2008 Optima New Car Test Drive
The Kia Optima is more appealing than ever as an alternative to mid-size stalwarts like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Kia Optima is a five-passenger, front-drive, mid-size sedan, so it has a lot of competition.
The 2007 Kia Optima is for all intents and purposes an all-new car, thoroughly revised from the tires up (though an arcane federal regulation required that a handful were sold as 2006.5 models). It's one of the best Korean-designed automobiles yet. Like most cars in the ultra-competitive field of mid-size sedans, the Optima offers a choice of four-cylinder or V6 power in a front-wheel drive chassis.
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is strong, particularly with the manual transmission. Both the four-cylinder and upgrade 2.7-liter V6 are more efficient than the engines in pre-2007 models, and a new five-speed automatic improves fuel economy, acceleration and overall smoothness. EPA mileage ratings have improved roughly 10 percent compared to the 2006 Optima.
Inside, solid design, more attractive materials and improved fit and finish make the Optima a pleasant place to spend time. The standard six-speaker audio system is not bad at all; the upgrade in the Optima EX is tuned by Infinity, with a standard six-CD changer. A longer body and taller roof create more room inside. As importantly, a new, more rigid chassis delivers an overall tightness and smoothness Korean brands lacked just a few years ago.
Add a slightly longer wheelbase, improved suspension and larger standard wheels and tires, and the 2007 Optima is also quite pleasant to drive in nearly all circumstances.
Optima is priced aggressively, beating just about everything in the class without stripping conveniences. Standard passive safety features, including curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard seats, match the class benchmark.
Kia's quality has steadily and significantly improved, according to customer satisfaction surveys, and the Optima's warranty is one of the best available.
All things considered, the Optima still falls short of the best-selling mid-sized sedans in certain, mostly subtle ways. But those shortcomings are fewer than ever before, and many are so subtle that budget-minded buyers may not notice or care. Bottom line, the Optima is a good car at a compelling price.
The five-passenger 2007 Kia Optima comes in two trim levels: well-equipped and really well equipped. Standard features are one of its strong points.
The base Optima LX ($16,355) has a 162-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The Optima LX 5A ($17,650) upgrades to a five-speed automatic. The LX V6 ($19,345) upgrades to a 185-hp 2.7-liter V6.
LX models feature such niceties as a cabin air filter, power windows and locks, heated mirrors, tilt steering, and a 60/40 split, folding rear seat. The standard, steel wheels measure 16 inches in diameter. The LX automatic adds cruise control, keyless remote, floor mats and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls. The LX V6 adds 16-inch alloy wheels. LX options are limited to a rear spoiler ($200) and an Appearance Package ($1000) that includes alloy wheels, blacked-out headlight backing and grille, aluminum interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, trip computer, automatic headlights and fog lamps. The V6 Appearance Package ($800) adds 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Optima EX comes with either the four-cylinder ($19,395) or the V6 ($20,400), both with the five-speed automatic. Feature upgrades include automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, universal garage-door transmitter, an auto-dimming inside mirror and an Infinity stereo with external amplifier, subwoofer, MP3 and cassette functions and an in-dash, six-CD changer. EX options include an Appearance Package ($1500) that adds leather seats and a black interior trim. The Leather Package ($1300) includes the leather seats plus heated front seats, four-way power front passenger seat, power adjustable pedals and manual rear window shade. A power slide-and-tilt sunroof ($800) is available.
Safety features include dual front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front occupants, curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard seats and a tire pressure monitor. Electronic stability control, which can help the driver control the car in emergency maneuvers and bad weather, and antilock brakes, are optional.