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2006 Kia Optima Sedan

4dr Sdn EX Auto

Starting at | Starting at 22 MPG City - 30 MPG Highway

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  • $19,100 original MSRP
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2006 Kia Optima Sedan

Printable Version

2006 Kia Optima Sedan

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2006 Kia Optima

Source: New Car Test Drive

Overview

Kia continues to climb upmarket, and the introduction of the new 2006.5 Kia Optima is a primary example.

This newest Optima features new engines that are more powerful and more efficient than before, and a new five-speed automatic transmission that offers improved smoothness, efficiency and acceleration performance. Highway fuel economy has been improved by as much as 10 percent over the previous-generation Optima.

Higher quality materials and improved fit and finish create a more comfortable interior. More powerful and fully featured audio selections entertain and soothe during trying drives. A lengthened body and higher roof add roominess. A new platform with a longer wheelbase and updated suspension combine with larger wheels and tires to deliver a smoother ride and more responsive handling.

It's priced aggressively, too, with the manufacturer's suggested retail price for the base LX model a mere $160 more than its predecessor, and that's with the addition of important safety features. The uplevel EX model's MSRP jumps $1500, but again, this is with the new safety features, added creature comforts and improved sound deadening.

Two important accident-avoidance features, antilock brakes and electronic stability control, are available only as options, but are remarkably affordable.

The competition hasn't stood still, of course. And at some levels, like on the top rungs of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry lines, even this newest Optima doesn't pretend to belong. But it's still a marked step up from its predecessor and as such, a very impressive package.

A cautionary note, however, regarding our repeated use of the word newest. For a while, there are likely to be two different Optimas in dealer showrooms labeled as 2006 models. One is the final iteration of the first-generation Optima. The other, and the one that's the subject of this review, is the first of the second-generation. Kia nominally calls this latter Optima a 2006.5 model, although it is, in fact if not officially, the 2007 Optima. This confusing overlap results from an arcane U.S. government regulation rooted in the yesteryear of automotive time when all new models appeared in showrooms in the fall of the preceding calendar year. Thus, if a U.S.-specification car today is first built in, say, the fall of 2005, as this Optima was in South Korea, it cannot legally be designated a 2007 model car. And for some silly reason, officials at the Korean companies actually think the year starts on January 1 and ends December 31.

Boiled down, the message here is, make sure you're looking at the new version as it's substantially improved over the outgoing version.

Model Lineup

The Kia Optima is a four-door, five-passenger sedan available with a choice of two engines: a four cylinder with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, and a V6 with the five-speed automatic.

The Optima LX with the four-cylinder and manual transmission is the most affordable ($16,355). It gets more expensive with the five-speed automatic ($17,650) and moves up another rung with the V6 and automatic ($19,345). With either engine, the five-speed automatic boasts a Sportmatic feature for semi-manual shifting should the driver decide to shift out of Drive.

Standard creature comforts on all Optima models include cloth upholstery; filtered air conditioning; power windows, central locking and heated, outside mirrors; six-speaker, AM/FM/CD stereo; six-way, manually adjustable driver seat; tilt steering wheel; and P205/60R16 Kumho tires on hubcapped, steel wheels. Swapping the manual transmission for the automatic adds, or substitutes, cruise control, keyless remote, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, and Michelin tires. Alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips are added when the V6 is ordered.

Options on the base LX comprise a rear spoiler ($200) and carpeted floor mats ($85). With the automatic, buyers can order an Appearance Package ($1000) with alloy wheels, blacked out headlight backing and grille, semi-luminescent instrument cluster, aluminum interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, trip computer, auto-headlights and fog lamps. The V6's Appearance Package ($800) upgrades 17-inch Michelin tires and alloy wheels.

The Optima EX comes with either the four-cylinder ($19,395) or the V6 ($20,400), both with the five-speed Sportmatic. Feature upgrades on the EX include automatic climate control; eight-way power driver seat; Infinity stereo with external amplifier, six speakers plus subwoofer, MP3 and cassette functions and in-dash, six-CD changer; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and auto-dimming inside rearview mirror.

