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The Optima didn't receive much praise when Kia launched the midsize sedan in 2000. Built as a cheap alternative to Japanese imports, it wasn't refined or reliable, and it didn't hold its value well.
In the past few years, however, Kia has made astonishing strides with sharp design, increased reliability and high-quality materials. Now in its third generation, the Optima has become a viable alternative to Japanese heavyweights like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Kia Optima has earned a spot on any family's shopping list.
Kia completely revamped the Optima for its third generation. A sleek exterior, high-class interior and good fuel economy are just the beginning of the upgrades that now make the Optima a top competitor among its peers.
The new Optima has a bold front grill, smooth body lines, and a sporty curved roof. Previously so-so, handling is now calm, confident, and responsive.
A strong lineup of engines are available. LX and EX trims get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 190 horsepower; EX Turbo and SX get a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 274 horsepower. The Hybrid model houses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor for a combined 206 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models except the LX Manual, which gets six-speed manual gearbox.
The Optima comes loaded with standard features that many competitors offer only at higher trims. There is plenty of legroom, and the cabin features high-quality materials, comfortable seats and tasteful design details.
The second-generation Optima is available with either a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine or a 2.7-liter V6. Both engines are available in EX or LX trims. Power features, cloth seats, and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard on all trims.
The first-generation Optima was Kia's first midsize sedan offered in North America. Available in only two trim levels, including LX and SE (replaced by EX in 2004), the Optima went through a few minor changes throughout its production run. The Optima featured a 149-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 as its two engine choices. For 2002 the displacement of the V6 was upped to 2.6 liters, raising horsepower to a more respectable 185. Standard features for the Optima included air conditioning, power windows and power door locks.