2013-2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison

8th Place – Kia Optima EX


Something had to come last in this comparison, and unfortunately for Kia, it was the Optima. Amazing how quickly things change. Three years ago the Optima was the fresh faced, all-new vehicle shaking things up in this segment and now it is one of the oldest. It is still a great looking vehicle, second only to the beauty queen Mazda6.

It was also the most heavily equipped vehicle in the test loaded with features like dual sunroofs, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats. Kia has been finding success with a formula of building attractive vehicles loaded with class defying options, all at a low entry price. In this test though, at over $29,000, plus thousands in accessories, the Optima was not a bargain.



Powering the Optima is a 2.4 L four-cylinder that generates 200 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, which makes it the most powerful car in the set. The abundance of power is felt both in straight line acceleration and poor fuel consumption. Aside from the meaty powerband, the rest of the mechanics, like the transmission and suspension, are neither praise worthy nor offensive. Well, except for the steering; it is truly terrible. People ask what I consider poor steering feel – one example is when I can feel road imperfections and vibrations through my feet on the pedals, but not a thing through my hands on the wheel. I get this is not a sports car, but a little confidence and knowledge that the front wheels are doing what I am asking of them would be nice.

See Also: 2011 Kia Optima Review

Inside the Optima is nicely detailed with a driver focused dashboard and attractively styled steering wheel. Front headroom is lacking for anyone over 6 feet tall, but the seat is accommodating enough. Ride comfort and noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) are average at best and the rear seats are properly contoured, but tight on space. Of course we need to make obligatory mention of Kia’s wonderful 5-year all-inclusive warranty.

Mid-pack price, poor fuel economy and mediocre mechanics are enough to relegate the Optima to last. This Kia still is a good car, but the problem is, the competition has caught up. Coming eighth place amongst this crowd is nothing to be ashamed of; but eighth is still eighth.


Fast Facts:

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $29,115 (+ Accessories)
  2. ENGINE: 2.4L 4-cylinder, 200 hp, 186 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  5. TRUNK CAPACITY: 15.4 cu-ft



  • Exterior style
  • Engine power
  • Warranty



  • Price
  • Fuel Consumption
  • Steering

6th Place (Tie) – Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium


Tying the Toyota Camry for sixth is the Subaru Legacy. The Legacy has long been the no nonsense, pleated Khakis of the mid-size sedan market. Whereas Kia nails aspects like style, content and materials, but drops the ball on the mechanical bits, Subaru is the complete opposite. Mechanically the Legacy is great, but everything else is just plain old. Lacking any sort of style inside and out, the Legacy’s purpose is to get you from point A to point B even during a Sharknado.

See Also: 2013 Subaru Legacy Review

Fitting then, is the fact Subaru gave us the least equipped car of our test; a mid-trim Premium model instead of the fully loaded Limited which would have lined up better with the rest of the entries here. Lacking in our test Legacy was leather, a sunroof, navigation or a display touch screen, although they are all available on that upper level Limited version. And it wasn’t just the lack of features that were a let down inside the Legacy. As News Editor Luke Vandezande stated, the seating material looks like that of an old couch and one our videographers likened the pattern adorning the seatbacks to a set of drapes found in his parent’s kitchen during the 1980s.

Despite this, the Legacy is still comfortable inside and that boring, boxy shape provides excellent sightlines. It is also the only vehicle with trunk struts instead of cargo-space-robbing swing arms; more of Subaru’s love for practicality.



But, like an automotive equivalent to a mullet, the Legacy may be all business on the outside, but is all party behind the wheel. It is one of the more entertaining vehicles to drive here thanks mainly to nicely weighted steering and an eagerly responsive throttle. Even with the skinniest tires mounted to the smallest diameter wheels, the Legacy grips well in corners thanks to a perfectly balanced chassis; Subaru takes great pride in the Legacy’s 50/50 side-to-side weight distribution. The 173 hp boxer engine though is not refined and the CVT is as unpleasant as a rendition of the national anthem sung at a single ‘A’ baseball game.

But the Subaru’s real ace up its sleeve is, as usual, all-wheel drive (AWD). No other vehicle tested here has AWD available as an option at any trim level while Subaru equips it standard. This may not matter to some in more temperate southern cities, but for those in the snow- belt, this may be the sole reason for purchasing the car. Oh, and despite the weight and friction penalty of full-time all-wheel drive, the Legacy still finished mid-pack in fuel consumption.


