2013 Kia Optima SX Limited new car reviews

Zoom zoom! That’s what 274 horsepower looks like in action.
The Optima comes standard with Bluetooth, push-button start, dual-zone automatic temp control, rear-camera display and 8-way adjustable driver’s seat. Talk about comfort.

Who doesn’t love a car with this much spunk? With 274 horsepower and all the comfortable amenities included in this Optima, you can drive and ride in speed and in style. Plus, 34 mpg highway isn’t too shabby either for those green types.

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J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Here’s the only possible plan for Japanese auto companies not named Honda or Toyota to survive: 1) Devote all of your resources currently used for building cars to building tanks and fighter planes. 2) Attack Korea. While this may not be the most politically savvy plan—and it certainly doesn’t have a historical track record of success—the truth is that the Korean giants Kia and Hyundai are giving forceful atomic wedgies to companies like Mitsubishi and Nissan by producing some of the best bang-for-the-buck cars on our roads today.

The Optima SXL we sampled has something more than quality, too. It has presence. This is a car that stacks up styling-wise to just about any other sporty sedan out there right now—and that includes the kidney-grilled powerhouses from Munich. I’m not going to do the math, because I’m too lazy, but BMW can’t even rest on their racing laurels anymore when it comes to comparisons with the Optima. Sure the BMW 3 Series has a strong presence in Continental Challenge, but the Optima is one of the dominant forces in SCCA World Challenge GTS. And Kia also has factory-supported Fortes in the Continental series.

Long story short, these days Kia is a player, and the product backs that up. Driving the Optima is as satisfying as driving any sporty sedan these days: Steering is a little numb on center, but provides good feedback once you lean on it a bit. The chassis is remarkably composed, and handles pavement irregularities as well as any car we’ve driven. And somehow it does it while staying utterly flat in cornering—or a least seeming that way. I’m sure there’s some body roll going on—basic physics insists that there must be—but it’s so well-controlled that you barely notice.

Somehow Kia squeezes 274hp out of just two liters and manages to not make it feel high strung. Of course, they probably boost the bejeezus out of it, but there’s no lag to speak of, only a nice progressive swell in the power as the boost comes up.

If we have to nitpick, we’ll do it with the transmission programming. The Optima’s six-speed auto shifts briskly and purposefully enough at seven-tenths, but in “manual” mode—where you get to use either the center console’s slap-shifter or the wheel-mounted paddles—it doesn’t give you quite the control you’d like for, say, a track day, which is something that the rest of the chassis and powertrain would certainly welcome. It forces upshifts, and delays downshifts, which is not a dealbreaker for most people, but certainly not up to the level of the rest of the car.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a sporty sedan, you’d do well to think of the $35,000 (loaded) Optima SXL as more than a novelty approach. The Koreans mean serious business when it comes t building cars that can compete in every market segment, and the Optima is further proof.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

Add another fan to the Optima's list here. I'm always blown away by this large Kia. It looks badass, drives nicely and has an extremely comfortable interior. It isn't a race car, as our tester's tires gave up early and lead to predictable understeer. However a reality check is in order. This Kia isn't destined for the track, it's destined for the mall, grocery store and daily use. For utilitarian duty, it works extremely well.

Kia is beating Toyota, Honda and Nissan at the game they once dominated. The Koreans are making serious moves, with both Kia and Hyundai making great machines. I prefer Kia's more aggressive styling to the new Hyundai "Bangle-spaceship" design language, but either way you can't lose.

The reasonable pricing is icing on the cake!

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