By on March 14, 2010

Quick, want to guess what the single piece brings more traffic to TTAC than any other? Thanks to an early Korean-spec test (don’t worry, further tests of the US-spec model are forthcoming) and the blessings of good Google rankings, our 2011 Hyundai Sonata review has been our single biggest source of traffic over the last several months. But getting a review out early isn’t the only reason so many folks are finding their way to TTAC by way of the Sonata: people are researching the car like crazy. Kelly Blue Book lists the Sonata as its number four most-researched vehicle, as does Edmunds.com, indicating that it’s poised to play with the perennial chart-toppers from Honda and Toyota. Meanwhile, Kia still has yet to make the jump to mainstream prominence, although its version of the Sonata  (still unfortunately named Optima) could be an important step in Korea’s bid to make inroads on the US market. Certainly its Peter Schreyer-designed lines won’t have anyone confusing the Optima with a decontented Sonata.

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43 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Kia’s Optima-sm Edition...”


  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I see nothing wrong with it. I’m really digging Kia’s new design style, especially the new grill that manages to look sporty, high-class, and unpretentious all at the same time.

    I’d go as far as to say that this looks a lot better than the 2011 Sonata, which IMO suffers from too much ‘meltyness’ in the design, especially in the grill.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you that this car looks better than the Sonata.

      But, I also agree with anyone on here who remarks on the blatant copying of the Ford Fusion because its just so obvious.

      I’m also not happy that this thing has LED lamps because pretty soon LED lighting is gonna be so “whack” if cars as lowly as KIAs are coming with them.

      The Sonata is a decent car for its price but I’m suprised reviewers aren’t remarking on the terrible cheapo plastic interior.
      http://www.epinions.com/review/2011_Hyundai_Sonata_epi/content_504784391812

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I was waiting for this car to come out, because I liked everything about the Sonata on paper, but the styling just didn’t work for me. The new Optima has way better styling, and if the mechanicals are from the new Sonata, this car will be a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The only thing the Optima has in common w/ the Fusion are the slanted rectangular headlights which are angled downward.

      The Fusion is hardly the only model w/ such headlights; other vehicles like the Lexus RX and Saab 9-3 have similar headlights.

      The kicker is that the Kia Kue concept, dating back to 2007 and PREDATING all of them, had the slanted rectangular headlights, angled downward.

      http://www.leftlanenews.com/cars/image_popup/newgallery.php?postid=4645&defimage=http%3A%2F%2Fphotos.leftlanenews.com%2Fphotos%2Fimageresizeronfly%2FphpThumb.php%3Fsrc%3D%2Fphotos%2Fcontent%2F2-kia-kue-concept.jpg

      As for the interior of the new Sonata, it varies from trim to trim – while the GLS has a bit too much hard plastic on the interior of the doors, the LTD trim has a feel that many consider upscale.

  • avatar
    detlump

    It looks OK. I also don’t like the new melted Sonata. It’s has elements of Ford Fusion, Taurus LED bar also. It’s similar to the Japanese, copying various elements and mish-mashing them together. I am not sure that the Kia grille works in this instance. Can’t leave out the fender vent either I see. It’s fine for what most will use it for, a commuting appliance. It is not an example of exquisite design.

    Do all cars these days have plastic doors, or have door dings been eliminated by the Patriot Act? A body side molding would be nice, and standard too, not an accessory.

    • 0 avatar
      also Tom

      What you said, detlump.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Again, the Kia Kue concept dating back to 2007 had the slanted rectangular headlights, angled downward, PRIOR to the Fusion or other models w/ similar headlights such as the RX and 9-3.

      Also, the LED bar didn’t originate on the Taurus.

      There are real life photos of the Optima floating around and most are quite impressed.

      Check it out and you may very well be one of the many who think that, upon launch, will be the best-looking sedan in its segment.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    It looks okay, other then side vents and rims that make them look like aftermarket add ons.

    I forgot to add that it’s called Magentis in Canada.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Wow, that looks really good.

    I saw a new Sonata the other day, and it looks better in the metal than in pictures, but the Optima looks fantastic.

