Kia's New Value—The 2006 Optima

Physician's Money Digest, July 2006, Volume 13, Issue 7

With energy costs still inthe stratosphere, weare reconsidering howwe transport ourselves,where and what we drive. When petroleumshortages take place in the future,low-octane gasoline will be more commonlyavailable. Luxury and performancecars that require premium gas willbe at a disadvantage. Even with highgasoline prices, the existing crop ofearly hybrids are a bad financial deal.Past petroleum shortages limited theamount of fuel you could buy, so thecars that got the most miles per gallonwere the vehicles least encumbered bythe situation. High fuel economyaffords increased freedom of movement.Consider this simple way todecrease your family's energy footprint.

Driving Experience

Kia is raising the level of expectationin what your automotive dollar buys.Two examples of this are two 2006Kias: the Sedona and the Optima. Kiahas gone to great care by working onthe basics of building a great automobile.Kia is not building cars that talk toyou, have Bluetooth, or house a complicatednavigation system. They areclearly avoiding these distractions tofocus on proving that they build excellenthigh-value vehicles.

The Optima's exterior styling ispleasant, quiet, and distinctive, whichis a special blend of Asia with manystyling and performance cues fromEurope built for the American market.For example, many Optimas will havea monochromatic paint look and alack of bright chrome—a style originatedin Europe. The interior alsoshows great European influence fromthe attractive deviating interior colorsthrough the gauges, where you caneasily see the influence of Porsche,Audi, and Volkswagen. The seating ispleasantly firm and supportive.

Features and Options

To get the ride right, the experts inKorea brought in an expert fromScotland, Gordon Dickey, who has aunique level of sports sedan experience,having worked for many automakers.Because of Dickey and hiscoworkers, the Optima is an enjoyabledrive. Most auto writers will agree thatover the past 30 years, Volkswagenshave been consistently fun and entertainingcars when you are behind thewheel at speed. The new Optimareaches that level—the steering isresponsive, accurate, and quick withno kicking feedback. The 4-cylinderengine transaxle doesn't search forgears; instead it goes right to the gearyou tell it to with your foot on theaccelerator pedal. With variable valvetiming the 4-cylinder is quick and elastic.The aluminum engine has dual-overheadcams and 16 valves per cylinder,which runs wonderfully well onthe cheapest gasoline available.

Some of the Kia Optima's main competitorsinclude the Hyundai Elantra,Dodge Neon, and Chevrolet Cobalt.The Optima is loaded with standardfeatures that make it a better value thanmany of its competitors, such as tirepressure monitors and disc brakes at allfour wheels. Even the least expensivemodel offers standard features likepower driver's seat, dual heated poweroutside mirrors, body side molding, anda glass-integrated antenna. With comparableoptions to its competitors, theOptima will come out $2000 to $3000less. The base model Kia Optima startsat $16,355. For the best economy andluxury, our choice would be to loadup the LX 4-cylinder with automatictransmission with the appearancepackage, which adds 17-inch tires withalloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steeringwheel, and more.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent researchreporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.