The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

March 5, 2013

Kia Optima has become a luxurious brand

The fact that the latest Kia Optima is spectacularly nice is no surprise.

Kia has been running circles around Honda and Toyota for a couple of years, and the Optima shows why: excellent quality, a luxurious driving feel and gorgeous looks.

But I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around one thing. The Optima I drove this week cost more than $35,000, a number that seems stratospheric given Kia's budget-car roots. 

A mid-size Kia has never come with that kind of price before — for one reference point, you can get a Lexus IS for about the same cost — but then again, a mid-size Kia has never been a serious competitor with Lexus, either.

This one is.

If you could muster the courage to ignore the badges on the hood, the fully loaded Optima would match up nicely with the Lexus. Not only does it have the kind of solid, stitched-leather interior and grainy wood trim that makes it look like a luxury car on the inside, but it drives with the smoothness and silence of a more expensive car.

That's unusual for mid-size sedans. Today's vehicles are usually tuned to feel crisp and responsive, more like Honda and BMW have built their vehicles for years.

The Optima drives more like a full-size luxury car with a squishy, supple ride, something that sharply contrasts with the pseudo-sporty sedans that are so popular these days.

But there's still that elephant in Kia's living room. At what price does the Kia badge become a liability?

At the Optima's base price of $21,350, nobody would ask that question. But after you add a good 60 percent onto the price by getting the turbocharged engine, leather, electronics, giant chrome wheels and dual sunroofs — all the things that contribute to its upscale impression — that's when buyers have to ask themselves if they want a Kia that's priced like a BMW.

Text Only
Top News
  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

     

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • UN calls for probe of plane downed over Ukraine

    The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday demanding international access to the site of the plane downed over eastern Ukraine and an end to military activities around the area, following intense pressure on a reluctant Russia to support the measure.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hatch blasts Branstad for nixing $1M solar grant

    Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch says Gov. Terry Branstad's decision to return a $1 million solar energy grant shows that utility companies are calling the shots in his administration.

    July 21, 2014

  • Iowa sheriff faces questions about jailer's affair

    An Iowa sheriff says he's been subpoenaed to testify about his office's investigation of a jailer who had an affair with a slain pregnant woman.

    July 21, 2014

  • Truce elusive as Hamas, Israel stick to positions

    The top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary" — raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hopkins to pay $190M after doc taped pelvic exams

    Johns Hopkins Health System will pay $190 million to more than 8,000 women whose bodies may have been videotaped or photographed by a gynecologist using a pen-like camera during pelvic exams.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lawmaker: Texas to send 1,000 guardsmen to border

    Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of the White House's response to the surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally, plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

    July 21, 2014

AP Video