Kia Optima

Kia has been excellent at building cars that seem more expensive than they are. The Optima has become a surprisingly stylish and appealing entry in the competitive mid-size segment.

Three engine options are offered for 2017: A 178-horsepower turbocharged 1.6L, a 185-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder and a 245-horsepower turbocharged 2.0L. The 1.6L engine is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Other engines are paired with a conventional 6-speed automatic.

The Optima Hybrid utilizes the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and pairs with it with a lithium polymer battery and electric motor. It comes in base and EX trims and comes equipped similarly to the gasoline-powered Optima.

The 2017 Optima ranges from base LX, LX Turbo, EX, SX Turbo and SXL Turbo trims. The LX and EX come with the 2.4L engine. The LX Turbo comes with the 1.6L engine, and the SX and SXL come with the 2.0L turbo engine.

Base LX models come surprisingly well equipped, including 16" alloy wheels, chrome door handles, fog lamps and remote keyless entry. Of course, all the power accessories buyers expect today are included, as are a complete suite of airbags as well as a 6-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and satellite radio.

The LX Turbo trim gets the 1.6L engine as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a proximity key system. EX models upgrade to leather seat trim, 17" alloys, heated and power-adjustable driver seats, a heated steering wheel and dual-zone climate control.

SX Turbo Optimas get a sport-tuned suspension, 18" machined alloy wheels, HID headlamps, integrated navigation and a smartphone connected infotainment system. The top-of-the-line SXL Turbo model upgrades to premium Napa leather seats, 18" chrome alloys, a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system with surround sound and Bluetooth. Both seats are power-adjustable with memory, ventilation and adjustable lumbar.

Notable options include blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and a parking assist system. Heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, lane-departure warning, advanced "Smart" cruise control are also available.

LX Optima models start at only $22,000 while top-of-the-line Optimas are priced at just over $36,000. The Optima Hybrid starts at around $26,000.

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Editors' First Take

It's weird: Just as midsize sedans fall out of fashion, there's never been a better time to buy one. Segment leaders like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are the best they've ever been, to say nothing of stylish alternatives like the Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6. Kia's been a longtime player in this space with its Optima sedan, but it's poised to make an even bigger splash with the launch of that car's replacement. Say hello to the new K5.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of Kia's new four-door, let's talk about that name. K5 is what the Optima was always called in its home market, South Korea, where Kia uses a Kx naming strategy for its sedans (our Forte is known as the K3, the Cadenza is the K7, the K900 is -- you guessed it -- the K9). "This new car is such a big departure from the outgoing model that we thought it deserved its own name," a Kia spokesperson tells me. No, this doesn't necessarily mean Kia will be switching to any sort of whole-line alphanumeric naming strategy in the US, though the same spokesperson says that's not out of the question if future products "meet this same high standard."

Never mind the name; just like the Optima, the K5 is a lot of car for the money and this model makes a strong statement right off the bat. Its design is more refined than the Hyundai Sonata, though the Kia lacks some of its kissin' cousin's clever details, including the Sonata's daytime running lights that blend into the chrome trim running. Still, the K5 gets a lot of things right: Its clamshell hood means there's no unsightly cut line across the nose, the bright roofline accent wraps down below the rear window and the full-width LED taillights are broken up into segments of different lengths for some rump-end visual interest. It's not perfect, of course. All of the the creases come together at the corners of the K5's face and, to my eyes, it looks like someone wearing poorly fitted pants that bunch up by the crotch, an impression emphasized by the running-light signature that doubles as the turn signals. Oh, and pretty much all of the vents are fake, which is a Hyundai/Kia styling trend that cannot die soon enough.

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