The experts at TheCarConnection.com consulted a number of professional review sources in compiling this extensive review on the 2009 Kia Optima. TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Optima and bring their experience to this review.
The 2009 Kia Optima is the Korean automaker's mid-size sedan. Although the Optima continues, as in previous model years, to favor comfort and frugality over style and trend-setting options, the Optima has been made a little more appealing for 2009 with a styling makeover and new engine options.
Both of the Kia Optima's engines receive power boosts for 2009, with the four-cylinder now producing 175 horsepower and the six-cylinder offering 194 hp. Five-speed transmissions are the norm on the front-wheel-drive Kia Optima lineup, with a manual coming standard on the four-cylinder and an automatic option; the V-6 comes exclusively with a five-speed automatic.
With the automatic transmission, there's not really much of a difference in performance between the two models, except the four-cylinder engine can coarsen under hard acceleration. At 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, its fuel economy is also slightly better than with the V-6.
The 2009 Kia Optima boasts a relatively pleasant ride, although running over larger bumps can be jarring. The Optima is clearly more comfortable on city streets than rural roads, where its crisp, responsive steering feel shines through, but it can't maintain its poise when navigating curvy back roads.
Last year's Kia Optima featured one of the roomiest cabins in its segment, and the addition of 3 more inches to the overall length for 2009 only helps in that regard. The Optima boasts good backseat legroom and headroom, and the big 14.8-cubic-foot trunk will swallow more gear than most of the Optima's competitors.
The base Kia Optima LX features standard cruise control, keyless entry and alarm, a manual tilt and telescopic steering column, radio controls on the steering wheel, and floor mats. The Optima LX, meanwhile, adds dual exhaust outlets and alloy wheels when equipped with the V-6. Moving up to the mid-range Optima EX, expect to find alloy wheels, fog lights, solar glass, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, automatic temperature control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Kia Optima EX also comes standard with an Infinity AM/FM/six-disc CD/MP3 premium audio system, and the V-6 gets dual exhaust outlets. The top-of-the-line Kia Optima SX picks up black leather, aluminum trim, and metal pedals.
The 2009 Kia Optima has top five-star results from the federal government in both frontal and side impact tests, along with a "good" rating in frontal impact and an "acceptable" rating in side impact from the insurance-affiliated IIHS. Standard safety equipment includes front and front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and active front headrests. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are available together as a packaged option on all but the base model.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Kia Optima is a thoroughly competent, comfortable mid-size sedan that's sorely lacking in personality and excitement--even with a modest spice-up for this year.