2006 Kia Optima
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2015.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Far more buyers of reasonably priced economy-oriented cars are likely to notice the much-improved revamped 2006 Kia Optima midsize sedan.
The new Optima has slicker styling, more power and added safety features. And prices for the slightly larger, more refined new Optima are close to those of the often overlooked 2001-2006 version.
Low prices, lots of standard equipment and an impressive warranty have drawn many to Kia showrooms. For instance, Optima rivals such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6 start with similar prices and come with a standard automatic transmission, but lack the Optima's standard safety features.
Such features include no less than six airbags, including front-seat side airbags and newly standard side-curtain airbags. There's also a tire-pressure monitor and anti-whiplash front head restraints.
Kia is putting more marketing muscle behind the new Optima. Its predecessor received little marketing support, and most folks wanting a Kia sedan brushed past it in showrooms and headed for the automaker's Spectra model.
The front-wheel-drive Optima has quick steering and a decent ride, but the softness of an older Buick and thus just average handling. The brake pedal has a linear action to help provide smooth stops.
The 4-cylinder provides an estimated 24 mpg in the city and 34 on highways with both manual and automatic transmissions. The V6 delivers 22 and 30 with the automatic.
The more upscale EX trim level is available only with the automatic transmission. It costs $19,395 with the 4-cylinder and $20,400 with the V6.
Most Optima customers are expected to get the 4-cylinder with an automatic transmission. It's anticipated that the majority of buyers will be in their 30s to mid-40s.
Added to the EX are automatic climate control, an upgraded sound system and a power driver's seat.
Options for all Optima trim levels include $300 anti-lock brakes and a $300 package that has stability control and traction control.
Exclusive EX extras are an $800 sunroof and a $1,300 leather upholstery package with a power front passenger seat and power-adjustable pedals.
While sleeker than its predecessor, the new Optima won't turn heads, but that's no drawback because most midsize Japanese sedan buyers haven't wanted flashy styling.
Roomy New Interior
Front seats are supportive, and the rear-seat area is impressively roomy—although the back seat has a stiff center area. Oversized door handles help allow easy entry.
The instrument panel has a design that curves at the corners and flows on to the door panels. Gauges can be easily read, climate controls are large and radio controls are simple to use. There are a decent number of storage areas for smaller items, and front cupholders are conveniently located on the console. Sun visor vanity mirrors have ceiling lights—an upscale touch. However, some interior surfaces feel rough.
The seatbacks have trunk releases that were hard to use on my test car, but prevent thieves from gaining entry to the trunk from the back seat.
Kia hopes the redesigned Optima will help it reach its goal of 500,000 annual U.S. sales by 2010. It's looking for at least 50,000 annual sales here of the Optima, or about 10,000 more than it annually has been selling in recent years.
Optima buyers shouldn't expect Toyota or Honda resale values, but neither can owners of most family sedans.