2014 Kia Optima Introduction

A standout in the crowded midsize sedan segment, the 2014 Kia Optima touts a surprisingly sophisticated design, a smooth, quiet ride and able driving dynamics. It's the best-selling Kia in the U.S.

For 2014, Optima gets a refresh, including redesigned front and rear ends and a new wheel design. Inside, the updated interior includes a redesigned instrument cluster with larger TFT display, a redesigned steering wheel, and additional standard and optional features.

Optima LX and Optima EX models use a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that makes 192 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This engine is short on excitement but fine for most drivers. Quiet at highway cruising speeds, it delivers enough power to keep up with fast traffic on the freeways. The 2014 Kia Optima rates an EPA-estimated 23/34 mpg City/Highway. (Note that fuel economy has been adjusted from the 2013 EPA estimates of 25/35 mpg City/Highway.)

The upper-level Optima SX comes standard with the 2.4-liter inline-4, or an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, easily our favorite engine on the 2014 Kia Optima. With 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, it boasts first-rate performance, stability and agility. Silky smooth, the turbocharged engine propels the Optima SX from 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds, on the quicker side of average for the class. Fuel economy suffers compared to the naturally aspirated version, with an EPA rating of 20/31 mpg City/Highway.

A top-of-the-line Optima Limited model includes the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, plus many more included standard features. The SX and Limited models also get a sport-tuned suspension.

Every Kia Optima is front-wheel drive and is equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Interior appointments and materials in all Optima models are handsome, generous, and of high quality for the class. Beautiful leather adorns the dashboard and seating, comfortable with firm support, including the rear. The design and layout of the instrumentation reflect thought and employ the latest technology. The expected conveniences are all there, plus bonuses such as a cooled glove compartment for keeping beverages cool.

Optima uses front-wheel drive and a four-wheel independent suspension that is athletic and responsive. We found the ride quality compliant over rougher pavement, filtering out harshness, while the suspension accurately communicates smaller bumps and ripples. The chassis is good, and although Optima is no performance sedan, its handling has a sporty glimmer.

Competitors to the Kia Optima include well-known midsize sedans such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata (the Optima's sister vehicle) and the Toyota Camry. Overall, the gasoline-powered Optima, with its sleek design and plethora of features, makes it one of the stronger choices in its class.

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