for: Consumers wanting the more fuel-efficient (2.4L) engine and a longer list of standard features

The most luxurious of the non-turbo trims, the EX has leather seating plus other equipment aimed at convenience. Both the driver and front-passenger have one-touch auto up/down power-windows and keyless-entry is made possible through Kia’s Smart Key system with Push Button Start. Interior climate is controlled by a dual-zone automatic temperature system that has vents for rear passengers as well. An auto-dimming rearview mirror has Homelink transceiver capability and a compass. The cabin has subtle but eye-catching upgrades like door mood lamps casting a faint red tint across the carpeted floor mats, which are also an EX standard. The wood interior accent and leather-wrapped steering wheel/gear shift knob are icing on the cake. Heated/cooled seats and a panoramic sunroof are just some of the available options.

2013 Kia Optima
Starting price

2013 Kia Optima LX

Recommended for: Shoppers seeking a fun-to-drive, midsize-sedan, competitively equipped for today's market

The lowest-priced of the Optima lineup, the LX is far from basic. Several appearance upgrades already on all trims including the LX are chrome accent door handles, front fog lights and dual-exhausts with chrome tips. 16” alloy wheels, a chrome front grille and clear-lens projection headlights are equipped outside as well. Satellite radio is included along with an AM/FM/CD player and six-speaker audio system. Manual air conditioning and power windows provide comfort, as does the six-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support. Plastic door scuff plates protect the door jam and a black-metal color adorns the stylish interior. Cloth is the standard upholstery, available in tan or gray, and featuring an anti-stain fabric treatment.

2013 Kia Optima
Starting price

2013 Kia Optima SX

Recommended for: Drivers wanting the turbo, but not the highest price

No longer the top-level trim on the Optima, the SX features a turbocharged engine and all EX standards as well as plenty of its’ own. The exterior is outfitted with 18” alloy sport wheels (alloy luxury wheels available) and a special black gloss grille surrounded by a chrome border. The standard front/rear valence, side sills and rear-spoiler let onlookers know this sedan has speed. The lights on both ends of the body are upgraded to represent SX standards. LEDs are added to the tail, shining brighter while consuming less energy than incandescent lights. An auto-leveling function allows the increased illumination of the HID headlights to calibrate for optimum projection. The sporty appearance of the SX continues inside with carbon fiber inserts and seats featuring sport-cloth/leather surfaces combined in a race-like design.

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