If you've been shopping around for a midsize sedan, you've probably heard that the 2014 Kia Optima and the 2014 Hyundai Sonata are mechanical twins. This means that they share nearly everything under the skin, from a platform and engines to drivetrains, transmissions and suspension components. What makes the two cars different, and why should you choose one over the other? To help you understand the differences, we'll explain all the key changes that separate the Kia Optima and the Hyundai Sonata.
The easiest way to tell the Optima and the Sonata apart is simply to look at the two cars. You'll quickly be able to spot the differences: While the Sonata uses swoopy, luxury-car-like lines, the Optima looks sportier and more aggressive with sharper edges. In fact, despite riding on the same platform, the Optima and Sonata look very different from one another -- more than most midsize sedans. That may be intentional; the Sonata is aimed at shoppers interested in a smoother, more luxurious sedan, while the Optima is designed for buyers interested in getting a little extra sport from their midsize sedan.
Inside, the Sonata and Optima are a lot more similar than their exterior styling would suggest. On the surface, the two cars still have distinctive looks: The Optima's stylized center stack is tilted toward the driver, for instance, in keeping with its sporty demeanor. The Sonata's controls are more easily accessible to both the driver and the front passenger. The cars offer a similar array of buttons, however, and if you look closely, you'll find that they even share a few switches. In terms of functionality, both interior room and trunk space are about the same, and the cars feature roughly the same array of features and options.
Under the hood, the Sonata and Optima are highly similar. Both cars come standard with standard front-wheel drive. They both use the same base engine: a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Drivers interested in more power can get an optional 274-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in either car, and both the Sonata and Optima also offer a hybrid version with a 199-hp hybrid 4-cylinder that returns 35 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Additionally, both cars use a standard 6-speed automatic transmission for all versions. In essence, when it comes to the mechanicals, the Optima and Sonata are largely the same vehicle.
As you might expect given their similarities under the skin, the Sonata and Optima are highly alike when it comes to equipment. The main difference is the names of the infotainment systems (UVO for the Optima and Blue Link for the Sonata), but much of the available equipment is the same.
In both the Optima and the Sonata, base models (LX for the Optima and GLS for the Sonata) feature only the basics, such as keyless entry, power accessories, alloy wheels, an iPod/USB interface and Bluetooth. Add the most popular option package (dubbed the LX Convenience package in the Optima and the Popular Equipment package in the Sonata), and you'll get a backup camera and a power driver's seat.
Go for the sporty model (SE for the Sonata and SX for the Optima), and you'll get 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, dual exhaust tips and other items. Interestingly, the Optima SX and Sonata SE appear to receive the same upgraded sport suspension, even though the Optima is pitched as a slightly sportier model.
When it comes to options, the Sonata and Optima are, once again, remarkably close. Both have a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, 17-in alloy wheels, keyless and push-button ignition, a power passenger's seat and heated rear seats. While both models offer the features in different packages available at different prices, neither one stands out for any unique content, whether standard or optional.
Considering that the Optima and Sonata use the same basic designs that date back to 2011, each vehicle does a surprisingly good job of incorporating some of the latest gadgets into the standard and optional equipment lists. For example, both the Sonata and Optima offer rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system, HD Radio and a panoramic sunroof. They also both tout available infotainment systems (UVO in the Optima and Blue Link in the Sonata) with large 8-in touchscreen displays. Yet again, neither car offers any major features not available in the other.
The Optima and Sonata incorporate a wide range of modern safety features such as xenon headlights, rear cross-traffic alert (which monitors oncoming traffic to help you back out of parking spaces) and a blind spot monitoring system. A few features are notably absent, however, including forward-collision alert, adaptive cruise control and automatic wipers. Both the Sonata and the Optima feature a standard telematics system that boasts features such as remote door unlocking and emergency crash notification in case of an accident.
Although the 2014 Kia Optima and the 2014 Hyundai Sonata look wildly different, closer examination reveals that they're more similar than you might think. They share standard and optional features, and neither model offers any major equipment advantages over the other. They share engines, a suspension, a platform and a chassis, and they have surprisingly similar interiors. In conclusion, should you find yourself considering the Kia Optima or Hyundai Sonata when searching for a midsize sedan, we suggest buying the one that you think looks the best or the one that's offering the best deal.