The Kia Optima: Point-Counterpoint

By | March 2, 2012

Words: Brandon Christiansen and AJ Wilcox
Photos: Brandon Christiansen

A week or two ago I was cruising the internets when I came across a twitter discussion between our very own AJ Wilcox and a faithful reader named Ben. They were discussing Kia’s Super Bowl commercial and each others unique opinion of the Optima’s styling. Ben thought the Optima was great looking and a step forward for the South Korean manufacturer.  AJ, well, I’ll let him regale you with his side of the discussion:

Of course me being the nosy, opinionated S.O.B. that I am, I had to jump in! I think the Optima is a good looking car with the right kind of numbers. No less than one minute later, Doug Smith Kia in American Fork chimed in inviting us to come test drive one of their Optimas:

Being massively impressed by their use of social media, we setup a date to go thrash one of their “love it or hate it” Optimas.

AJ: OK, so Brandon, what did you think of the new Optima after we test drove it?

Brandon: To be quite honest, I was impressed. It is such a huge departure from the cheap Kias of old. Its German penned styling sets it apart from it’s Hyundai counterpart giving it, in my opinion, a much sportier look. It especially stands out from its bland competition from Toyota and Honda.

AJ: I still hate the way it looks. The front wheel intakes look cheap and out of place. The grille and back look stark and out of place on a Kia. I was definitely impressed after driving it, though. It was quieter than my Accord, had a turbo, and was loaded with tech.
Kia Optima
Brandon: Agreed on the driving impressions and techy features. It was almost like viewing the world from inside an iPod, an iPod with 274 hp! But I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you on the styling. In the great words of Lloyd Christmas “I like [it] a lot”.
Kia Optima Interior
AJ: So neither of us are really sedan kind of people, but considering our experience – What would you consider if you were in the market for a new sedan?

Brandon: If I were in the market for a sedan, I’d definitely put the Kia Optima on my list. The combination of its torquey 274 hp turbo’d 4 banger, classy-ish interior, and modern tech options definitely make it a contender.

AJ: I have to agree. Before, I would have said that I wouldn’t consider anything besides an Accord and a Camry, but now, I’d throw the Optima into the mix.

Brandon: Well that settles it then. Like the styling or not the Optima is a car worth considering.


jonsheppard on March 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm.

the optima is the current front runner for my next car, though my wife says our next car will be electric…

Shah Brionez on March 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm.

My Brother-In-Law has one of these and LOVES it!  I’m sure G$ will post here soon enough.

I’ve always been a Honda guy, and we love our Accord.  Sad thing is the Accord is becoming too much like the Camry.  Vanilla…  Boring, bland and beige.  There really isn’t much that stands out, and for 308k families that purchased a Camry in the US in 2011, good for you, and good for Toyota’s sales numbers.

I’m ready for a change in that family sedan market.  The new Hyundai and Kia are different than the Camry and Accord, and worth a look.  I will say the tech in the Kia is outstanding for the price point.

I’ve got my eye on the 2013 Ford Fusion.  Can you say baby Aston!

AJ Wilcox on March 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm.

I’m also a Honda guy through and through. We’ve loved our accords, but there is something about my Civic when I get in it from an Accord – like the team that makes the Accord isn’t allowed to smile while clocked in.

I’ll forever hold a grudge against Ford for ripping off Aston design cues after the divorce :)

AJ Wilcox on March 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm.

 Electric would be fun, but given the current options, I’ll be waiting a few years. Maybe you can convince her to hold out and do an Optima for the time being. Just no Smart car :)

Chance Hales on March 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm.

 Be sure to check out this article on electrics!

Chance Hales on March 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm.

I’m not a big fan of the looks.  I’d go for the Sonata.  Same car, better looking.  I love the chiseled style line on the side of them. I don’t like the hybrid’s unique front end.  It looks like a guppy

Matthew S. Davis on March 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm.

I’m definitely a Honda guy as well… an old Honda guy.  I can’t say that there is anything in the current lineup that is overly attractive or fun to drive.  I have two right now and have owned three hondas.  I’ve driven a Sonata and was impressed, haven’t had the opportunity to try the new Optima yet.  I do like the center stack in the photos you took.  Driver focused is always good.  

I agree with AJ on the cheap looking side vents and I don’t like the grill.  But I like the rest of it, probably a little more than the Sonata. 

Gavin C. on March 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm.

I got an Optima late last year after my Nissan Altima was totaled. I looked for months at Accords, Sonatas, Camrys, and pretty much every other sedan on the market. After test driving all of the above, as well as the Optima, I quickly shortened my list. The Optima had everything I was looking for and more. I have put about 4500 miles on it so far and have not been disappointed at any point.
Shah is right, I love my Optima. Great sound system, and the tech package is great. Not to mention I am getting about 28-32 MPG city. Not too shabby

AJ Wilcox on March 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm.

Gavin, thanks for your real-world input! That’s excellent to hear. I hope you don’t take offense to me calling it the ugliest car in the world. I’m in the minority in thinking so. I also exaggerate…there are a few uglier cars.

Gavin C. on March 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm.

No worries AJ. The more I look at my car and compare it to the Sonata, I like the Kia look more. I like the interior about a thousand times more than the Sonata’s, and I have noticed a lot of the “older” generation cruisin’ in their Sonatas. Also, I haven’t tried jumping over it yet, but, if Blake Griffin can do it, I should be able to…right?

AJ Wilcox on March 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm.

It’s true, the Sonata is totally a fogey car. The Kia was designed by an Audi designer, making it look more upscale. Between Sonata and Optima, totally no contest.

I think I’d rather do today’s article’s stunt than try to jump over it. :)

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