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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
With its midsize roominess, economy pricetag, superb warranty, and nice list of standard features, the 2010 Kia Optima is a frugal and worthwhile alternative to its more well-known midsize competitors.The Bad
Loose steering and handling, plain styling, and average fuel economy all plague the 2010 Optima.
The CarGurus View
If you want to save a few dollars and don’t need to have the best-selling car on the street, the 2010 Kia Optima deserves your consideration. This midsize four-door might not turn heads, but it’s an affordable, dependable, and comfortable transportation option.
At a Glance
Looking for great value and subtle comfort in a midsize sedan? Look no further than the 2010 Kia Optima.
Previous Optima incarnations were largely unmemorable, but Kia has transformed this four-door over the years with a well-crafted and spacious interior, solid driving dynamics, and some minor yet shrewd exterior style changes. And Kia has done all that while keeping the Optima one of the least-expensive options in the loaded midsize class with an MSRP, depending on trim, ranging from $17,995 to $22,795, and backing it up with its outstanding 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Three trim levels are available for the 2010 Optima – LX, EX, and SX. The EX and SX are available with a V6, while the LX is available only with an inline four-cylinder (I4), although it does offer a manual or automatic transmission option.
The Optima received some significant changes in 2009, but remains largely unchanged for 2010 with the exception of standard keyless entry/ignition for the SX trim and the discontinuation of a V6 option for the base LX trim.
Some reviewers label the Optima “bland,” and it does have a fairly standard four-door shape and feel about it, but take an extra moment and some of its subtle details shine. The front headlamps slyly slant into the chrome-surrounded grille, which hovers above the faintly curving bumper and stylish foglights. The fender lines mimic the roofline, which slopes into the rear of the car in a refined, Audi-like manner. And the taillights have a unique shape that, once again, gives the Optima a quiet flair.
The I4 that comes standard with the LX trim and is available for the EX and SX trims produces 175 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 169 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, and gets 22 city/32 highway mpg, whether it's mated to the five-speed manual transmission (standard on the LX) or the five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (available on the LX and standard for all other trims).
The V6 that powers the EXV6 and SXV6 delivers 194 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 4,500, and gets 20 city/28 highway mpg when paired with the five-speed automatic transmission, the only transmission option for this engine.
Testers like the automatic transmission and its Sportmatic manual-shifting option, feeling it moves seamlessly between gears. Neither engine option provides amazing power, but more important is the slight upgrade in horsepower and torque from the I4 to the V6 - just 19 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft of torque for an extra $1,000. Many critics feel that kind of power upgrade isn’t worth the money.
Ride & Handling
The Optima is about function, not flash, when it comes to performance. It can commute, run errands, and take leisurely road trips with purposeful ease, but it won’t set records at the track or blow doors off the slow-moving on windy roads. The SX trim and its sport-tuned suspension offer better handling, especially in sharp corners, but even this trim is tame compared to many in the class.
The Optima's power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering splits critics, some feeling it’s too loose, and others claiming it offers crisp reactions. The brakes (hydraulic, power-assisted vacuum four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock with vented discs in the front and solid discs in the rear) also get mixed reviews that, in essence, equal out to about average.
The Optima's ride quality, however, is universally praised. It doesn’t have the floating feel of some luxury sedans, but the suspension (independent in the front with MacPherson struts, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar and multi-link with struts, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar in the rear) provides a comfortable ride that quietly absorbs road imperfections. The Optima’s steel unibody construction keeps the cabin very quiet, reducing road, wind, and engine noise.
Cabin & Comfort
The Optima’s cabin surprises many critics with its first-rate workmanship, extreme quiet, and stylish layout, all of which surpass the (low) expectations that come with Optima’s (low) pricetag.
The only common complaint among experts with the Optima’s interior concerns the seating, which some find very comfortable and others find too firm for long excursions. But there is no complaint about the spaciousness of the seats, which offer ample room for heads, legs, shoulders, and hips in both the front and back (104.2 cubic feet of passenger volume total). Optima’s trunk offers a generous 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
Standard features for the base LX include air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering column, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, and a CD/MP3 stereo with SIRIUS Satellite Radio and a USB/auxiliary input jack. The LX with automatic transmission adds cruise control, keyless entry, and a telescoping steering wheel. EX upgrades include automatic climate control, a trip computer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, foglights, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The SX gets aluminum interior trim, aluminum sport pedals, leather and cloth upholstery, unique exterior trim and interior instrumentation, 17-inch alloy wheels, and the sport-tuned suspension. Options for the EX and SX trims include Bluetooth, heated front seats, power sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, rear-window sunshade, power front passenger seat, and an Infinity audio system with 6-CD changer.
The Optima receives five stars (the highest possible score) in all government crash tests: driver, front-passenger frontal, side impact, and rear-passenger side impact. It earns a four-star rollover rating.
Standard safety features include dual front advanced airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active head restraints, electronic stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, side-impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones, an impact-absorbing steering column, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
What Owners Think
The most common compliment owners give their Optimas is “spacious.” They love the room for the driver, for the kids in the back seat, and the general airy feeling in the cabin. Perhaps in response to critics’ complaints about lack of power, many owners praise their Optima’s acceleration, though several note that it “jumps” when you hit the gas, leaving drivers feeling a bit anxious.
Owners also love the price of the Optima nearly as much as they love its roomy interior. They seem continually impressed by the amount of features and quality of vehicle they bought for around $20,000. They are also happy with its gas mileage and quiet ride.
by Tim O'Sullivan
Talk about the 2010 Kia Optima
Looking for a Used Optima in your area?CarGurus has 20,758 nationwide Optima listings starting at $3,250.