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Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Associate Editor
3/27/12 9:39 a.m.

We drive the new turbo Kia Optima. The brand continues to impress. Seriously.

http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/new-cars/2012-kia-optima-sx/

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/27/12 9:50 a.m.

One of our Facebookers just asked why this review is on GRM.com. Know what? I think it's an important car. For one, it shows how far Kia has come in just a few short years. Remember Kia's lineup from 2005? Me neither. Today they're making some kick-butt cars, and they're backing that up with three factory racing efforts: Optimas in World Challenge, Forte Koups in Continental Cup and Rios in B Spec. Personally, I'm eager to see where this company will be in another few years.

I had an interesting talk with some Kia officials at this weekend's World Challenge race, too. They're definitely looking at the enthusiast market.

failboat
failboat Dork
3/27/12 9:54 a.m.

I really like this car for the segment its in....I think its a little nicer than the Sonata, which I got the feeling was toned down a little due to the Azera and Genesis that sit above it in the lineup....

I am trying hard to steer my dad towards the Optima when he decides to replace his 2000 Impala.

speedblind
speedblind Reader
3/27/12 9:56 a.m.

I've been following Hyundai and KIA with a lot of interest over the past few years. I chuckle everytime someone driving a Honda/Toyota says they'd never drive a Korean car. How do you think the brands you're so loyal to got started?

Anybody that makes good cars at a low price has a spot. I've been really impressed with both brands. The Genesis Coupe is a great car, and the Optima looks great.

RossD
RossD UltraDork
3/27/12 9:57 a.m.

A guy at work has a base engine model; it's a nice car. I like it.

CLNSC3
CLNSC3 Reader
3/27/12 10:48 a.m.

Those Optima SX's are hot...wouldn't mind dd'ing one!

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke Reader
3/27/12 11:42 a.m.

Auto only?? Come on Kia...

Rusted_Busted_Spit
Rusted_Busted_Spit SuperDork
3/27/12 11:49 a.m.
clutchsmoke wrote: Auto only?? Come on Kia...

Exactly. For the first time we got a car with an auto for my wife, and that was only because it did not come with a stick. For me I will not get something with an auto as my DD as long as I can and it pains me that there are lots of cool cars out now that do not come with a "do it yourself" option.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/27/12 11:49 a.m.

On a related note, Andy Lally just posted this photo: http://yfrog.com/ob5twuuj

Looks like he's at the Kia plant in Georgia showing off the team's race cars. You can follow Lally on Twitter at @AndyLally.

alfadriver
alfadriver UberDork
3/27/12 11:52 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens:

If you guys are EVER invited to Kia's tech center in Ann Arbor, there's a very cool place you need to visit about a mile south of the facility. Very cool.

More of a CM kind of place, with what's mostly parked there, but you'll all like it a lot.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic UltimaDork
3/27/12 11:53 a.m.
clutchsmoke wrote: Auto only?? Come on Kia...

This. Even if I was going to get a mid-sized sedan, the Kia wouldn't even be on the radar because of this.

bravenrace
bravenrace UberDork
3/27/12 12:01 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: They're definitely looking at the enthusiast market.

They need to look harder. Enthusiasts don't want an auto trans. I'm in the market for a car like this right now, but I won't even look at this one because of this.

jrw1621
jrw1621 PowerDork
3/27/12 12:02 p.m.
alfadriver wrote: In reply to David S. Wallens: If you guys are EVER invited to Kia's tech center in Ann Arbor, there's a very cool place you need to visit about a mile south of the facility. Very cool. More of a CM kind of place, with what's mostly parked there, but you'll all like it a lot.

I am guessing Orphan Museum.
The burger across the street at The Sidetrack is good too.

alfadriver
alfadriver UberDork
3/27/12 12:09 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote:
alfadriver wrote: In reply to David S. Wallens: If you guys are EVER invited to Kia's tech center in Ann Arbor, there's a very cool place you need to visit about a mile south of the facility. Very cool. More of a CM kind of place, with what's mostly parked there, but you'll all like it a lot.

I am guessing Orphan Museum.
The burger across the street at The Sidetrack is good too.

none of the above.

edit- I haven't been there for well over a year, even though I have something there, too. but even the last time, there was cool stuff inside.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/27/12 12:28 p.m.
bravenrace wrote:
David S. Wallens wrote: They're definitely looking at the enthusiast market.

They need to look harder. Enthusiasts don't want an auto trans. I'm in the market for a car like this right now, but I won't even look at this one because of this.

And we have discussed that. Right now Kia doesn't have a box in their lineup that mates with this new engine. I have a related question, though: If the turbo Optima came with a manual transmission, how many of you would actually buy one today? (Like, actually spend money for one--not just discuss it online.) Personally, I wish it came with a stick, but in reality it's out of my price range.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/27/12 12:37 p.m.

I'm also told that the "take rate" for manual transmissions is less than 5%. That's a strong tide to swim against. (I'm guessing Alfa Driver can give us some more real figures.)

