Reviews

2001 Kia Optima

[cars name="Sonoma"], California – Kia Motors America is an optimistic company, so it’s appropriate that its new flagship sedan is called the Optima. How optimistic is Kia? Enough to price the Optima about $1000 more than comparably equipped models (Optima base prices range from $15,299 to $19,949). Why is this significant? Because Hyundai owns Kia, and the mid-size Optima is simply a reskinned, rebadged Sonata. “Our consumer clinics indicate our brand is worth more than Hyundai,” says Dick Macedo, Kia’s U.S. chief. “And our styling is better. That’s why we can charge $1100 more for our volume model.”

In measurements and mechanicals, the Optima is virtually identical to the Sonata, and the two cars share the same engines: a 149-bhp, 2.4-liter four and a 170-bhp, 2.5-liter V-6. With Kia’s new Long Haul Warranty, both cars have the same ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain and five-year/60,000-mile overall coverage. Aside from styling and price, there are only three significant differences between them: The Sonata has a five-speed manual standard with both engines, whereas V-6 Optimas come with a four-speed automatic only; said automatic in the Kia has Tiptronic, licensed from Porsche, which will not be available in the Sonata for another year; and the Kia does not offer traction control, which comes with ABS on the Hyundai.

Like the Sonata, the Optima is a decent but undistinguished driver. The V-6 is fairly smooth but has no surfeit of oomph, while the all-independent suspension provides a comfortable ride but vague handling. Everything works, but nothing inspires. Still, we’ll say the same thing about the Optima that we’ve said about the Sonata: We’d take one over a Pontiac Grand Am or a Chevy Malibu. But to spend an extra grand for the Kia over the Hyundai, you’d better really like that styling.

Comments

We’ve Temporarily Removed Comments

As part of our ongoing efforts to make AutomobileMag.com better, faster, and easier for you to use, we’ve temporarily removed comments as well as the ability to comment. We’re testing and reviewing options to possibly bring comments back. As always, thanks for reading AutomobileMag.com.