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Review: 2013 Kia Optima

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On: Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 3:58PM | By: Jon Summers

Review: 2013 Kia Optima

Not so long ago, “top of the range Kia” was almost an oxymoron. However, as parent Hyundai grows and moves upmarket, Kia is being sucked along too. Not only is this size of car relatively new ground for Kia, so too is the distinctive styling language which goes along with it. Faux air intakes sit on the fenders – hey, if it is good enough for BMW M-cars, why not a Kia - and there is a large, distinctively-shaped corporate grille. It looks a shade too aggressive for most Kia drivers, a teenager trying just a little bit too hard, but at least it beats the fade into the scenery beige styling which used to afflict Kias, and the guests at a wedding we attended had plenty of favorable comments.

We put around 1200 miles on our test car, a mid-specification four cylinder example. Immediately noticeable was the airy, spacious cabin and full complement of toys / electronic conveniences. Nothing stood out as being remarkable – everything worked as it should, and that is important since this is a budget car and thus you might expect to be disappointed in some areas. Twenty years ago, only premium products had that everything-as-it-should-be quality.

Comparison with the Optima’s competitors indicates that it is a fairly sprightly performer for the class, and indeed it feels more enthusiastic, less thrashy and significantly smoother than the usual suspects. For my personal taste, throttle, brake and steering were each too light and vague, the brake especially having perhaps half an inch of travel before it had any real effect. Placing the car on sweeping interstate turns was not an issue, but hustling it along narrow, damp, leaf-strewn Vermont back roads showed its limitations. The shifter has a manual option which operates in a similar way to those on BMWs, which as usual did not add much to the driving experience for this tester.

In the final analysis the Optima is a disarmingly good car; throughout this piece comparisons have been made with BMWs, and indeed the Optima offered exactly the same as say a 2004 BMW 325i in terms of power and equipment, even though the delivery is unexciting, uninvolving in comparison. Premium priced sports saloons were not Kia’s target however. Rather, their goal was to steal sales from Camry and Accord, those top-selling front wheel drive stalwarts of the unexciting and uninvolving. On the evidence of this Kia, there seems little reason now to spend more in a Toyota or Honda dealer – the Optima does everything they can do for less money.

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