EX options include an Appearance Package ($1500) that builds on the LX Appearance Package with leather-faced seats and a black interior trim; a Leather Package ($1300) with leather seats, heated front seats, four-way power front passenger seat, power adjustable pedals and manual rear window shade; power slide-and-tilt sunroof ($800); and pearl white exterior paint ($100).

Safety features on all models include the mandated front airbags and child safety seat anchors (LATCH), plus front seat-mounted side airbags, to protect the upper body in side crashes, and front-and-rear coverage side curtain airbags, to protect an occupant's head in a side impact or rollover. Antilock brakes are optional ($300) but not available on the LX with the four-cylinder engine. Also offered only on the LX V6 and the EX is the Electronic Stability Package ($300) with electronic stability control, to assist the driver in controlling the car in emergency maneuvers and bad weather; traction control, to limit tire slippage under hard acceleration or on slick roads; and brake assist, which boosts and extends brake application when the system senses an emergency stop. Although priced separately, ABS and ESP cannot be ordered individually, to which we can't object, as we'd want both.

Walkaround

The new Kia Optima doesn't stretch any styling envelope or add to automotive design vocabulary. It does, however, slip smoothly and unobtrusively into the mainstream of the mid-size, mid-price sedan segment.

What the design community would call the Optima's face could be that of any number of Asian-branded cars. A cleanly separated, geometrically proportioned grille fills the space between nicely sized headlights tucked into the upper corners of the fenders. A deeply shadowed air intake with space at each end for the optional fog lamps runs the width of the car beneath the bumper molded into the one-piece fascia. Creases defining a gentle hood bulge draw the eye from the grille to the A-pillars at the sides of the windshield. Stance is solid, with tires pushed to the corners to yield almost an inch wider track (distance between the tires side to side) than the previous Optima and equal to or better than the primary competitors, save the 2007 Camry, which it trails by a mere half-inch.

In side view, save for a hint of Audi in the hindmost quarter, the newest Optima could pass for, well, pick a middle-of-the-road, midsize car. And not only in looks, but by the tape measure, as well, with a wheelbase (the distance between the wheels front to rear) that essentially splits the differences between the 2006 Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion, although shorter by more than two inches than the '07 Camry. In overall length (bumper to bumper), however, the Optima leans toward the tauter end of the scale, giving up from three to five inches to the others, although a comparatively deep rear side door tends to mask this brevity.

Oddly enough, in terms of taillight shapes and overall perspective, the Optima's rear aspect strongly reminds us of a larger iteration of a Toyota Corolla of a decade or so ago. It's a balanced look, with clean and reasonably tight gaps and a fully integrated, molded-in bumper. Rear track is wider, too, more than an inch from the previous year and now within tenths of an inch of most of the competition, adding to the newest Optima's more planted look. Dual exhaust tips give of touch of visual pizzazz to the V6 Optimas.

Interior Features

While there's nothing especially striking about the new Kia Optima's exterior, the inside shows the occasional, if muted, spark.

Instruments are basic but well presented, mixing a large, round speedometer and matching tachometer with horizontal, bar graph-like, LED fuel and engine coolant monitors. The Appearance Package brings a blue-tinted, faux electroluminescent speedo and tach that, while not quite Lexus grade, are nevertheless eye-pleasing upgrades.

Hard plastic trim sweeps smoothly across from door handle to door handle, with good-sized vent registers at each end of the dash and bracketing the center control panel. The climate control panel is a paragon of finger- and glove-friendly knobs and buttons and easy-to-read digital display. The stereo head is up top, where it belongs, but other than the volume and tuning knobs, the buttons and rocker switches fall short of the ease-of-use standard set by the panel below; station presets, for example, are ganged, two to a rocker, requiring extra care to press the proper half for the desired station. A curious, almost retro, but somehow welcome feature on the EX's audio system is a cassette tape player, popular for books on tape. The uplevel aluminum trim should prove better at resisting the scratches so common on coated plastic panels. There aren't a lot of pieces to the dash, either, and what seams there are mostly run horizontally. This should suppress tendencies for the pieces to loosen over time, which bodes well for keeping buzzes, squeaks and rattles minimized.

