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Kia Optima, Sedan
#127 of 905 Re: Kia Optimized Optima
Aug 11, 2006 (8:10 am)
Seriously good value
By Kelly Toepke Email | Blog
Date posted: 08-10-2006
"Kia Optima's been Optimized," "Optimal Performance from the Kia Optima," "Optimum New Optima."
Since the second-generation Kia Optima went on sale in March 2006, automotive journalists have used a variety of hokey, "optimistic" headlines to announce the midsize sedan's substantial improvements.
Although Kia is undoubtedly enjoying the complimentary reviews, the serious-minded Korean car company is anything but lighthearted about the Optima's mid-model-year makeover. This is the 2006.5 Kia Optima, it's an all-new car and it's looking to take on the heart of the midsize sedan market, which includes the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata and of course the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Not an easy task for sure, but after spending some time behind the wheel of the new Optima, we're feeling pretty Optima-istic about Kia's chances.
Cheap price, quality package
Kia entered the U.S. car market in the early '90s, and has since earned a reputation for selling cheap cars. That hasn't changed, what with an entry-level four-cylinder Optima currently priced under $17,000, and the top-of-the-line 2006.5 Optima EX V6 starting at just $20,400 before options.
Today's Optima may still be low priced, but Kia's quality has moved way above cheap. The Optima has been seriously upgraded, and improvements in materials and build quality are as readily apparent as the number of features now offered, many of them standard. Our Optima EX V6 test car had a five-speed automatic transmission, heated leather seats, six airbags and a six-speaker Infinity sound system. Not too shabby for less than $24,000.
Comfortable, spacious cabin
A new, longer 107.1-inch wheelbase puts the Optima on par with the rest of the competition, and with 104.2 cubic feet of interior volume, the Kia offers one of the most spacious cabins in the segment. Front seat passengers will be especially grateful for the class-leading 43.7 inches of legroom, while rear-seat riders will find 37.8 inches, slightly less than the Malibu's space. Although the legroom is good, the seat bottoms are a little short, offering less support for long-limbed occupants. The rear bench splits 60/40 to reveal a total of 14.8 cubic feet of trunk volume, a 10-percent increase over the old Optima.
No telescoping steering wheel is available but a full set of adjustments for the standard eight-way power driver seat takes care of most complaints from the cockpit. Front passengers get a four-way power seat when it's combined with leather. Both seats are well-shaped and supportive, with well-padded bottom cushions.
Interior materials as a whole give off an impression of quality, with some really nice textures, smooth leather and better plastics than in Kias of old. New blue gauge lighting is a knock-off of the Accord's and that's no bad thing either. Combine those upgrades with alloy wheels, foglights, dual exhaust pipes, automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and you've got a good-looking car, both inside and out.
Short on high-end power
The Optima's 2.7-liter V6 engine has been tweaked to make 185 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 182 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Although that's a 15-hp bump from the previous V6 rating, the engine is still smaller and less powerful than every other V6 in its class, so the front-wheel-drive Optima is no hot rod.
Zero-to-60 runs take a leisurely 9.2 seconds. The quarter-mile performance of 16.5 seconds at 84.8 mph is also slow compared to its V6 competition. We've run a 16.2 in a Malibu and a 15.7 in an Accord.
Between city stop lights, the 3287-pound Optima feels adequately spunky, but the low-end punch is just a teaser. Passing power at higher speeds is noticeably absent. The V6 makes most of its grunt between 4000 and 6000 rpm, but the Optima's five-speed automatic transmission isn't quick to deliver a downshift. Usually, full throttle or manipulation of the transmission's manual gate is needed to slip through that hole in the traffic.
The new five-speed also has an unusually tall top gear, which doesn't do much for performance, but helps the Optima get 30 mpg on the highway according to the Environmental Protection Agency. We averaged 20.7 mpg during our week of mixed driving.
Quick spin of the wheel
Around town, the Optima feels a bit like a sport sedan thanks to its quick power-assisted rack and pinion steering, tight suspension and unexpectedly generous helping of road feel. An independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bars help it feel lighter and less encumbered than the Sonata, but the trade-off is that it has a less substantial, less luxury car-like feel.
However, if you start getting serious with the Optima on twisty roads, despite its optional 17-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot rubber, much of that quasi sport sedan feel goes away. It's still kind of entertaining, but there's considerable body roll to contend with and more than a little understeer.
At the track our timed slalom runs confirmed our seat-of-the-pants finding. The good news is that the Optima's handling is benign. Even with the car's electronic stability control (ESC) turned off, the Kia never does anything spooky no matter how hard you push it. Still, its 62.6-mph slalom speed and 0.77g on the skid pad are average for a car in this class.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on the Optima, but adding the ESC package for $600 is the only way to get ABS and a traction-control system. Even with this package, brake feel is unimpressive and not very progressive, and the pedal travel is too long. Our best 60-0-mph stopping distance was 131.89 feet. That's substantially longer than the 2006 Ford Fusion's 124 feet, but better than the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu's 140.2 feet.
