I was blown away by a few things about this Optima Turbo.
First, it really looks great. I preferred it to the Sonata based just on photos, but it's even better looking in person. Kia managed to take the exact same profile as the Sonata and slice all the curves and lines off, and made an aggressively styled car that isn't derivative.
Second, this car is fun to drive, and seems better planted and more solid than the Sonata. It drives like a bigger, heavier car -- in a good way.
Third, this car is really nice inside as well. The angled-toward-the-driver console is very well laid out, and reminds me of BMWs of yore. I prefer the on-screen graphics of the Optima to the Sonata, but the Hyundai does a better job of pulling together the total package with better integrated door panels and a dash that all flow together beautifully, versus the more cobbled together Optima.
But the most surprising thing of all with the Optima Turbo was the $31,000 price tag. I was expecting $27K at most -- which is the Sonata Turbo's base price. I'm not saying this car isn't worth the money -- I think it is -- but I suspect this will be a shock to many buyers, and might be hard to overcome. And to pile on regarding the tires, the choice of such poor quality on such a critical component is disappointing, and inexcusable if Kia is going to demand top dollar for this car.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
Impressive off-the-line acceleration, even if it's pretty easy to spin the front wheels. Nice powertrain, though. The steering-wheel-mounted paddles are plastic but are firm in their mountings and have a good crisp action in a way that Ford, for example, should duplicate. They are logical to use, also: the left paddle is for downshifting, the right one for upshifting.
I took the Optima up to 105 mph and did some hard braking, and the pedal felt good underfoot and didn't turn to mush. Excellent seat heaters; they really fry your butt. The Bluetooth interface is fast and easy, as is the radio interface. Nice Infinity stereo.
I like the black perforated leather with a banding around the perimeter of silver-colored mesh materials. Could do without the start-up ding-dong sounds; when you turn off the car it says "Thank you, see you again." Mmmm-hmmm.
A surprise late-winter snowfall of five inches was more than the Optima and its all-season tires could handle. The tires are Korean Nexen OP662 Class Premiere, 225/45VR-18, and they certainly did not perform well in the snow.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor