There are two types of car shoppers in the world: those who tend to follow the crowd and only consider the best-selling models in any given category and those who prefer to take a rational look at all their choices. If you fall into this second group, the 2010 Kia Optima might be worth considering. Though this midsize sedan lives in the shadows of heavy hitters like the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, it still has appeal for value-oriented shoppers.
The Optima delivers the roomy interior that midsize buyers expect, and it's available for less money than some well-equipped economy cars. However, the old adage "you get what you pay for" does apply in this case. The Optima doesn't ride as smoothly as most rivals, and its optional V6 doesn't even make 200 horsepower in a segment full of 270-hp bruisers. Its interior is also a notch below the class standards for quality and visual appeal.
Other than that, the 2010 Kia Optima is generally pretty easy to like. Do your homework and you'll discover you can buy a top-of-the-line Optima for thousands of dollars less than most comparably equipped competitors. If that aspect appeals to you, the Optima could work out well. But in general we recommend checking out better sedans that still offer plenty of value, such as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Suzuki Kizashi.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Kia Optima midsize sedan is offered in base LX, upscale EX and sporty SX trims.
The standard features list for the entry-level LX includes 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, air-conditioning, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, full power accessories, a tilt steering column and a CD/MP3 player audio system with satellite radio and a USB/auxiliary audio input. Models with the automatic transmission add keyless entry, cruise control and a multifunction tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Move up to the EX and you get 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a power driver seat, automatic climate control, a trip computer and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass.
The SX loses the automatic climate control but adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, exclusive exterior trim, leather and cloth upholstery, unique instrumentation, aluminum interior trim and sport pedals.
Options on EX and SX models include Bluetooth, a power sunroof, Infinity audio with a six-disc CD changer, a power front passenger seat, heated front seats, a manual rear-window sunshade and power-adjustable pedals. The EX and SX also offer an optional navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2010 Kia Optima comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 175 hp and 169 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the base LX, while the other models get a five-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy estimates for the four-cylinder are a class-competitive 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
A 2.7-liter V6 is optional on EX and SX models; it produces 194 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission offered here. Fuel economy numbers for this setup are a lackluster 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined; for context, the Toyota Camry's 268-hp V6 is rated at 19/28/23.
The 2010 Kia Optima comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In government crash tests, the Optima received a perfect five-star rating for both front and side impacts. In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Optima earned the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test and a second-best "Acceptable" rating in the side-impact test.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The Optima's interior is a little on the plain side. Of course, for some folks that lack of dramatic design can be a plus. Whereas several of the Optima's competitors have dashes covered with a confusing array of buttons and switches, the Kia's uncomplicated layout might seem like a refreshing change.
When it comes to passenger accommodations, the Optima delivers on the promise of its midsize dimensions for both front and rear passengers; however, the relatively short seat cushions in back don't offer enough support for longer-legged adults. Out back, the Optima's trunk offers 15 cubic feet of cargo room, a number that's on par with competitors. All models come with 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks.
On the road, the 2010 Kia Optima's optional V6 provides decent power in low-speed everyday driving, but it's thoroughly outclassed by every other midsize sedan's V6 under hard acceleration. Given the relatively small difference in power output between the Optima's two engines, we think most buyers will be just fine with the more efficient four-cylinder. As for the suspension, it delivers decent ride quality and handling in its stock form, though the ride is a bit brittle for this segment. The sporty SX model handles slightly better, but it's by no means a sport sedan, and its ride is also firmer.