• Mar 20th 2008 at 10:17AM
  • 40
Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Kia Optima.

The most exciting thing at Kia's press conference today was undoubtedly the KOUP Concept, but sharing the stage and as an automotive wall flower was the redesigned 2009 Kia Optima. The last-gen Optima, not all that old itself, was derided by some for being blandly designed. Kia claims to have corrected this for '09, but dipped into the derivative styling bin to do it. Though all the sheetmetal is new, the '09 Optima still looks as interesting as white bread. New for next year, however, is a "sport" model designated the SX (no innuendos please). Slotted above the entry-level LX and top-end EX trims, the SX model gets a sportier suspension, black-bezeled grille and headlamps, LED turn indicators in the sideview mirrors, fog lights, and "hyper-silver-finished" 17-inch wheels. Powering the new Optima will be a new 2.4L four-cylinder producing 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet or torque, which is up 13 hp compared to the prior four-cylinder, and an updated version of the current Optima's smallish 2.7L V6 that's now up to 190 hp and 184 pound-feet. That's still underpowered in our book compared to other mid-sizers that have been offering 3.5L+ V6 engines producing 250 horsepower for some time. The Optima also gets a tweaked interior with more ways to plug into your consumer electronics (USB, MP3 player plug, etc.) and a revised color palette. All in all, the 2009 Kia Optima just isn't daring enough, whether you're talking about its new lines or the engines underhood.

[Source: Kia]



Midsize Sedan Receives Refreshed Styling, New Engine

Redesigned exterior and interior establishes Kia's distinctive, aggressive new look
New engine packs powerful punch without sacrificing fuel economy
NEW YORK, March 20, 2008 – Kia Motors America (KMA) today globally unveiled the 2009 Optima midsize sedan at the New York International Auto Show. On sale in early fall, the refreshed Optima offers a completely modified exterior, which offers a more aggressive, dynamic style than previous models, and is outfitted with a new engine that provides more power and better fuel economy. For 2009, Optima also is larger than its predecessors, which complements its distinctive new styling and separates itself from other vehicles in the growing midsize segment.

"Optima is in a strong position to change the way consumers think about midsize sedan offerings," said Tom Loveless, vice president, sales of KMA. "Already known for its exemplary quality, safety and value, Optima's sleek new redesign provides consumers with a sporty, fuel-efficient choice and showcases Kia's commitment to providing the best all-around vehicle package."

Exterior Excitement

The 2009 Optima is presented with new front, side and rear styling cues, which build upon Kia's philosophy of creating dynamic vehicles that evoke passion. The fog lamps and lower front grille have been enlarged and the headlamps narrowed to create an aggressively sharper look. Wider side garnishes add sportiness while the acute front lines continue toward the back, ending on a distinctly edged trunk lid. To complete the redesigned rear fascia, taillights are narrowed to enhance Optima's sleeker cosmetic appearance.

Also, new for 2009 is the addition of the sporty SX trim, which complements the handsomely-equipped, value-priced LX and luxury-oriented EX trims. Already available with Kia's Rio, Rio5, Spectra and Spectra5 models, the SX line provides another dimension for Optima buyers looking for a sportier midsize. Along with a sport-tuned suspension, SX upgrades include: a black-bezeled front grille and headlamps, LED outside-mirror turning signals, fog lights and hyper-silver-finished 17-inch wheels. EX and LX V6 models are equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, and are fitted with Goodyear tires.

The 2009 Optima's overall length also increased, extending nearly two inches in the front and one inch in the rear, to an overall length of roughly 189 inches. The larger proportions enhance the exterior styling for a lower, leaner, more powerful stance. All other dimensions, including wheelbase, remain unchanged.

Efficient, Powerful Engine

Available in two powerplants – a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 2.7-liter V6 engine – and two five-speed transmissions (manual with LX four-cylinder model only), the 2009 Optima introduces a new engine under its hood. When redesigned as a 2006.5 model, the peppy four-cylinder engine delivered 161 horsepower, a 15-percent increase from the previous generation. For 2009, a more powerful 2.4-liter engine takes its place, producing an additional 13 horsepower. Optima's four-cylinder output increases to 175 horsepower and 169 lb-ft of torque. The available 2.7-liter V6 engine remains a carryover but output has increased to 190 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is mated to a five-speed, gated automatic transmission. All automatics feature Sportmatic™ clutchless shifting.

The introductions of Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and a Variable Intake System (VIS) further enhance Optima's new under-the-hood excitement. These added systems improve the vehicle's fuel economy without sacrificing power.

Built on a unibody frame, the front-wheel-drive Optima utilizes independent front and rear suspension systems. MacPherson struts are used in the front with a multi-link layout in the rear and are joined with coil springs and anti-roll bars (standard equipment on all models) to engage drivers with responsive handling and provide utmost comfort whether the road is smooth or less than ideal.

Interior Refinement

The style makeover continues into the Optima's cabin with expanded electronics melded with refreshed fascia patterns and color schemes. Based on a new platform, the standard audio system features MP3 compatibility, a USB port and SIRIUS satellite radio capability in addition to an auxiliary jack, which was added to 2008 models. An optional in-dash navigation system also is an Optima first.

The rest of the center fascia and floor console receive minor tuning for even more intuitive operation whereas the new barrel-type instrument cluster design adopts a sporty red illumination. Optima continues to offer two seat trims in gray or beige color schemes – cloth (LX), leather (EX) – with black leather trim on SX models, which also features aluminum trim, metal sport pedals and a Supervision meter cluster.

