Kia's Optima has grown substantially since its last generation, both physically and in terms of design.
The Optima leads off with its Tiger Nose design language, which is sporty and aggressive without being gaudy.
Beneath the Optima's hood is a 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that outputs an even 200 horsepower at its peak.
The Kia Optima EX's fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 24 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
The Optima shares a platform and most of its technology with the Hyundai Sonata.
The Kia seems to have moved away from its economy-car roots with an interior that features a few luxury appointments, such as heated rear seats.
The optional Infinity premium audio system delivers fantastic sound at a fantastic value.
When equipped with navigation, the Optima also gains a rearview camera.
Handling is nothing to write home about, but we were not entirely disappointed by this large sedan's willingness to change direction.
A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is standard on the Optima EX.
Physical buttons offer shortcuts to most of the Optima's functions, but also require the driver to look away from the road momentarily to, for example, access the map.
Steering wheel controls for hands-free calling are easy to use. Also present is the button for Eco mode, which adjusts the engine output, throttle control, and transmission for maximum mpg.
Instrumentation is simple yet attractive, with a monochromatic LCD in the center of the speedometer.
A premium package on the Optima EX adds dual panoramic sunroofs to the sedan's low-slung roof.
Navigation data is stored on 8GB of solid-state memory. Feedback is quite fast, but only two-dimensional maps are available.
Traffic data is provided via Sirius satellite radio.
The satellite connection is also useful for listening to music.
USB connectivity is standard, but iPod connection requires a $35 cable.
Also standard is Bluetooth wireless for hands-free calling and audio streaming.