Fast Facts:

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $24,065
  2. ENGINE: 2.5L 4-cylinder, 173 hp, 174 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable automatic
  5. TRUNK CAPACITY: 14.7 cu-ft



  • Fun to drive
  • All wheel drive
  • Price



  • Out of date
  • No style
  • Lacking options

  • MistyGreen

    You know what would be COOL? Making a tool out of that chart that would allow users to input a different weight for each row, or mark “less important” or “more important” or something. I’m rooting for you, Autoguide. I’ve been wanting to see a review of all the competitors here for a while.

    Overall, great points in the reviews given the space allowed to talk about each vehicle. Also, I can share this because the Mazda won. 🙂

  • Alfie

    Um, Passat in 2nd, what are you guys smoking?

  • Waynerm002

    The Optima in the video has the 18″ wheels from the SX and is listed as an EX Luxury with a price of $32,729. I am not aware of an EX-L model in the lineup. A fully loaded US SX is $32,470, while a loaded EX is $29,520. Where are these prices coming from? Something is fishy here.

  • alanbala

    I drive a 2013 Kia Optima EX, and frankly, I can’t understand what your complaint is about the transmission, or the ride and handling. FYI the trunk is the same size as the Hyundai, and it is huge. In just shy of 10,000 miles of driving, the only complaint is that the fuel economy numbers don’t live up to the EPA estimates, and the car came with a tire inflation kit in place of a spare tire (we bought the spare tire & jack kit–maybe it’s the extra weight that lowers mpg, although I doubt it). We tested some of the other cars, and the choice was the Kia, hands down!

  • MS3 Owner

    Maybe this will finally get people to start thinking differently about Mazda!

  • smartacus

    WOW. I’m surprised the AWD Subaru is that affordable and gets that good gas mileage

  • Mike Schlee

    You are correct. We had a Optima EX with some dealer installed accessories, like the 18″ wheels. I have corrected the information and adjusted the final scores.

  • Robby G

    Yea, but did you see the interior? It looked like garbage…. no wonder it’s so cheap.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    How convienient… all Jap/Foreign Cars… BS on the decline too – I think this site is biased
    I have a 2011 Chrysler 2011 and <3 it! Loaded too!

  • Phil

    …to each their own … but the accord will without a doubt be more reliable than the VW or the mazda,.. and also gets the best fuel efficiency … that’s my no.1
    (FYI i worked at both a vw and mazda dealer in the service department)

  • z2cents

    There is a reason these rankings do not reflect actual sales

  • Richard Joash Tan


  • Gavin

    People are stupid?

  • Gavin

    Typical white trash comment… Sure, a website based in North America is biased against American cars.


    Actually, the Tesla Model S is a bullshit, much like the Mazda6 and Subaru.

    Long live the Camry, ruler of the sedan world!!!

  • NickB


    I think using a non stock EX takes a bit of the fairness away from the Optima. The EX only comes with the 17″ wheels, and the 18″ SX wheels are not an “optional accessory” (neither are the SX tail lights). My issue is that the EX was designed to have 17″ wheels, and thus the ride/handling and fuel economy got lower marks than a “true” EX would have. This would have put the Optima at or above the Sonata’s rating.

    Also, what would the Kia’s price rating be without these added parts from an SX model?

  • Mike Schlee

    Most likely tied the Camry and Subaru for 6th place.

  • Richard Joash Tan


  • Gavin

    You mean YOU YELL!!!!!!!

  • Gavin

    Mazda just won both Consumer Reports and KBB’s lowest cost to own awards (for non-Luxury brands), so I’m not sure how your “without a doubt be more reliable” prediction will play out. According the publications that do this for a living you should have some debt.

    The Accord and the Mazda6 were rated at 29.8 and 29.4 respectively. In an “observed MPG” test list this one that is a statistical tie.

  • Pete

    To bad Ford and Chevy didn’t show… My guess is that Ford would easily net second or third, pushing Passat out.

    Anyway, good review/comparison, Mazda 6 deserves the win in most listed categories (from looks, to handling / fuel economy); Ford must have kept Mazda’s engineers and designers locked up somewhere all these years, lol.

