TO THE POINTWhat’s New? The 2006.5 Kia Optima is completely redesigned, with a new four-cylinder engine, a roomier interior, and much better ride and handling characteristics. Selling Points: Value, styling, ride quality, handling, warranty Deal Breakers: Flaccid seats, weak V6 engine option, disappointing fuel economy Our Advice: Since the 2006.5 Kia Optima competes in one of the most popular segments of the market, it’s likely that you can drive a great deal on this new midsize sedan. And since the sticker price is already low, that means Kia might carve out a niche for the attractive new Optima.
Ask Kia executives pointed questions about the redesigned 2006.5 Optima midsize sedan, questions about the underwhelming V6 engine option, questions about why antilock brakes and traction control are options rather than standard equipment, questions about missing features like a navigation system, and they all spin the response to a single concept: value. That’s the driving theme behind the all-new 2006.5 Optima sedan, though advertising for the new car is going to pitch interior room, cabin quiet, and performance.
After spending several days driving the new 2006.5 Kia Optima along beautiful country roads in California’s Napa Valley region, on the crowded city streets of San Francisco, and on a six-hour run down Interstate 5 to Los Angeles, we think Kia’s marketing department might want to focus more on the value equation and less on the Optima’s roominess, quietness, and performance. The Optima is certainly accommodating; given the right tires, road surfaces, and cruising speed the Optima is quiet; the standard four-cylinder engine is class competitive if not as thrifty as it should be; and the optional 17-inch Michelin tires provide entertaining handling capability. However, the car isn’t a standout in the midsize class. But the value story – now that holds some water.