It's pretty, the new Fusion. But while some folks are quick to say that the Ford sedan is the best-looking car in the class, I'm not so sure. Upon returning from the Paris Motor Show a few weeks ago, I found this 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited waiting for me at the airport, and eager as I was to get home, I couldn't help but stop and give the svelte Korean a good once-over. It's not brand-new like the Fusion, but the Optima still stops me in my tracks every time I see one.
That said, the Kia's positive points extend far beyond its good looks. There's a potent turbocharged engine under that rakish hood, and for the 2013 model year, this special SX Limited trim is all new, incorporating a few extra blingy elements that give it even more of a stylish punch.
- I have yet to spend adequate time with the 2013 Fusion and its 2.0-liter EcoBoost four, so ruling that engine out for now, the 2.0-liter unit in this Optima is easily my favorite engine in the midsize class. Having 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque on tap is great in a car this size, and...
- The way the power is delivered is really this car's strong suit. There's a small amount of turbo lag right off the line, but from there, power delivery is smooth and linear. The six-speed automatic transmission is perfectly matched to deliver maximum power without having to mash the pedal, and the whole experience is truly rewarding.
- If you really hammer the throttle, there's some noticeable torque steer off the line. But even when that's settled down, the electronic power steering isn't anything to rave about in this car. It's better than other Korean offerings, but it still feels artificial most of the time.
- All of the updates for the SX Limited (except for an electronic parking brake) are purely cosmetic. Unique features include the 18-inch polished chrome-ish alloys you see here (with red brake calipers nestled behind them) along with attractive LED running lamp strips just above the foglights.
- A word about those wheels: they're nice, but what's wrong with the stylish 18-inchers of the standard Optima Turbo? The sort of inverted spoke design is really pretty – some of my favorite wheels in the class.
- Inside, Limited models get higher-grade Nappa leather upholstery, nicer black cloth on the headliner and pillars and unique woodgrain accents. The two-tone white-over-black color scheme of my test car looked great.
- Overall, the Optima continues to have one of my favorite interiors in the class. It's comfortable and well appointed, and I absolutely love the driver-facing center console with simple, well-organized controls.
- Thing is, though, this SX Limited test car carries a sticker price of $35,275, including $775 for destination. That represents a $3,350 increase over a fully loaded SX – a good deal of money to pay for some nicer leather, different (read: not necessarily prettier) wheels and LEDs. I do like this Optima SX Limited, but honestly, I'd feel the same way about a cheaper SX with the same turbocharged engine.
- The 2.0L-equipped Fusion will likely prove to be this Optima's stiffest competition in terms of style, content and dynamics. And while it's certainly a formidable opponent, the Optima Turbo – Limited or not – is indeed worth another look.