The All New and Restyled Kia Optima


Introduced as Kia’s first midsize sedan, the first-generation Optima couldn’t promise the refinement, documented reliability and assured resale value of its key Japanese competitors. The Optima is produced for the Chinese market by the Dongfeng Yueda Kia Automobile Company, a joint venture with Kia. Available in four- and six-cylinder models, the first-generation Kia Optima midsize sedan debuted for the 2000 model year. For the small selection of buyers it did find, the Optima delivered a lot of bang for the buck with its solid build quality, jackpot of features, super warranty and low price. The current Kia Optima comes in two trim levels: base LX and premium EX. Although the base four-cylinder provides adequate acceleration, the Optima’s V6 is disappointing.

The recently introduced second-generation Kia Optima follows much the same playbook. The Kia Optima’s cabin is spacious, and the interior materials as a whole give an impression of quality. Because of their mechanical similarity, the Kia Optima has comparable reliability to Hyundai Sonatas of the same model year. The Kia Optima’s cabin is spacious, and the interior materials as a whole give an impression of quality.

In its third model year (2003), the Optima’s front end was restyled, which gave it a more upscale European look. In addition, Kia began to offer Sportmatic manual-shift capability on four-cylinder automatic Kia Optimas. The biggest improvement of the new Kia Optima is its exterior look. Unlike the previous generation of Optima’s, this vehicle is actually based on the Hyundai Elantra HD (2007-) platform. Like the Sonata, the Optima is also longer and taller than the previous model and has a longer wheelbase. The differences between the Optima and Sonata are mostly in styling details, though the Kia is priced at $500 less.

Kia has emphasized the safety features on the Optima, claiming that it comes standard with many safety features and received a crash test rating of 5-stars from the NHTSA[1] and 4-stars from Euro NCAP[2]. Surprisingly, while other cars are adding power with model-changeovers, Optima’s optional V6 only makes 185 hp (138 kW), which is seriously lacking compared to a lot of other models. Though not known to be a competitor in any road racing events, the Optima has proven to be an acceptable rally racing machine.

The Kia Optima (Magentis) raced in several amateur rally events (2003-2004) and, although it never claimed a victory, proved to be a close competitor to the rally machines in its class. From its sparing use of chrome to its plain Jane wheels, the Optima is deeply, wildly inoffensive. Measured against the ’07 Accord EX V6, the Optima LX comes up short in acceleration, mileage and toys. But the Kia Optima is a nice car for the price. The Kia Optima is priced below competing models and typically represent a good value when taking into consideration their high feature content. Four years down the road a used Optima will be a steal compared to a used Camry or Accord. With that said, your eyes will have no problem telling the difference between the LX and higher-priced merchandise. The vehicle’s “Expected” cost of ownership is based on statistical models that correlate the price of a vehicle with cost of ownership within each of the 34 segments that comprise all vehicles.