Kia's Optima has grown substantially since its last generation, both physically and in terms of design.

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The Optima leads off with its Tiger Nose design language, which is sporty and aggressive without being gaudy.

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Beneath the Optima's hood is a 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that outputs an even 200 horsepower at its peak.

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The Kia Optima EX's fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 24 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

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The Optima shares a platform and most of its technology with the Hyundai Sonata.

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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.

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The optional Infinity premium audio system delivers fantastic sound at a fantastic value.

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When equipped with navigation, the Optima also gains a rearview camera.

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Handling is nothing to write home about, but we were not entirely disappointed by this large sedan's willingness to change direction.

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A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is standard on the Optima EX.

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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.

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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.

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Instrumentation is simple yet attractive, with a monochromatic LCD in the center of the speedometer.

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A premium package on the Optima EX adds dual panoramic sunroofs to the sedan's low-slung roof.

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Navigation data is stored on 8GB of solid-state memory. Feedback is quite fast, but only two-dimensional maps are available.

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Traffic data is provided via Sirius satellite radio.

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The satellite connection is also useful for listening to music.

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USB connectivity is standard, but iPod connection requires a $35 cable.

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Also standard is Bluetooth wireless for hands-free calling and audio streaming.

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