    No seriously, I was considering buying a new CLA, but I will have to test drive the new 6 before I fork out $30k+ for a “baby” CLS.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    White Trash?!?! Wow!!!!!!!! Is that a racist comment?!
    What I’m saying/doing is called SUPPORTING AMERICA, buying Japanese cars, does NOT support America! Fool! Just because cars are made here, doesn’t mean the majority of profits go into our country! Idiot!

  • Alfie

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the CLA is awesome, but it’s full of cutbacks. The car has a hood prop… not hydraulics. I wonder where else they cut corners.

  • Gavin

    Typical STUPID white trash comment.

  • Tomas E.

    TESLA MODEL S is 120 thousand man 🙂 Please I prefer 4-5 Mazda6s instead of one surely nice and fast MODEL S… Drivers car is 6 so I want 6.

  • Tomas E.

    In EUROPE I mean 120.000 USD – in US it is cheaper 70-100? I guess so 3 Mazdas only 🙂

  • Rick Vieira

    Id rather buy a Japanese Car made in America than an American car made in Mexico. Its a world market now. Get with the times.

  • MetalMania

    For those of you saying Mazda isn’t reliable, I don’t know where you get that. I’ve been driving a 1st generation 6 daily for 9 years and haven’t had any problems. Other than oil and filter changes the hood may as well be bolted shut. I have no fear about reliability with Mazda, they have earned my trust.

    Why are you even mentioning Tesla after a comparison like this? It’s a completely different class of car, other than having 4 wheels and seats. The Model S rocks, but when Tesla makes a more mainstream car with a 200 hp equivalent output and a 300 – 400 mile battery range costing under $35,000 loaded, then it’s closer to being a real comparison in this category.

    Every time I read a comparo like this, people start saying “oh, this site is biased” and “there’s no way that car is really better than my (brand x)”, as if the reviewer has just personally insulted you. As they said at the end of the review, there really isn’t a “bad” one in the bunch. Depending on your priorities, there’s something here for you. It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that Mazda made a great car – they had to. They are a small company fighting for survival. I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t make the universal appliance (Camry) that sells the most. That’s the point I think, they build cars for a niche that’s almost mainstream but a little bit on the enthusiast side. That’s me. Because I drive a Mazda, I suppose one of you will call me a “fanboy”. Well, I am a fan. They make cars that resonate with me and what I want and need in a car. I don’t blindly love and accept everything that they do, they are by no means perfect or the ultimate auto maker. If Accord/Camry/Altima/etc. are better for YOU then that’s great, they’re all good cars and nobody should think lesser of you for it, but don’t start crying foul when the underdog shows up and someone thinks it’s better either.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    And what car are you referring to that is made in Mexico?
    Get with the times??? No, get with it PERIOD… stop supporting these overseas companies with our $$ and buying the UGLY POS cars!

  • Jay Last

    So let me get this straight: because you like your Mazda, every Mazda made is reliable? Uh huh.

  • Jay Last

    A racist is someone who still uses the phrase “Jap” in 2013.

  • Jay Last

    I own the Accord and to me the ride quality is HORRENDOUS. And I’ve been driving nothing but Hondas for the past 30+ years. They really blew it on this one.

  • Gavin

    No. But winning the Consumer Reports and KBB reliability award (for non-luxury brands, Lexus won the Luxury award) means that they probably will be.

    Just because your Accord has HORRENDOUS ride quality means all Accords do?

  • Big J

    What’s with all the techno-crap on these cars you don’t need? I’m looking to buy a new car in the next month or two and no one does a base model compro. I don’t want all that price raising crap, it’s a car, depreciation does not care if u have blind spot monitoring.

  • Phil

    its simple, publications make predictions … when you work in the shop, you see what really happens. I have no doubt.

  • Phil

    so the ride is so bad that you didn’t notice it in your test drive and you bought the car anyway…. oh and let me guess, any car hyundai makes has a phenomenal ride! lmao

  • humongous

    The Ayatolla of Road Roller!!

  • MetalMania

    No, it doesn’t mean that every one is reliable. But it doesn’t mean that the rest are junk either. I’m sure there are plenty of people that will tell horror stories about unreliable Mazdas, as well as every other make of car out there. Don’t put words in my mouth, should I take your response and say that you mean that nobody has ever had a problem with a Honda or Toyota? I don’t think so. To say that Mazdas in general are unreliable is inaccurate. So what, you want me to think I got the only good one?

