2001 Optima New Car Test Drive
Kia, which not long ago sold only the subcompact Sephia sedan and the small but sturdy Sportage SUV, is expanding. Kia added the Spectra sports sedan and the Rio mini four-door sedan during calendar year 2000. Planned for mid-calendar year 2000 are the Sedona minivan and a wagon version of the Rio. Kia's sales growth in the U.S. directly reflects the addition of models, so flying into the breech once more, Kia fires a broadside at the Camry/Accord class with the Optima. Toyota and Honda sales won't notice, but Kia's incremental sales gains will continue.
More important to us is that the Kia Optima is a remarkably good car, especially for the price. Kia would like customers to think 'value' rather than 'cheap,' and we'd be inclined to concur. You do get a lot for your money, and unlike early Korean attempts at the midsize sedan class, the Optima displays sophistication in engine and chassis that is fully competitive in its size (and not just price) class.
Kia Optima is based on the platform of the current Hyundai Sonata and shares its engine and suspension layout, and no doubt if you like one, you'll like the other. But the Optima shares no body panels with the Sonata and is distinctive in design and features as well. A rebadged Sonata it isn't.
Kia Optima comes in two trim levels, the LX and SE. With the option of a V6 in either, that figures out to four Optima models.
Optima LX with a 2.4-liter 149-horsepower four-cylinder engine lists for a remarkable $15,299, complete with air conditioning, AM/FM stereo cassette, power windows, mirrors and locks and front-seat side airbags, among other features.
Specifying the 2.5-liter V6 adds 21 horsepower and a refined four-speed automatic transmission along with 15-inch alloy wheels with P205/60HR15 Michelin tires, four-wheel disc brakes, and cruise control. However the price for the Optima LX V6 goes to $18,499.
That's more than the Optima SE with the 4-cylinder, listing for $17,599 and coming complete with the larger alloy wheels and tires, heated mirrors, premium 120-watt audio system with cassette, CD and a power antenna, an upgraded center console, real wood trim accents, interior and exterior chrome door handles and chrome insert bodyside molding, and a moonroof.
Going whole hog with the SE V6 sets the buyer back $19,494 and includes everything in the SE and V6 packages. Adding antilock brakes, offered only with the V6 costs $795, and the leather package, an SE-only option, is $995. Floor mats, for any models, cost an extra $80, and the destination charge is $450. The 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty are included, as is a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance plan.