    I too am a big fan of the new Kia design direction. They really can’t miss lately. Not to mention, Hyundai/Kia is actually building good cars, too.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Certainly its a lot prettier than any of its Japanese rivals. I see some VW cues which is no bad thing. The quality is a big question mark though. Hyundais have gotten better in the last 3 or 4 years, but their long term durability is still up in the air, and Kias have always been worse than Hyundais.

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      While I realize that ‘anecdote’ does not equal ‘evidence,’ a coworker of mine has an 04.5 Kia Spectra with 140k on it (his wife used to have a 50 mile commute) that also taught two of his kids to drive. It’s needed absolutely nothing but basic maintenance and wear items (oil, tires, brakes, basically), the odd windshield (which is just bad luck), and occasional body work. It was purchased because it was cheap and had a 100k warranty.

      He likes it enough to intend to buy another Kia in the future, anyway. Having a car that’s screwed together right in the first place earned Kia a happy customer, so good for them.

      Ten years ago, Hyundai/Kia was a joke, but they seem to have their act together. An ambitious warranty, rapidly-improving styling, and building a reputation for being almost-as-good-as-Honda-or-Toyota-for-way-less-money has been a good formula for them.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Kia has a Teutonic styling language b/c most Kias are designed in Europe under the supervision of Peter Schreyer, who is considered one of the top auto designers of his generation and who formerly was the head of design for Audi.

      While Kia’s reliability has lagged behind that of Hyundai, they are now above average (most models getting a recommended rating by CR).

  • avatar
    educatordan

    We’ll see how the rest of the models being redesigned goes and how the quality shakes out, but so far I really like the new KIA “family face.” I think the grill logo combo is working out better for them than other makes that have attempted to do a “family face” treatment.

  • avatar
    schwerglas

    please please let there be a wagon ….

  • avatar
    Turbo60640

    I like the Kia design better than the Sonata.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Add me to the crowd that likes Kia’s current designs moe than Hyundai’s. I don’t actually dislike the Hyundai’s; I just prefer the cleaner lines of Kia over the organic flowing curves of Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    I think it’s great that they made it a bit more muscular than the Sonata. It really does a great job separating the two cars, and gives the impression that they are completely different, unlike the badgineering that is frequently decried here.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    It looks kind of Saab-esque in profile. Hardly a bad thing.

  • avatar
    lahru

    Very nice. But who photoshopped those 20″ wheels. I like the melding of the Fusion, Taurus, Mazda and the european LED treatment. Although the proof is in the interior quality and the drivetrain and the comfort and interior decibels. Sizzle or steak?

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I like the styling, I think it’s much more attractive than the Civic and fresher looking than the Corolla. They should do well with this model.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Wow! I was about to write a review for a 2006 Optima, 5-speed, 4 cylinder.

    Although Kia has improved, they are still not the market leaders for a variety of reasons. Start with the reviews from actual owners and from there go straight to their interior quality.

    Kia is still the brand of choice for the fearful new car buyer who wants a ‘cheap’ car with a long warranty. So long as you have the means of financing a wide range of sub-prime customers, it works relatively well.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      We all seem to be using “Hyundai/Kia” as one word now. Are they really identical??? I know they are sharing drive trains and platforms, BUT I can remember GM products for the identical vehicles having a huge variation in quality based on which factory assembled the vehicles. Can one now purchase a Kia based solely upon the quality reputation of the corresponding Hyundai model??? This is not a rhetorical question. I like the look of the new Kia Sorento FWD, but can I bet on it being as reliable as the Santa Fe??

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      And that’s part of the debate. See Lang’s article on cars to avoid, http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/hammer-time-avantis-inferno/ but I have heard anecdotal evidence that they’ve been improving, which I’m hopeful about cause I really like the Kia Soul better than the Nissan Cube or Scion xB.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Dan –

      This is just anecdotal as well, but I have a friend who for a time sold Kias and apparently had been told by some Kia representative the reason for the horribly reliability on early models.

