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2013 Kia Optima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Kia Optima was new.


Performance: 7.7

Auto critics agree that the 2013 Kia Optima is one of the more athletic performers in the class. They say that its more engaging to drive than many rivals and that even its base four-cylinder engine is potent. If you choose the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, reviewers say you’ll be happy to know that you’re getting V6-like power with four-cylinder fuel economy.

  • "After just a short time behind the wheel of the 2013 Kia Optima, we came away impressed, both by the car's driving dynamics and its 2.4-liter 4-cyinder engine." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As good as all this packaging is, it would be for naught if the Optima didn’t or couldn’t step up to the plate. In this regard, it did not disappoint." -- Left Lane News (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Kia Optima has two four-cylinder engines. The base engine is a 2.4-liter that produces 200 horsepower. The more powerful engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that makes 274 horsepower. Only a six-speed automatic transmission is available, as Kia dropped the six-speed manual that was found on the base 2012 model. The EPA estimates that Optima models with the base engine will get 24/35 mpg city/highway, while models with the turbocharged four-cylinder get 22/34 mpg.

Reviewers say that the 2013 Optima’s four-cylinder engines provide plenty of acceleration, and that even the base engine is powerful. This is a big compliment because most auto critics note that many base four-cylinder engines in affordable midsize cars are underpowered. Many say that models with the turbo four are more fun to drive, and reviewers like that it offers V6-like power and good fuel economy. The six-speed automatic is praised for being quick to respond and shifting smoothly.

  • "Both of the regular four-cylinder engines are impressive. They produce best-in-class power and are paired with responsive and smooth-shifting transmissions. The potential for truly impressive fuel economy is an ample slab of icing on the cake." -- Edmunds
  • "Whether it was passing slow-moving traffic or climbing steep grades, the 2013 Kia Optima's 4-cylinder engine never failed to impress us." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The standard 2.4-liter engine feels peppy in most driving situations. After a modest delay from a stop, the turbocharged engine accelerates much like a V6." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The 2013 Kia Optima’s handling and ride are described by test drivers as sporty yet comfortable. Most agree that it’s more athletic than many rivals through turns, but still feels comfortable over bumpy roads. One test driver notes vague steering. The Optima’s strong brakes receive positive comments.

  • "Non-Hybrid Optimas air on the sportier side of mainstream midsize sedans. The steering feels well balanced, and the brakes deliver smooth, linear stopping power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2013 Kia Optima rides comfortably without isolating you from the environment, although the numb steering with its artificially high effort is less praiseworthy. The overall driving experience is certainly pleasant and better than average for the segment." -- Edmunds
  • "The Optima offered a good balance between a soft ride on straight runs and fairly buttoned-down cornering control." -- Popular Mechanics (2011)
  • "Hitting the right notes with the mid-sized-sedan buyer is also evident in the way the Optima rides and handles. Contrary to what the auto enthusiast press would have you believe, the mid-size sedan driver is more concerned about quiet and a comfortable ride than about crisp handling, and we discovered that Kia engineers tuned the Optima's suspension with that bias in mind." -- Kelley Blue Book (2011)

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