  • Sage

    This is weird. I think the Edmunds review has more rigor. You can get a Honda EXL for 26K – Includes sunroof, top end music, displays. The M6 is great to look at but priced 4K higher

  • Jay Last

    Actually it does, because they are all made with the same suspension and parts.

    Go ahead and enjoy your Mazda; nobody is stopping you.

  • Jay Last

    Well that is quite the incomprehensible word-salad. Your exact words were “I don’t know where you’re getting that, I haven’t had any problems”. Therefore you have just stated that because you haven’t had any problems with your ONE car, then you don’t believe people who say Mazdas are unreliable.

    The lack of intelligence on the internet is astounding sometimes.

  • Katt2102

    In 1990 we had a new baby and bought a Mazda 626 because of its safety features, reliability, etc. Our daughter is 23 now, and driving that old Mazda. I’m a believer in this brand!

  • holly

    This quote is right on the mark:

    “One annoying quirk we noticed with both the Optima and Sonata had to do with an overly aggressive traction control system. Although it took a lot to coax the system to activate during our nice sunny evaluation period, once engaged it’s far too aggressive in cutting power to the front wheels and feels more like the car has actually stalled. In snowy weather this could prove to be infuriating if the system was constantly engaging.”

    I had a 2011 Elantra that acted the exact same way. Sometimes, when cornering a bit too fast, it actually felt like the entire car was cutting power, when in reality, it was just the traction control. Actually a bit scary, knowing that if you were trying to peel out real fast in traffic, that the car was slowing you down so much that you may not make it.

    I now drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf, and it’s much better, even in spite of the high torque.

  • Richard Joash Tan


  • bd005

    In all the other mid-size sedan comparisons, the Optima rates higher than both the Sonata and Camry (as well as the Altima).

  • bd005

    Based on the latest reliability surveys, Mazda has been moving on up and is better than say, Nissan.

  • bd005

    You guys are the OUTLIER – in the other comparisons of midsizers, the Optima regularly beats the Camry, Sonata and Altima.

  • sage

    that is not the point. I am buying a midsize and while I love the mazda 6, if I took out the looks/paint, I cannot see how its more value than the Honda or Altima. I dont find them exciting but they are the sensible decisions. I never buy sensible cars though!

  • MistyGreen

    It might be a bit more intelligent if you and your high horse kept to yourselves. It was a comment to say Mazda has earned his trust, and you can’t say that Mazdas are all unreliable.

  • ScoobaSteve

    As far as base models go, Mazda6 all the way.

  • MetalMania

    Obviously Jay you want to take what I said and twist it to fit what you want it to be. I’m sorry if my exact words gave you the wrong idea, but I think it’s fairly obvious the point I was trying to make. Please spare me your aloof interpretation about my “lack of intelligence” because of the imperfect comments I made about a car and my perception of its manufacturer. I didn’t think I had to craft my statement to an unconditional level of perfection, excluding any possibility of anyone making a leap to think I meant that NO ONE ever had a problem with their Mazda. If someone says they had a problem with their Mazda, I never said I don’t believe them. I’m pretty sure we can find someone who has had a problem with every make of car in the world, but it doesn’t mean that all of those manufacturers therefore should be labeled as “unreliable”. There, maybe I should have said that instead.

    The level of arrogance on the internet is astounding sometimes.

  • MetalMania

    I think we’ve reached a point in this market segment where they’re all sensible, and it comes down to which “flavor” is right for an individual buyer. “More value” can mean different things for different people, and what features are more important to them.

  • wow

    LOL buying a Japanese car built in the state doesn’t support america? lol wow first of all, government earn tax on multiple level, and pays AMERICAN worker, who also pay tax for their earnings.

  • Jeremy Oestreicher

    Except that in the Sonata there’s a switch to turn off the traction control system. I don’t get how you can complain about something you can turn off so easily.

  • bp923

    mazda should of kept the old rotary engine that was practically indestructible, i own the honda accord and it has a really good feel to but like any car it does have its flaws but overall ill give it 8.5/10

  • jmac146

    Where on earth did this person go shopping at? I bought a nearly loaded 2013 Optima SX TURBO for under $27k. Plus how is it that they say the Sonata is a value when its pretty much the exact same car as the optima with some slightly different style features? Kia and Hyundai are owned by the same company.