The driver's seat is more supportive than the front passenger's seat, with a deeper seat bottom, although both are comfortable, with good upper side bolsters and modestly cupped bottom cushions. The rear seat is contoured more than many in the segment, which is fine for the two sitting closest to the doors, but not so fine for the occasional third person buckled into the center position. Cloth upholstery feels durable, the not-quite-glove-soft leather equally so. Lights for the vanity mirrors are recessed in the headliner, instead of looking you straight in the eye from the visor.

Rear seat legroom is up by fully an inch and a half over the previous Optima, and better by an inch or so than the Accord and Fusion but shy of the Malibu and 2007 Camry by a half-inch or more. In headroom, front and rear, the new Optima tops all but the Accord and loses to the Honda by only half an inch. In front seat hiproom, and despite losing almost half an inch in overall width, the new Optima still betters the Fusion and the Malibu, the latter by more than an inch and a half, but comes up a tenth of an inch short of the Accord and Camry. But in rear seat hiproom, the Optima reigns supreme, by at least an inch. Finally, while the new Optima offers 1.2 cubic feet more trunk space than its predecessor, it betters only the Accord's 14 cubic feet, giving up a fraction of a cubic foot to the Malibu and Camry and a full cubic foot to the Fusion. Articulated, gas-strut hinges leave the trunk opening clear and free of grocery bag-crushing goosenecks.

Other storage is respectable, with a glove box easily large enough to accommodate gloves plus the owner's manual, a cell phone and a radar detector; magazine pouches on the back sides of the front seatbacks; four cup holders, two in front and two in the fold-down rear center armrest, all with spring-loaded clips to brace a variety of sizes and shapes; a covered slot in the center stack good for garage door remotes and such; a smallish bin forward of the shift lever that'll likely collect as much dust and detritus as any truly necessary tidbits; fixed, hard-plastic map pockets in the front doors; and a deep center console with auxiliary power point and a groove to accommodate a cord with the top latched. On the EX, this console bin is capped with a bi-level lid, thoughtfully fitted with a pass-through between the levels for power cords. One featu

Driving Impressions

With a few reservations and qualifications, a day behind the wheel of the new Kia Optima is a pleasant way to cover some miles.

The LX with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission can actually be fun to drive, if not necessarily exhilarating. The engine is surprisingly peppy, thanks to the best-in-segment torque. Brake pedal feel on the car we drove at the press introduction was solid and firm, with equally comforting response from the four-wheel discs. The clutch and gearbox were more family-sedan grade than sporty. The steering felt a little light, almost too responsive, which tended to give the car a top-heavy feel; once recognized, though, it was easily managed. Engine and exhaust sounds were throatier, more robust, and therefore more pleasant, than we're used to from four-cylinder powerplants.

The EX with V6 and automatic is the cruiser of the Optima line. Although its power trails other V6s in the segment (as does the size of the engine, so no real surprise here), it does a decent job of getting the car started and keeping it moving. The car's modest curb weight, a hundred pounds or so below the segment's average, helps somewhat, but we still wouldn't race for pinks with any comparably equipped competitor. And only against the Fusion and the Accord would we wager our gas bills. But for getting from here to there, be it to work or to the lake for the weekend, calmly and comfortably, this is the one.

The package Kia expects to be the best seller is the EX with four cylinder and automatic, and this is the model with which we spent the most time and on which we racked up several hundred miles of normal, everyday use. It doesn't seem as quick in terms of acceleration as with the manual, but gear ratios are matched to make the most of the engine's power. Left alone, the automatic's shifts are smooth, if not invisible, and while downshifts for quick passes could be more prompt, we never scared ourselves, or our passengers. The Sportmatic feature allowed more control over gear selection and timing of shifts, but with the dedicated, sequential slot on the passenger side of the shift gate, using it wasn't as intuitive as it should be. The shift pattern feels natural, however, with higher gears selected by pushing up, lower gears by pulling down.