With a small V6 engine, average performance numbers and no standout driving dynamics, it's not easy to quantify what makes the new Optima so good. It's better than the old one, but that's not reason enough to buy it. Maybe it's because Kia has injected some life into this midsize sedan through comfort and build quality, making it a worthwhile place to spend time without spending a lot of money. Others may feel more refined overall than the Optima, but the Kia wins for personality.
#128 of 905 Not only does this car have abundant
Aug 11, 2006 (11:17 pm)
personality, it has a quiet interior during suburban commutes and weekend trips to the golf course.
If you stop and listen real hard you can hear Art Bell discussing chupacabre's and extra-terrestrials from many different galaxies as well as rock to your favorite Guess Who or Drive-By Trucker CD at large volume.
I'd go for the 4-cylinder model and 5-speeds. Don't tell it's not offered, either, I'll get nasty thoughts of being stuck in an elevator with Barbara Walters for 2 hours. Ouch!
#129 of 905 Re: Kia Optimized Optima [capt4]
Aug 13, 2006 (1:51 pm)
Today's Kia's quality has moved way above cheap.
You are so right about that! I have an '02 and a '04 Kia Rio Cinco. I was very surprised about not only the quality difference, but that standard features between the 2 and at not that much difference in price! My '02 was passed on to my mom and currently has 35,000 TROUBLE free miles and mine just turned 11,000 TROUBLE free miles also. Whoops the gas tank sensor was replaced under warrenty!
#130 of 905 bought a 2006.5 optima LX last week
Aug 22, 2006 (1:16 pm)
4 cylinder with the auto. it listed for 18,500, and i got it out the door for 16,000 even, including tax and tags. is this a fair deal?
i'm nervous about the mileage . . . i've seen some critical magazine reviews. what are you folks getting?
this car would benefit from: standard ABS; softer feeling steering wheel; tinted windows on base; external temp gauge.
i love the autostick, heated mirrors (it will be parked outside) and smooth ride/handling/quiet, though.
real world mileage?
#131 of 905 Re: bought a 2006.5 optima LX last week [rb7385899]
by kirstie_h HOST
Aug 22, 2006 (1:30 pm)
Welcome to the Forums. I see you found the 2006.5 discussion, which is a better place for your question. We discourage cross-posting, but if you need tips on where to ask questions, let us know!
#132 of 905 Re: bought a 2006.5 optima LX last week [rb7385899]
Aug 24, 2006 (9:59 am)
Though you don't have to jump through any formal hoops initially, your engine and drive train are still tight and running-in - and that's all that's reflected in your early (disappointing?) fuel consumption results. Track your fuel consumption at this stage for fun, but don't expect it to hit its stride until ~5,000 miles - and even then, it'll still continue to improve slowly on out to ~15,000 miles or more. My '03 Sonata 2.7L V6 has now clocked ~22,000 miles and my fuel useage has finally leveled off at ~24+/30+ city/highway (70 mph). I guess I can safely assume the engine, transmission, differential, constant velocity drive joints and front wheel bearings are fully broken-in.
(By way of contrast, my first tankful of gasoline returned a dismal 16/24 city/highway (55 mph) result. This was in spite of very gentle operation of a new machine. The only other car I've ever owned that was that disappointing was my '96 Accord. Apparently Honda and Hyundai both like to set their motors up with tight clearances, utilize computer numeric controlled micropolishing of sliding parts, and rely on initial run-in to establish a very precise final fit between those parts. My Hyundai used ~8 oz. of motor oil during its first 500 miles. Since then I haven't detected any visual loss of oil on the dipstick between oil changes.)
#133 of 905 thanks ray . . .
Aug 25, 2006 (7:09 am)
thanks ray . . . your advice is both reassuring and scary at the same time (LOL)
#134 of 905 Re: thanks ray . . . [rb7385899]
Aug 25, 2006 (9:37 am)
My comments were intended to reassure. Please post back what your remaining anxieties are.
#135 of 905 Re: Optima gas mileage??? [spectraman]
Aug 29, 2006 (9:07 pm)
I bought a new 2006.5 Optima. I like the looks, the warranty and the safety features, like curtain airbags, etc. I prefer them than traction control in my situation. The handling is very tight, better than her Infinity says my wife. Anyway, first tank I drove about 325 miles and filled up, I got 31.26 MPG, second tank I drove 425 and I got 30.16 MPG.
Not bad for an engine that still does not have 1000 miles on it. I know it will get better as it gets broken in.
#136 of 905 Re: Optima gas mileage??? [ecruz]
Aug 29, 2006 (9:50 pm)
It helps to identify the engine and transmission when discussing fuel economy.