[quote_box_right]Up: Bang for buck, great to drive.
Down: Some materials still feel cheap.
Neutral: Kia hits a home run with their new design and driveability. [/quote_box_right]Peter Schreyer, “Chief Design Officer” of both Hyundai and Kia is some what of a saving grace to Kia. In and around 2010 when the new Kia’s rolled into the lot I sat back from a distance questioning my judgment. Those vehicles look great! But they are still Kias; or is it Kiai for plural? Well, here at Short Shift, we hold no bias (officially that is). The 2013 Kia Optima SXL literally blew away my perceptions of what a Kia is/was/should be.
Sliding into the driver’s seat reveals a slick new design for Kia. The center console is turned to face the driver, making it easier to engage with and see the navigation screen/audio system. A Microsoft infotainment system is available in some of the other packages but oddly enough, not in the SXL. Our Billion Kia dealership representative, Brian Farmen, did a great job of explaining all of the features to us. There were many buttons though and my simple-mindedness was quickly overwhelmed. So I flipped it into ‘D’ and drove off.
Rolling down the road, I could really feel the difference in this new model. Road noise is significantly lower from older generations and the seats are my favorite of any mid-sized sedan. Not foreign to modern tech, the 2013 Kia Optima automatically engages Eco-mode depending on how your foot meets the pedal. This should save you gas but I honestly didn’t notice much difference in pedal-play or steering while the little green light was illuminated. Still, the EPA estimates 34 on the highway which is plenty good for a sporty sedan to me.
Oh boy, I said sporty. Yeah, that’s right, this thing is. The SXL comes with a turbocharged 2-liter inline 4-cylinder with a 274 hp output. The transmission offers a “Sportmatic” option as well as paddle-shifters. Getting up and going onto the highway is something we love and this car did not disappoint. After a slight turbo-lag, the car kicked into gear and moved fast. Sliding around corners was surprisingly easy as well. My favorite part of this whole car was the seats though. They held me firmly in place and I honestly felt like they were made for me.
Still, I had reservations. It was easy to see that some of the interior trim was sacrificed in the name of cost and the navigation system was difficult to read while at speed. But for a car that starts at $21,350 (the SXL comes in at $26,800), I’m surprised they got as much in as they did. Much of its competition can run you quite a bit more for similar amenities.
When all is said and done though, I’m very surprised. I never really stopped grinning the entire time that I drove it. It isn’t the quickest car and it isn’t the most luxurious but it definitely has something else. It’s almost as if, while all the other brands were fighting over mpg, cost, sales, and other things, Kia found the key: passion. Raw, unrefined passion. I really think that Kia is on to something and I can’t wait to see what they bring out next!