I know some people who are in product planning. Seems harder than it sounds.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic UltimaDork
3/27/12 12:41 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens:

I wouldn't because I have no interest or need for a mid-sized sedan. But if I was voting with my own money I would buy a car with a manual because mid-sized sedans are boring enough without having an autotragic.

alfadriver
alfadriver UberDork
3/27/12 12:46 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: I'm also told that the "take rate" for manual transmissions is less than 5%. That's a strong tide to swim against. (I'm guessing Alfa Driver can give us some more real figures.) I know some people who are in product planning. Seems harder than it sounds.

Numbers I've seen are 5-10%, depending on the line. No real numbers.

But I think that it's being hampered by the "manuals are for cheap drivers" idea. At least I hope it is- I read somewhere else that Ford will be letting all Focus's have manuals as options, and not just the base SE model. A lot of us here are frustrated by the fact that for Focuses and Fusions, it's only in the cheapest form of the car, and any decent option forces an Auto. That seems to be open for the market to decide now.

The other problem is coming up with a box that will just work. Say this Optima is only sold in the US, so no real work to develop a manual box to go with the powertrain + car is even needed- it's not super trivial to come up with a decent box that will work. No- not hard, but far from free, too. So the take rate matters a lot.

We just have to hope a lot of people go out and buy Titanium Focuses and other cars just as loaded from other OEM's with manuals. That would help a lot.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt SuperDork
3/27/12 12:52 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: And we have discussed that. Right now Kia doesn't have a box in their lineup that mates with this new engine. I have a related question, though: If the turbo Optima came with a manual transmission, how many of you would actually buy one today? (Like, actually spend money for one--not just discuss it online.) Personally, I wish it came with a stick, but in reality it's out of my price range.

A new one is definitely out of my price range. I wouldn't by a manual transmission version now, but might consider a used one when the time comes to replace my E36. (Or whatever replaces my E36, depending on how well Kias hold resale value and how long I can keep the BMW on the road.)

Bobzilla
Bobzilla SuperDork
3/27/12 1:46 p.m.
93EXCivic wrote:
clutchsmoke wrote: Auto only?? Come on Kia...

This. Even if I was going to get a mid-sized sedan, the Kia wouldn't even be on the radar because of this.

I've driven both manual and auto versions of the Optima and to me the auto was the better drive. Sounds (looks) wierd to say (type) that being that I've never preferred an auto trans in anything.

jrw1621
jrw1621 PowerDork
3/27/12 1:57 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

There have been few cars sold in the US recently that offer leather and climate control along with a manual trans and the most fuel efficient engine (not requiring the gas hog option.)
Surprisingly one that could be had this way from '06 to '09 was the Fusion and Milan. You could get 4 cyl 2.3L engine combined with the SEL Fusion or Premium Milan.
Not too many were sold but they are out there.
Samples:
http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?featureCodes=7&zip=44870&endYear=2009&modelCode1=FUSION&modelCode2=MILAN&makeCode2=MERC&showcaseOwnerId=53821590&startYear=1981&makeCode1=FORD&transmissionCode=MAN&searchRadius=300&listingId=316433126&Log=0
http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?featureCodes=7&zip=44870&endYear=2009&modelCode1=FUSION&modelCode2=MILAN&makeCode2=MERC&showcaseOwnerId=53821590&startYear=1981&makeCode1=FORD&transmissionCode=MAN&searchRadius=300&listingId=318635215&Log=0

Rusted_Busted_Spit
Rusted_Busted_Spit SuperDork
3/27/12 2:10 p.m.
93EXCivic wrote: In reply to David S. Wallens: I wouldn't because I have no interest or need for a mid-sized sedan. But if I was voting with my own money I would buy a car with a manual because mid-sized sedans are boring enough without having an autotragic.

I have a need but other than that we are thinking the same way. The only issue is that I have never purchased a new car and can not really see myself doing so ever so my bitching really means nothing at all.

alfadriver
alfadriver UberDork
3/27/12 2:48 p.m.

In reply to jrw1621:

That's my point. We need more people buying premium pacakges WITH manual transmissions for more "ordinary" cars. that way, the marketing guys will stop thinking that manuals = cheap buyers.

This isn't about ford, it's about C and C/D cars having manuals as options for all luxury packages- AND people buying them.

Rusted_Busted_Spit
Rusted_Busted_Spit SuperDork
3/27/12 2:51 p.m.

That was one of the selling points of SAAB for me, any car that they made could be had with a stick.

bravenrace
bravenrace UberDork
3/27/12 7:09 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
bravenrace wrote:
David S. Wallens wrote: They're definitely looking at the enthusiast market.

They need to look harder. Enthusiasts don't want an auto trans. I'm in the market for a car like this right now, but I won't even look at this one because of this.

And we have discussed that. Right now Kia doesn't have a box in their lineup that mates with this new engine. I have a related question, though: If the turbo Optima came with a manual transmission, how many of you would actually buy one today? (Like, actually spend money for one--not just discuss it online.) Personally, I wish it came with a stick, but in reality it's out of my price range.

I see your point. I can only speak for myself, and I can't say I'd buy it. But I'd consider it, which is more than I'll do with the current auto version.

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