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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Kia Optima Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Kia Optima Overview

The Warranty Is Just Icing on the Cake

It's amazing how quickly the Korean car manufacturers have evolved. The Kia Optima, and its mechanical twin the Hyundai Sonata, represent a terrific bargain. For just under $20K you can get a V6 engine, 4-speed automatic with manual Sportshift, leather seats, moon roof, ABS, traction control, side-impact airbags, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry and 15-inch alloy wheels. Add to that a 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty and a 5-year/ 60,000 mile basic warranty and it's hard to argue against either sedan.

Just a few years ago, Kia's entire line was made up of only two vehicles and the name Hyundai was synonymous with inexpensive but problematic cars. Today, you will find no less than six different models in Kia showrooms while Hyundai continues to climb the J.D. Power and Associates quality survey. Though Hyundai is now Kia's parent company, the two divisions are still viewed as separate entities that just happen to share a common platform. For the record, the Optima is intended to be the sportier model, both in styling and handling, while the Sonata—with its bright chrome grille surrounds, automatic climate control and standard leather seating—is designed to satisfy those more accustomed to being pampered by their car.

We found much to like about the both the Sonata and Optima. The front seats are firm and supportive, with a liberal amount of lumbar support. The intelligently laid out dash contains clear, legible controls with large, easy-to-read gauges. On the Sonata a very tasteful imitation wood grain trim surrounds the center pod, console shifter and door armrests. The standard audio system sounds as good as some of the high-end units we've heard in other cars. Legroom for front seat passengers is very good, but order the optional sunroof and persons over six-foot may find the tops of their heads touching the sunshade. Rear-seat legroom is best described as acceptable for this class; Kia gets bonus points for including a rear-seat adjustable center headrest. In addition to the major standard features, the interior is full of thoughtful little touches, such as a lighted ring around the ignition switch, two cup-holders in the rear-seat folding armrest and a first-aid kit in the trunk.

On the road, the 2.7-liter V6 performs surprisingly well. Power is delivered smoothly and in a very linear fashion—meaning there are no jerky shifts or lag time before acceleration. The engine is quiet at speed, but does thrash a bit when pressed hard. Ride comfort on both cars is also first rate, with a multi-link suspension that smoothes out bumps and barely acknowledges highway expansion joints. The standard 15-inch Michelin tires do a fair job of negotiating curves, while the nicely weighted steering makes easy work of keeping these cars proceeding in a straight line. The Sonata's performance is almost identical to the Optima's, though the ride seems a bit softer and the handling is not as brisk. We think the springs and shocks on both cars could be firmer as we noticed some bounce in the front end when encountering large dips and pronounced nose-dive upon hard braking.

Overall, it's hard to argue against the Optima and Sonata. In the case of the Optima, the most common question we think most buyers will be asking is, "How well will the car and its resale value hold up?" The answer remains to be seen, but if the Sonata's improving customer satisfaction ratings and climbing residual values are any indication, the Optima's future looks hopeful. Hyundai and Kia understand this and hope their amazingly long warranty period will be enough to put to rest any fears consumers may still have.

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