Test Drive: The Kia Optima Is a Sedan for Grown-Up Kids

Test Drive: The Kia Optima Is a Sedan for Grown-Up Kids

 

2012 Kia Optima
Power: 274 hp, 269 lb-ft.
Engines: 2.0-liter Turbo Gas Direct Injection 4-cylinder
Fuel Consumption: 18-26 city/28-40 highway
MSRP: $31,695 

How impressive is the new Kia Optima? Consider these two testimonials, one informed, one not, from attendants at the parking lot across the street from the Complex offices:

Attendant No. 1 (old guy, rumpled cap): [Glances at car, takes keys, marks slip "BMW," and hands to me.]

Me: [Furiously thinking of way to play this so I can drive off with a BMW. Realize I lack the quick-trigger mental capacity to do so.] "Uh, it's actually not a BMW."

Attendant No. 2 (young guy, wide-eyed expression): [Grabs keys, jogs to car.] "Duuuude. I fucking love this car."

Not a bad endorsement right? Old folks that don't know any better think it's a Beamer; young dudes who drive cars all day think it's a great ride. And, for the most part, we agree 100%.

A few years ago, Kia updated the Optima, throwing the midsize sedan game into flux. What Kia did was to take the basics of the midsize genre and try to hide as much of it as possible in the guise of a sports car: the exterior is low-slung and sleek, the interior minimalist and clean. The total effect is to make the car look and feel smaller than it is, which, if you're trying to make a conservative car genre feel a little more exciting, is not a bad thing at all.

On the road, the Optima is more of the same—you think you're driving a much smaller sports car, until you realize you're not. The Turbo model has enough juice to take just about anybody off the line. The steering is tight and responsive enough to handle the paces you'll put the car through given its added get-up-and-go.

If there's one complaint about the Optima, it's that some of the sportier features detract from its core mission as a midsize sedan. You can fit the car seat in the back, natch, but the ride, particularly on New York's mean and neglected streets, can get a little jarring (to be fair, a Sherman tank probably offers a jarring ride over the Big Apple's potholes). And while it gets high marks overall for its design, some of the finishes feel a little young.

All that said, the Optima is no middle-aged dude's idea of a mid-life crisis whip (as the young parking attendant would attest). In fact, the admittedly awesome Adriana Lima x Motley Crue ad campaign actually sells the car a little short: you don't have to be on the other side of the 18-35 demographic, nor do you need any dream dust—with a price that's right, the Optima can be your sensible car with splash right now.

Tags: test-drive, kia, kia-optima
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