$3,213 - $4,270

2009 Kia Optima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Kia Optima was new.


Performance: 8.2

The 2009 Kia Optima is a competent performer, but this car isn't aimed at driving enthusiasts. With one of the lower sticker prices in its class, the Optima makes a respectable "bang for the buck" argument for itself. In track testing, it outperforms a significant number of more expensive cars, but it doesn't approach the class leaders. 

According to the EPA, the 2009 Optima with the four-cylinder engine should manage 22/32 mpg city/highway. With the automatic, the same engine should manage 22/32 mpg. The V6-powered Optima with an automatic transmission is rated at 20/28 mpg.

  • "The Kia team has made a commitment to blending the Optima's features into a nice combination of driving capabilities." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Kia Optima has a more powerful set of engine choices than previous generations of the car. Its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder base engine puts out 175 horsepower, which is a respectable amount of thrust in the midsize class. Its optional V6 adds 15 more horses, but many reviewers say that isn't enough of a boost to justify the added expense. The more fuel-efficient four will do fine for most buyers.

  • "Between stoplights the 2009 Kia Optima V6 feels powerful, but that engine runs out of steam as the rpm climb. Passing power is adequate but unimpressive for a V6 in this class." -- Edmunds
  • "Whichever engine you decide upon, the five-speed automatic is the tranny of choice, with its seamless quality and Sportmatic manual shifting." -- Motor Trend
  • "The shifter feel is oddly artificial and the clutch offers no feedback. I blame that, and the engine's lack of low-end torque, for the fact that I stalled the Optima at least a half-dozen times." -- About.com

Handling and Braking

A sportier SX trim level, with a more tautly-tuned suspension, has been added for 2009. Reviewers are generally impressed with the Optima's composure for its price, though few would label it an athletic option.

  • "Movements of the steering wheel are rewarded with crisp reactions into corners, body roll is minimal and the Optima enjoys a balanced feel, particularly when you consider it's a modestly-priced front-wheel-drive sedan. We found it completely engaging and enjoyable." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The suspension treads the middle ground between overt softness and punishing firmness, resulting in a setup that's definitely taut, yet able to smooth out bumps and depressions in the road." -- Cars.com
  • "Faster, livelier steering is needed to wake up our slumbering perkiness meter." -- Car and Driver
  • "Brake feel is unimpressive and not very progressive, and the pedal travel is too long." -- Edmunds

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