      Apparently when Hyundai and Kia were both just starting to come to the US the reliability was bad over here, but the same cars were reliable over in Korea. Apparently no one could figure out the cause until they finally tracked it down to salty sea air corroding unshielded wiring during the boat ride over. Once they identified the problem they set it up so the wires wouldn’t corrode on the way over, and bye bye electrical problems.

      Even if its true, and though it seems plausible it also has the air of a convenient excuse, it wouldn’t explain all of the old Hyundai and Kia reliability woes, but it is one possible explanation.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The new Optima will be 2 generations ahead of the current one.

      Basically, the underpinnings will be the same as for the new Sonata, but just w/ a more aggressive/sporty suspension tuning.

      A major reason for the reliability problems on the early Kias was the fact that Kia outsourced drivetrains and engines from Mazda (just like how Hyundai did w/ Mitsubishi).

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    nothing much wrong with it

    i think it smacks of BMW-esque conservatism where every Kia now has the same cues… damn you peter schreyer

    but i prefer it to the sea monster slash ufo Sonata

    this Forte/K5 Optima/K7 Cadenza/K9 family thing could be a lot worse

    the C pillar is getting overcomplicated… i think peter wants a signature hofmeister kink… and the tiny Saab like passenger window isn’t gonna make kids happy

    • 0 avatar
      Jack99

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Peter Schreyer work at Audi and VW?

      I believe the original designer for the Hyundai Genesis used to work for BMW…hence all these design cues borrowed.

      When it boils down to laying blame (or handing credit?) for the blending of multiple design cues, the first place to start is those designers who’ve had experience working for European car manufacturer firms. Interesting.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Meh. Time to ditch fender vents and too-small side glass. Bring back body side moldings that stick out far enough to protect against door dings. A couple of good things: no gaping maw grille and no oversize emblems.

    I still don’t get why every Hyundai model has to have a Kia counterpart.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Two words: Manufacturing Capacity

      They have to fill the gap that comes with having too many factories and a very strong and active union.

      Sounds familiar, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      Ah, GM-itis. Well, I’d propose they do something Chrysler once called “checkerboarding,” that is offer one model in one segment and a different model in another segment. As a example, forget the Azera (its sales are minimal now), but add the Cadenza in that price bracket. At the same time, forget the rumored Genesis equivalent for Kia.

      BTW, as we know, Chrysler, GM, and Ford never achieved this goal.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Hyundai and Kia are going after 2 different markets.

      Aside from the drastic difference in styling, Hyundai is going after the “meat” of the mainstream market (Toyota, Honda) while Kia, w/ sportier tuning, will go after the likes of Nissan and Mazda.

      The need to fill capacity has nothing to do it – both brands have seen sales rise astronomically worldwide and both are contemplating building additional manufacturing plants.

  • avatar
    DrX

    I’ll reserve judgement on this until I actually see one in person. I thought the Forte was a very nice looking car in the promotional photos, but the examples that I’ve seen in person so far have a pretty cheap and nondescript look to them.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i would have to agree with that

    the Forte looks great in photos… looks a lot worse in real life… a lot less lithe and sculpted

    but hey… at least it’s not a Chevy Cruze…

    some cars look better in photos, just like women

  • avatar
    shaker

    A perfectly acceptable alternative to the Sonata, which some people find too daring (even though it is a ‘derivative’ of the VWCC).

    Apparently, the consensus on the Kia seems to lean towards the Fusion.

    I think that the side ‘vent’ is a squashed-down direct copy of the one on the Land Rover – a blatant rip-off.

  • avatar
    cory02

    Love the looks (especially the profile). Definitely going to check it out when its time for a new car.

  • avatar
    Joe_Gamer

    Rims aside, it at least looks very nice, not giving up my WRX dreams though.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    I can see a lot of different influences in it…Ford Fusion, VW CC, Hyundai Genesis, Kia’s own Forte. It is a nicely styled car but add me to the list of people who hate nonfunctional fender vents, and the wheels do look aftermarket…not in a good way.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    ^ I agree. It looks like a Buick from the side and a Ford Fusion from the front. Nicely done, but hardly original. The wheels look like they were picked by an 18 year old.


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