Kia built its reputation in the U.S. on inexpensive cars. For the most part, that hasn't changed, although you'd be hard-pressed to find much about the 2007 Kia Optima that's "cheap."
The Optima is Kia's midsize sedan and, like other vehicles of this type, it's aimed at families desiring comfort, decent performance and value. Even the base LX offers desirable standard features, especially when equipped with an automatic transmission. Items like antilock brakes, side and side-curtain airbags and a telescoping steering wheel with mounted cruise and audio controls are all standard. Stability control and traction control are also standard on all but the LX with a manual transmission.
We suspect most Optimas will be ordered with the five-speed automatic transmission. Around town the car feels decidedly quick, but it doesn't really turn in an impressive 0-60 time. On the other hand, the Optima V6 is rated at 30 mpg on the highway, so that could make up for any acceleration shortcomings in most consumers' minds.
The 2007 Kia Optima is obviously not intended as a sport sedan. However, around town, the Optima does feel a bit like a sport sedan, thanks to its relatively quick steering, tight suspension tuning and unexpectedly generous helping of road feel. If you start getting serious with the car on twisty roads, much of that quasi sport sedan feel goes away, though. Fortunately, most buyers won't be putting these kinds of demands on Kia's midsize sedan.
Overall, the 2007 Kia Optima ranks pretty high with us in regards to affordable family sedans. It's certainly competitive against similarly priced vehicles like the Chevy Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Ford Fusion or Hyundai Sonata, and Kia's warranty coverage is still one of the best offers in the business. Compared to more mainstream offerings like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, the Optima is not as powerful, refined or well-known, but its price advantage should be attractive enough for many buyers.
A midsize sedan, the 2007 Kia Optima comes in two trim levels, LX and EX, and each is available with a four- or six-cylinder engine. The base LX comes standard with features like 16-inch steel wheels, heated outside mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat, air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo and full power accessories. If you opt for an automatic transmission on your Optima LX, Kia adds a host of additional features as standard, including floor mats, keyless entry, cruise control and a telescoping steering wheel with audio controls. Step up to the LX V6 and you'll get alloy wheels and dual exhaust outlets as well.
The high-line Kia Optima EX adds chrome door handles, a power driver seat, automatic climate control, an upgraded stereo with an in-dash CD changer and Infinity-brand speakers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a trip computer. The EX V6 model adds foglights.
All Optimas are eligible for the optional Appearance Package that gives you 17-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out headlights and grille, aluminum interior trim, foglights (standard on the EX) and the addition of a trip computer on the LX. For the EX only, Kia also offers the Convenience Package, with a power passenger seat, heated front seats, adjustable pedals and a rear sunshade; the Leather Package bundles all of these features with leather seating surfaces. A sunroof is another exclusive EX option.
The Optima's interior is clearly a cut above its predecessor's. It boasts interesting textures and glowing blue gauges similar to those in the Honda Accord, and most surfaces have a high-quality look and feel. There's plenty of legroom up front, and the seats are well-shaped and supportive with nicely padded bottom cushions. Legroom is good in back, but the seat bottoms are a little short, offering less support for long-limbed occupants. Trunk capacity is 14.8 cubic feet, and all Optimas have a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
The 2007 Kia Optima's standard 2.4-liter engine makes 162 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the base four-cylinder LX. Optional on the LX and standard on the four-cylinder EX is a five-speed automatic transmission. The Optima's optional 2.7-liter V6 is rated at 185 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque; the automatic is standard with this engine. Even with the V6, the front-wheel-drive Optima is no hot rod. Zero-to-60 runs take a leisurely 9.2 seconds for the V6. Fuel economy, with 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway for the four-cylinder and 22/30 mpg for the V6, is about average for a midsize family sedan.
Between stoplights the 2007 Kia Optima V6 feels plenty powerful, but that engine runs out of steam as the rpm climb. Passing power is adequate but unimpressive for a V6 in this class, and the five-speed automatic is reluctant to downshift. Thankfully, there is a manual mode when you want some extra punch. Given the V6's disappointing performance, we'd recommend that budget-minded buyers stick with the base four-cylinder engine, as it provides fully adequate performance while keeping the price tag low. Thanks to its tightly tuned suspension and relatively communicative steering, the Kia Optima has a somewhat sporty feel around town. The trade-off is that this Kia ultimately doesn't feel as luxurious as other midsize sedans. In addition, if you start making considerable cornering demands on the car, that sportiness goes away quickly. Used as a daily commuter, though, the Optima can be surprisingly entertaining.
Full-length side curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags and anti-whiplash front head restraints are standard on all 2007 Kia Optimas. Most Optimas also come with a tire-pressure monitor. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on manual-shift LX models, but ABS is unfortunately not available. Order an automatic transmission on the four-cylinder LX and you're eligible for the Stability Package, which bundles antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. This package is also optional on the LX V6 and all EX models. Adjustable pedals are optional on the EX. In NHTSA crash tests, the Optima earned a top five-star rating for its protection of occupants in frontal and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Kia Optima as "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection, which is the non-governmental institute's highest rating.
Technically, the all-new Kia Optima debuted midway through 2006 and was referred to as the 2006.5 model. However, most shoppers will be encountering it as a 2007 model. Compared to the previous-generation '06 version, the new Optima is larger, offers more options and is a much better-looking vehicle all around.