Quick Test: 2008 Kia Optima EX

If you've been diligently researching four-cylinder family sedans, then you likely know about the new 2009 Hyundai Sonata, which received such significant upgrades -- a more powerful engine and an all-new interior. Well, as Kia showed at last April's New York auto show, the Optima, which just happens to be the Sonata's corporate sibling, will receive similar enhancements for '09 as well. Which brings us to what you're already thinking -- yes, we tried to get the new 2009 Optima, but were told none was available until later in the year. Too bad, because the Kia probably would have impressed us more than it did.

Naturally, our 2008 Optima EX amazed us with its value. Carrying a base price of just $20,135, it included a 162-hp engine, a five-speed automatic with manual control, four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags, automatic climate control, leather seat trim, an eight-way power driver's seat, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and, of course, a stellar warranty. Our tester boasted four options -- $700 Appearance Package (17-in. wheels, blackout exterior trim, black interior trim), $600 Electronic Stability Package (electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist), $1300 Premium Package (Infinity sound system, sunroof), $700 Convenience Package (heated front seats, power front passenger seat, power adjustable pedals, rear sunshade)-that added a lot of show for not much dough, bringing the bottom line up to only $23,435.

2008 Kia Optima

While that represents big bang for your buck, it doesn't exactly equate to the best bang for your buck. For example, a beautifully equipped 2009 Sonata SE with an automatic, sunroof, and 17-in. wheels goes for just over $22,000.

Nevertheless, buying an Optima does not make you foolish -- far from it, in fact. Not only is it aggressively priced, but it's also well-built, loaded with content, and respectably capable at the test track, posting 0 to 60 in 8.8 sec, the quarter mile in 16.7 at 84.3 mph, 60 to 0 braking in 130 ft, and lateral acceleration of 0.79 g.

Overall, we'd rate this Kia mid-pack. As senior editor Edward Loh summarizes the Optima: "It's not a bad car by any stretch, but not a great one, either."

2008 Kia Optima 2008 Kia Optima

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