KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
- Updated Date: 4/16/2008
You'll Like This Car If...
Kia Optima continues to offer buyers a well-built, well-equipped family
sedan for less money than the competition. Based on the same platform as the
Hyundai Sonata, the Optima distances itself with sportier exterior and interior treatments, as well as a significantly lower base price. Over the last few years Kia has made impressive strides in both quality and content and, while not yet on par with such giants as the
Honda Accord and
Toyota Camry, the Optima comes very close. The Optima provides a roomy, comfortable interior, a large trunk and a choice between a fuel-efficient four-cylinder or a powerful V6 engine. Even the most basic models include such standard safety features as side-curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a four-door
sedan with responsive driving characteristics, a lot of features and an attractive price, the
2008 Kia Optima should be on your shopping list. It's handsome, offers impressive safety features and represents a good value for the money.
What's New for 2008
If you absolutely crave attention, the Optima's exterior, which some may describe as bland, may not grab your eyes -- or anyone else's. And, despite generous interior volume for the category, this midsize package won't be big enough for larger families.
No major changes for 2008.
The Kia team has made a commitment to blending the Optima's features into a nice combination of driving capabilities. In what might be considered as unexpected for a Korean brand, the Optima is actually fun to drive. Movements of the steering wheel are rewarded with crisp reactions into corners, body roll is minimal and the Optima enjoys a balanced feel, particularly when you consider it's a modestly-priced front-wheel-drive sedan. We found it completely engaging and enjoyable.
2.4-liter Four-cylinder Engine
Although its specifications aren't too dissimilar from others in the midsize segment, the Optima's all-aluminum 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers a pleasant character that is involving for the driver. It offers crisp response and decent power, and is so good that, on balance, there seems little justification for either the additional expense or the greater fuel consumption of the V6.
The LX Optima is a well-equipped model that is considerably above the basic transportation category. For just under $3,000, however, the Appearance Package provides a host of upgrades attractive to both the original purchaser and, subsequently, the resale market.
Kia continues to offer increasingly worthwhile upgrades in interior design, materials and safety. Even in base LX form, the Optima's interior materials rate well above merely acceptable. Choose the available Appearance Package and you'll receive aluminum interior trim, automated light control and silver-accented inside door handles. On those cars with leather we were impressed by the leather's tone and its perforated texture. Conversely, the standard instruments could benefit from a typeface that was more attractive and readable and the front seat cushions could be angled up a bit more. As the Optima is intended to appeal to young families, safety receives an appropriate emphasis. Its standard airbag arrangement includes advanced dual front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags, along with full-length side-curtain airbags.
Notable Standard Equipment
While unobtrusively styled, the 2008 Kia Optima is still modern and attractive. The profile is fronted by an attractively restrained grille that's framed by halogen headlights with either clear or blacked-out lenses. The passenger cabin provides a nice balance between outward visibility and efficient aerodynamics. Front and rear overhangs are fairly short, while the fenderwells are nicely filled with either the standard 16-inch or the available 17-inch tires. The overall effect is that the Optima looks balanced and secure, in a way that is modern and even sporting.
Notable Optional Equipment
The Optima continues Kia's tradition of providing a generous level of standard equipment for an attractive price. Our test LX model, with the four-cylinder engine, included power heated exterior mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, four-wheel disc brakes, an AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary input jack and a split-folding rear seat. Beyond that, it offered gas shock absorbers and front and rear anti-roll bars, features often available only as parts of "sport" or "handling" packages with other cars.
Under the Hood
For those wanting a higher level of comfort, convenience and functionality, there is available leather seat trim, power and heated front seats, a manually-operated rear-window shade, power-adjustable pedals, automatic climate control, alloy wheels, power moonroof, Infinity sound system and subwoofer, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and other features and options. The Electronic Stability Control Package (available on EX and LX with automatic transmission) provides anti-lock brakes (ABS), stability control, traction control and brake assist with one easy check on the option list.
Our driving experience was limited to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. In both instances we were pleased by the engine's responsiveness, and the transmission gearing was well matched to the engine's characteristics. Although 162 horsepower isn't exactly stratospheric, in combination with a respectable 164 pound-feet of torque it's very usable. We see little benefit in opting for the V6, given the balance, efficiency and entirely acceptable performance of the in-line four.
2.4-liter in-line 4
162 horsepower @5800 rpm
164 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31
185 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
182 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $17,000, the base 2008 Kia Optima LX's value is obvious. The four-cylinder EX starts around $20,000 and includes numerous worthwhile additional features. More options can move the price upward from there, so budget-minded buyers may find the LX to be a better value. While the LX Optima's value is a no-brainer, a loaded EX enlarges the competitive field to include such vehicles as the Honda Accord and the
Volkswagen Jetta. Unfortunately, the Optima's resale figures are near the bottom of the pack, falling well below the class leaders from Honda, Toyota and even Ford and Chevrolet.