Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2013 Kia Optima SX Pemium: Sporty Fun for Every One

2013 Kia Optima
(c) Hyundai Motor Co.
Up until recently, I would rarely gave a Kia a second look. But when the redesigned Kia Optima came out for 2011, I started to pay attention. I think a lot of us did. This 3rd generation Optima projects a strong, sporty attitude and seems to have a lot of features for substantially less $ than you'd pay for a new luxury sedan. I held off driving an Optima until the 2013 models hit the dealer. You shouldn't wait too long -- the 2012 and 2013 models are in demand. I hope you'll be as pleasantly surprised as we were.

Sporty Exterior
(c) Erika Fish
It's summer vacation and getting any test drives in while the kids are around is a bit tricky. So when our Prius needed it's first service at the Toyota dealer next door to the Kia dealer, I pulled our 8-year old daughter away from Duck Dynasty on the TV so she could join me on a test drive. It was actually nice to have her along because she gave me her child-specific input and reactions to the back seat, but not so much during the "education" session when she rolled her eyes and was "sooooooooooooo bored." What's this? An 8-year old with some tween 'tude?

Our daughter is young, but she knows what she likes and she isn't afraid to share it. She isn't a fan of the Prius because "it's boring," and despises it's cloth interior because she can't slide across the backseat. She loves our Audi Q7 because it has good visibility from every seat, a sunroof over the back two rows, easy-to-slide-upon leather seats, and it goes fast. (That's my girl!) I was naturally interested in her reactions to the Kia Optima. Here are her highlights with a few of mine added for good measure.


Front Seats
(c) Hyundai Motor Co.
  • Sporty Drive (which Kia calls Sportmatic (R); love it) 
  • Leather Interior
  • Comfortable Seats with ample legroom
  • Heated Front & Rear seats on the EX & SX models
  • Cooled front seats (Daughter was mad that the rear seats weren't cooled as well)
  • Panoramic Sunroof with automatic shades
  • Back-up Camera display shows crisp image and has guides
  • Bluetooth for phone calls and audio play from a smart phone (like Pandora or Spotify)
  • UVO system for voice control, touch screen, audio, and 700MB of digital storage (UVO is "Powered by Microsoft")
  • Latch system (hooks are there, you just have to dig a bit to find them)

The Drive
Steering Wheel Command Center
(c) Hyundai Motor Co.
The new Kia Optima is a sporty little thing. The shifting is seamless, and stepping on the gas pedal gets you the response you're looking for. There are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but I couldn't use them because my hands are too small and I couldn't grip the wheel and reach my fingers to the paddles. That was a disappointment. (Yes, the gear shift manual option worked just fine, but I like both hands on the wheel.)

Using the steering wheel controls for the car information and entertainment system was simple, but all those controls made the cross bar on the steering wheel so thick, it was hard to cruise with my hands at anywhere other than 10-and-2. (My high school driving instructor would be so proud.) I like the idea of steering wheel controls, but the designers need to consider that many drivers have small to medium-sized hands. Have fewer buttons that do more. Designers should also consider that our thumbs are going numb from all the texting and emailing most of us do on our smart phones, so perhaps buttons and toggles that fit other fingers. Those little fingers could handle a little extra work, so perhaps some buttons on the backside of the steering wheel.

UVO Info/Entertainment System
(c) eVox Productions
The Voice Controls with UVO seemed to work just fine. That functionality would help tremendously when driving in rush hour traffic and needing to make a call or find out where in the hell you are. It's also helpful when you need to quickly change the radio station, but don't have the station numbers memorized. Just say "Spectrum" and the UVO system will (theoretically) take you there. (UVO understood the Kia salesman's voice more readily than mine.)

The Back Seat Driver Report
Rear Seat
(c) eVox Productions
The report I received from the back seat was fairly good, although she was frustrated with the height of the windows. My eight-year old is tall, but without her booster seat (which she technically doesn't need anymore), she couldn't see out the windows without levitating off her bucket seat. 

The temperature controls for the whole car were simple and at my fingertips, so I didn't have to fret over the youngster in the back seat messing with those. She could only control the vents. The arm rest came down in the middle to reveal two cup holders. That same arm rest will also open up to the trunk and allow for longer items to pass through to the passenger compartment. The back seat also folds 60/40 via handy pulls in the trunk compartment. 

Rear Seat Heater Button
(c) Erika JN Fish
In the SX premium that we drove, the rear seat cushions were heated and the controls are conveniently located on the doors by the window controls. When asked to give them a try, my daughter responded, "What?? Are you kidding me?? It's 100 degrees outside!" I assume the heaters'll do the trick to warm chilled rears on cold days. Just remember to not use them under car seats or booster seats. 

Worth a Look
Cool Box/Glove Box
(c) Erika JN Fish
I could tell that an Audi designer had a hand in the design of the 2013 Optima. (His name is Peter Schreyer; Automobile Magazine's 2012 Man of the Year.) It is very refined and well thought out (except the paddle shift/short fingers issue I had). The glove box has an AC vent so you can keep your lunch or fine chocolates cool; there is a panoramic sunroof; the wheels are beautiful; the instrument panel is driver-focused; the ride is very European; and the HID head lights and LED tail lights are awesome strips of light, reminiscent of a newer Audi.

Rear Tail Lights
(c) eVox Productions
For all of the bells and whistles, not to (again) mention the great handling, I think the 2013 Kia Optima is worth serious consideration. It is a great sedan for families, commuters, and retired people who still want a little pep in their ride and admiring nods from the younger set. The price starts in a good range ($21,200 for an LX base model), but quickly climbs into the $30,000+ range when you look at the premium with turbo and limited packages. The SX Premium Touring that we drove had a sticker of $32,520.
Lever to Fold Rear Seat from Trunk
(c) Erika JN Fish

As for gas mileage, Kia says this Optima returns 24 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. My shortish drive returned an average of 27 MPG with mixed driving, and the salesman at the dealer said his gets about 37 MPG on the highway. 

(c) Erika JN Fish
There is a hybrid Optima, but it isn't getting great reviews. Although it would certainly be a snazzier hybrid when compared to my Prius. The knock against the hybrid Optima is poor real-world mileage that doesn't match the company predictions, and boring handling. Either way, I definitely recommend finding a Costco with gas pumps and filling up a new turbo-charged Optima and taking it for a long drive through the countryside.

Photos courtesy of Erika JN Fish, and eVox Productions (via Edmunds).

Thank you to Kia Marin for the education and test drive opportunity.

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.


  1. nice review
    amnything that you really didn't like about it?

    1. Thank you. I did find the rear window to be fairly high with blindspot potential on the sides, but the model I drove had a wide-angle back-up camera, so I felt safe when backing out of parking spots. And those paddle shifters -- my fingers just aren't long enough to take advantage of those and feel like I've got control of the wheel.

      Thanks for reading!