Ride quality varied between the cars we drove, with the LX wearing the Kumho tires on 16-inch wheels the less compliant, although by no means rough or bumpy. This surprised us, as generally the taller a tire's sidewall, the more give and the better the ride, and on the Optima, the 17-inch wheels wear the lower-profile Michelin tires with shorter sidewalls. On the other hand, and probably because of the sidewall height, the EX delivered the crisper, more responsive handling. This isn't to imply the EX is a sports sedan, given its forward-weight bias and comfort-oriented suspension settings, but merely that it's the more enjoyable of the two models.

Overall, against a comparably outfitted and priced Malibu, Fusion, Accord or Camry, the newest Optima is competitive in terms of ride and handling and comfort. Accord and Camry models at the higher end of those lines surpass the Optima in suppressing and filtering wind and road noise, but only barely, and, for the most part, in ride and handling as well.

Summary

The first Optima made a statement: Kia wants to be a contender. The second-generation Optima, this one, delivers. Although its engines are not the most powerful in the segment, in other important ways, the Optima is every bit as good as any equally equipped, direct competitor. It's as solid, as comfortable, as quiet, as well built, and as economical. Especially that last one, the major measure: price. What a deal.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Yountville, California.

Model Line Overview
Base Price (MSRP)
$16,355
Model lineup:
Kia Optima LX 5M ($16,355); LX 5A ($17,650); LX 5A V6 ($19,345); EX ($19,395); EX V6 ($20,400)
Engines:
161-hp 2.4-liter inline-4; 185-hp 2.7-liter V6
Transmissions:
5-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Safety equipment (Standard):
front airbags; front seat-mounted, side airbags; full-coverage, side-curtain airbags; front-seat, active head restraints; rear-seat, child safety seat anchors (LATCH); tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (Optional):
Electronic Stability Package with electronic stability control, traction control and brake assist; antilock brakes
Basic warranty:
5 years/60,000 miles
Assembled in:
Hwasung, South Korea
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSRP):
Kia Optima EX ($19,395)
Standard equipment:
automatic, filtered climate control; AM/FM/CD/MP3/cassette stereo with 6-disc changer; power windows, central locking and heated outside mirrors; cruise control; 8-way power driver seat; leather-wrapped shift knob and tilt-and-telescope steering wheel
Options as tested:
Leather Package ($1300) includes leather seat trim, heated front seats, 4-way power front passenger seat, power-adjustable pedals, manual rear window sunshade; power sunroof with tilt ($800); ABS ($300); ESP ($300)
Destination charge:
600
Gas Guzzler Tax:
N/A
Price as tested (MSRP)
$22,695
Layout:
front-wheel drive
Engine:
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):
161 @ 5800
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):
163 @ 4250
Transmission:
5-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:
24/34 mpg.
Wheelbase:
107.1 in.
Length/width/height:
186.4/71.1/58.3 in.
Track, f/r:
61.5/61.1 in.
Turning circle:
35.5 ft.
Seating capacity:
5
Head/hip/leg room, f:
39.8/54.5/43.7 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:
38/54.7/37.8 in.
Cargo volume:
14.8 cu. ft.
Payload:
N/A
Towing capacity:
2000 lbs.
Suspension F:
independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs, gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar
Suspension R:
independent, multi-link, coil springs, gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar
Ground clearance:
6.3 in.
Curb weight:
3179 lbs.
Tires:
P205/60R16
Brakes, f/r:
vented disc/vented disc with ABS, Brake Assist in.
Fuel capacity:
16.4 gal.

Printable Version

2006 Kia Optima Sedan

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade
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Passenger Crash Grade
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Rollover Resistance
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Side Impact Crash Test - Front
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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear
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Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Std
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Std
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std

Security

Alarm Std
Printable Version

2006 Kia Optima Sedan

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Drivetrain 10 Years/100,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/100,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance 5 Years/60,000 Miles

Kia Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

120-months/100,000-mile Powertrain warranty from original in-service date
Age/Mileage Eligibility up to 5 model years old w/ less than 60,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 150
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance 10-Year/Unlimited Mileage from In-Service Date
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $50

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2006 Kia Optima Sedan

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