Amidst the host of additional options, Optima still offers an array of standard features. The LX is equipped with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, cloth seat and door trim, a six-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable front passenger seat as well as 60/40-split folding rear seats. EX models upgrade to a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescopic functions, leather seat and door trim, leather-wrapped shift knob, automatic temperature control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror featuring Homelink® and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat. Convenience and Premium Packages offer further content upgrades, including a power sunroof and an Infinity® audio system.


As with the rest of the Kia line-up, the 2009 Optima is equipped with many safety features as standard equipment. This includes six airbags (dual advanced front and front-seat mounted side as well as full-length side curtain), front active headrests, side-impact door beams, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The Electronic Stability Control Package adds Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction Control System (TCS), brake assist and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

Competitive Warranty

The 2009 Optima is covered by Kia's comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the comprehensive vehicle coverage.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the sales, marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 640 dealers throughout the United States. For 2007, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of record U.S. sales. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Kia could care less about what people on Autoblog or any performance auto oriented site thinks. The performance people aren't their target audience. Their audience is the cost conscience family who needs a reliable car that gets them from point A to point B without much fuss. When you make an inoffensive car that does so well below the price of the competitors, then tack on a long warranty, you're gonna get those people's attention. So ultimately, I bet this new Optima is going to be a success. It has all the positives of the current Optima (cheap, long warranty) without the negatives (butt ugly).
      • 7 Years Ago
      introducing the Kia Accord...and just as ugly
      • 7 Years Ago
      This car is, performance wise, the most underrated 4-cylinder mid-sized sedan on the market. Seriously. I'm very excited about the SX model -- the Spectra SX is leaps and bounds better than the non-sport models. The front end is MUCH improved, too. Kia just needs to advertise this damned thing.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just say no to drugs.
      Just say no to red turn signals.

      Hyundai & Kia need to communicate better.
      Why did the Kia Optima 2.4 get the 5 speed automatic [and get better mileage/performance] than the 4 speed automatic 2.4 Sonata? [that was rectified for the '09 Sonata]

      What axle ratio will Kia use with the 5 speed automatic?
      It can't use the same one as the Sonata V6 [anymore], that is just too tall.
      Must have shorter gearing! [See the SantaFe, 3.684 vs 3.311]
      So the only car to use the 3.311 should be Sonata V6, the Sonata 2.4, Optima 2.4 & 2.7 should use the shorter axle ratio.

      or they could just get a 6 speed automatic.
      • 7 Years Ago
      not a bad update, but, i dislike the tail lights even more than the last model. These look really cheap.That alone would keep me from putting down my money.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Regardless of how well built this car may be, it remains to be one of the best examples of appliance-like styling on the road today. It is very bland and dated (the exterior has a mid 90's feel to its styling). This car makes the Camry and Accord looks like sports sedans in comparison. I certainly hope that Kia aims higher with the next generation.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm more annoyed about the engine than the styling.

      Kill the Delta/Mu engine already and give the Optima the 3.3L Lambda. When the 2007 Optima and Sonata first came out, I recall someone (Edmunds, I think) saying that it would be perfect if one vehicle had both the Optima's chassis tuning and the Sonata's engine. But no, the Optima has an anemic engine, and the Sonata's chassis is tuned for dullness. Why does the car with the sporty tuning get the crappy engine?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree, 190hp from a V6 is pathetic. 2.7 litre is not worth the extra cost.

        On the flip side, the Sonata is a real slingshot with the 3.3 but rolls too much in the corners (but not as bad as the old Malibu though).
      • 7 Years Ago
      Last year's model wasn't bad, and the new moel looks better. The only problem I have with the car is the V-6. It just doesn't have enough power. If they can add more power and do some more aggressive advertising, then they can sell a ton of these cars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks like Kia went the "Please all by offending none" route.

      Talk about anonymous and generic. Honda & Toyota started out the same way, and look at them now. Both evolved to have generally appealing styling identities. Hopefully Kia and Hyundia can do the same.

      Let's just hope they don't crap out something the current Accord sedan.. some rules don't need exceptions.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Styling is a subjective matter in any case: one man's art is another man's trash. But I think you're on to something.. That the Accord Sedan can pull the sales numbers it is has now proves there's no accounting for taste - validation that people don't care what a car looks like so long as it has the vaunted Honda or Toyota stamps.

        That being the case, I still think some of their stuff looks good - the Civic is a prime example, and Toyota's managed to establish a family design language that isn't all that bad. Pedestrian and psuedo-artsy maybe, but it could always be worse.

        "It's sad that cars with tight styling (Fusion, Mazda6, etc.) have this reputation of being too small when the Camry, Accord, etc. keep bulging into progressively more shapless blobs with each redesign"

        Tell me about it. You have Ford and Mazda infected with this to an extent in that they feel the need to sell global models everywhere but the USA. They must think that the camcords are selling on style and not reputation. The Mondeo and the Euro-Spec Mazda6 would clean house over here, but don't tell them that - those cars apparently don't have the same reputation, so why even try.

        Forget sad.. it's downright depressing.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is a nice improvement to an often underrated car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Is it just me or does the rear end and front look like a 98 Honda Accord
      • 7 Years Ago
      It looks very Honda (civic from the back) / Acura (TSX from the front). Overall, a simple, clean but boring car that won't sell very well except to rental fleets.
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