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.