$5,349 - $6,576

2010 Kia Optima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Kia Optima was new.


Performance: 8.2

Shoppers interested in a fun-to-drive sedan should look elsewhere. The 2010 Optima will meet the needs of commuters, but it won’t exceed them. Four-cylinder editions show typical acceleration, but V6 models don’t match the speed of most V6 family sedans. Regardless of powerplant, the Optima’s handling is unimpressive. Shoppers who need a sub-$20,000 sedan but want to enjoy driving it might want to look at four-cylinder editions of the Ford Fusion, Mazda6 or Nissan Altima.

  • "The Kia team has made a commitment to blending the Optima's features into a nice combination of driving capabilities." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Among its competitors, the Optima's numbers are about midpack." -- Motor Trend (referring to track testing)

Acceleration and Power

Like most affordable midsize cars, the Kia Optima is offered with either a four-cylinder engine or a V6. The less-expensive 2.4-liter, four-cylinder base engine puts out 175 horsepower, which is a fairly typical output for this class. Its optional V6, however, adds just 15 more hp -- a small power boost for a significant price increase. Few reviewers recommend it. Reviewers generally recommend the five-speed automatic transmission over the manual option, which earns nothing but criticism.

According to the EPA, the four-cylinder Optima should get 22 mpg in city driving and 32 on the highway, while V6 editions earn a 20/28 mpg rating.

  • "Between stoplights the…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

Handling and Braking

Reviewer opinion of the Kia Optima’s handling varies, in part based on trim level. Reviewers who drove the sportier SX trim have more positive things to say. It offers a sport-tuned suspension that seems to improve the car’s ability to handle tight turns considerably. Reviewers who drove other trim levels complain of loose steering and unimpressive brakes. Still, those interested in a more athletic four-door under $20,000 may want to consider a four-cylinder Mazda6 instead.

  • "Spongy without the sport suspension." -- Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "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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