2009 Kia Optima Expert Review

You'll Like The 2009 Kia Optima If...

If you're looking for a four-door sedan with responsive driving characteristics, a lot of features and an attractive price, the 2009 Kia Optima should be on your shopping list. It's handsome, offers impressive safety features and represents a good value for the money.

You May Not Like The 2009 Kia Optima If...

If you absolutely crave attention, the Optima's new exterior, which some may describe as subtle, still may not grab your eyes – or anyone else's. And, despite generous interior volume for the category, this midsize package won't be big enough for larger families.

What's New

The Kia Optima receives a major freshening, with a new front end, revised rear end and an upgraded interior. The 2009 model gains over two additional inches in length, as well as a new, more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Other news includes the addition of a new trim, the SX, and an available onboard navigation unit.

Interior Features

Kia continues to offer increasingly worthwhile upgrades in interior design, materials and safety. Even in base LX form, the Optima's interior materials rate well above merely acceptable. On those cars with leather we were impressed by the leather's tone and its perforated texture. However, the front seat cushions, though comfortable, could still do with a bit more upward angle. The new "barrel-type" instrument cluster imparts a racy feel, as does new red backlighting. As the Optima is intended to appeal to young families, safety receives an appropriate emphasis. Its standard airbag arrangement includes advanced dual front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags, along with full-length side-curtain airbags.

Exterior Features

While unobtrusively styled, the 2009 Kia Optima is still modern and attractive. The profile is fronted by an attractive yet vaguely Accord-like grille flanked by cat-eye halogen headlights. The passenger cabin provides a nice balance between outward visibility and efficient aerodynamics. Front and rear overhangs are fairly short, while the fenderwells are nicely filled with either the standard 16-inch or the available 17-inch tires. The overall effect is that the Optima looks balanced and secure, in a way that is modern and even sporting.

Driving Impressions

The Kia team has made a commitment to blending the Optima's features into a nice combination of driving capabilities. In what might be considered as unexpected for a Korean brand, the Optima is actually fun to drive. 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.

Pricing Notes

With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $18,000, the base 2009 Kia Optima LX's value is obvious. The four-cylinder EX starts around $21,000 and includes numerous worthwhile additional features, while the sporty SX starts closer to $22,000. More options can move the price upward from there, so budget-minded buyers may find the LX to be a better value. While the LX Optima's value is a no-brainer, a loaded EX enlarges the competitive field to include such vehicles as the Honda Accord and the Volkswagen Jetta. Unfortunately, the Optima's resale figures are near the bottom of the pack, falling well below the class leaders from Honda, Toyota and even Ford and Chevrolet.

Notable Equipment

The Optima continues Kia's tradition of providing a generous level of standard equipment for an attractive price. Our test LX model, with the four-cylinder engine, included power heated exterior mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, four-wheel disc brakes, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, a split folding rear seat and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 compatible audio system with auxiliary and USB input jacks. Beyond that, it offered gas shock absorbers and front and rear anti-roll bars, features often available only as parts of "sport" or "handling" packages with other cars. Standard safety equipment includes front side airbags, side curtain airbags, traction and stability control and anti-lock brakes.

Notable Options

For those wanting a higher level of comfort, convenience and functionality, there is available leather seat trim, power and heated front seats, a manually-operated rear-window shade, power-adjustable pedals, automatic climate control, alloy wheels, power moonroof, Infinity sound system and subwoofer (part of the Premium Package) and other features and options. A new in-dash navigation unit is offered on all but the LX trim.

Favorite Features

2.4-liter Four-Cylinder Engine

Although its specifications aren't too dissimilar from others in the midsize segment, the Optima's all-aluminum 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers a pleasant character that is involving for the driver. It offers crisp response and decent power, and is so good that, on balance, there seems little justification for either the additional expense or the greater fuel consumption of the V6.


Navigation

Usually an option available only on top-of-the-line trims, Kia offers its navigation unit on all but the entry level LX.

Under the Hood

Our driving experience was limited to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. In both instances we were pleased by the new engine's responsiveness, and the transmission gearing was well matched to the engine's characteristics. The addition of variable valve timing helps bump output to a respectable 175 horsepower. Other than its superior passing and uphill acceleration advantages, we see little benefit in opting for the V6, given the balance, efficiency and entirely acceptable performance of the in-line four.


2.4-liter in-line 4

175 horsepower @6000 rpm

169 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32


2.7-liter V6

194 horsepower @ 6000 rpm

184 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28

Editors' Notes

The 2009 Kia Optima continues to offer buyers a well-built, well-equipped family sedan for less money than the competition. Based on the same platform as the Hyundai Sonata, the Optima distances itself with a new, sportier exterior and interior treatments, as well as a significantly lower base price. Over the last few years Kia has made impressive strides in both quality and content and, while not yet on par with such giants as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the Optima comes very close. The Optima provides a roomy, comfortable interior, a large trunk and a choice between a fuel-efficient four-cylinder or a powerful V6 engine. Even the most basic models include such standard safety features as side-curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints.

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Owner Reviews

4.02

66 Reviews

32% 44% 20% 3% 2%

Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

Kia Optima 2009 my little tank car.

1) the reverse has a pull ring, and is at the upper most left gear on my stick. 2) my clutch is shorter than most that I am accustomed too. 3) I do not have a door/lock clicker on my key fob, which I have learned to do without. It’s a great car, excellent on gas and has not “nickel & dimed” me at all. I put studded tires on for winter (northern me) and this car drives like a 4x4 tank. The only thing that would make this car a better vehicle, is if it were a pick up truck & had a hitch. Overall pleased.

- Leda W

This is a very reliable vehicle that comes with a great warranty.

I had a Kia Spectra prior to the Optima and was impressed with the quality, price, and reliability. The Optima was an upgrade to bigger, more stylish vehicle. It's starting to show some wear and tear over 9 years but is still very reliable. Only thing I don't like is that there is a clicking solenoid every time the break is released. In stop and go traffic it gets very annoying. Also, locked my keys in it once and was able to use the warranty to have it opened - cool

- Steve C

My car has wonderful gas mileage.

I love the fact that I get really good gas mileage for my car. My trunk is huge, which has always been a plus. I have never broken down, but I have kept up pretty good maintenance on my vehicle as well. The sound system is decent, but my AUX cord outlet works when it wants to. I thing the thing I don't like about my car is the type of interior on the seats. It is light colored, it is almost like a sofa pillow texture; it shows every little stain, I wish it was leather.

- Alexis G