  • aolbites

    actually after rebate the low end S starts at 55.

  • aolbites

    You’re dumb, you don’t know what you’re talking about. American cars are put together in other countries, manufacturer’s from other countries assemble their cars here. Either way it’s supporting American workers. In the end, the highest quality car should win, not purely because the car was built in ‘murka

  • aolbites

    It is complete crap. I drove in one before buying and it sucked. It felt like I should get so much more for how much I would be paying.

  • aolbites

    Same here, 2012 Kia Optima SX, love that car. Have noticed the slightest bit of engine noise, but it’s not over the top. Plus, mine was way under the price that they paid for the EX (dunno how they did that). And I was amazed that the Sonata came in a different place when they’re essentially the same car with the Sonata being uglier IMHO.

  • aolbites

    I’d like to know the same thing. It’s hardly fair to compare the price of a loaded model vs unloaded models and gasp at the price difference.

  • turnipweed

    I guess they are listing sticker price.

  • GaryEwing

    What kind of “accessories” are you talking about on the Optima? 29K + “thousands in accessories”. Maybe the dealer you shopped at robbed you with 18″ Wheels, which don’t belong on the Optima EX, and LED taillights taken from the SX model and not available, at all from Kia, on the EX model. How can a respectable magazine compare apples and oranges and consider it fair. Maybe insist on having stock vehicles when you are comparing price, road feel, mileage. Putting 18 inch wheels on the EX can affect mileage. Paying thousands for “accessories”, well that’s not the Optima’s fault but the person who bought/reviewed the vehicle. You can get a FULLY loaded EX right now, with the current rebate and every available accessory from Kia (not junk put on by some dealer) for 28500.

    I have no faith in this comparison at all and stopped reading when I found all the issues with how they priced and judged the first vehicle. If you paid for 1000s in unneeded accessories, and compared that price against over vehicles right off the truck, that’s not the vehicle’s fault, go back to car shopping 101..

  • aolbites

    Quotes I had problems with:

    Kia: “Anyone over 6′ tall will find it hard to fit inside this vehicle” I am not small, I’m 6’4″ and a number of pounds and this vehicle is very comfortable. I’ve never felt like I would hit my head or that it was tight.

    Subaru: “Lacking any sort of style inside or out.”

    Altima: “It and the transmission rival the Subaru for the least refined and noisiest.” So, it’s noisiest but a good highway cruiser? I know I definitely enjoy hearing my loud engine while taking a long trip…

    “If you want to be coddled in high luxury (which I didn’t see) and don’t care too much about how a car drives (Why would I?!?! I’m only on a car site checking out the best cars!), the Altima is the car for you.”

    I’d have liked to have seen the reliability for all these cars factored in to the price. The gushing at the end makes this seem like a Mazda ad.

  • OptimasPrimal13

    Ok, like many others said! Your judging is horrid and or biased. I currently own the new 2014 Mazda 6 and a 2013 Kia SX. The Kia on road trips gets better gas mileage than the Mazda. Actual calculated, not what the car computer says. am 6’2 and I feel more comfortable in the Kia. The Kias feel more luxurious on the inside and drives better. I drive 80k+ miles a year for my job, I get a new car once a year. Sales and 9 state territory. If my option doesn’t matter then you need to re-evaluate your own opinions. I typically never buy the same car twice. But I am buying another Kia SX in two months when my current one reaches 85k miles. Kia has been to the shop twice. Once for an alignment and the other the waste gate failed. Service from Kia was impeccable! The Mazda, well the wife can just drive it into the dirt. Beside the fact it has 19k miles on it and its been in the shop 7 times. Electrical, transmission and abs issues. I will take the Kia Optima SX any day!!
    I have owned 30+ cars over the last 19 years. BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Subaru, Saab, Saturn, Cadillac, Nissan, Toyota, International, and about anyone you could think of. Kia had came a “LONG” way from the past “disposable car” history. I am a proud Kia Owner! And that’s something I would of never thought I would say!!

  • jestmaty

    Hey guys… the Optima you have pictured is an SX…. the wheels tell me that it is the 275hp turbo model. Get your facts straight if you want credibility

  • Luis A. Martinez

    Chrysler 200 is base on a Mitsubishi chassis,engine and such (fiat re-design just the interior and some stuff but the main car was create by a foreign company,don’t know why you are so upset,many Escalades,Yukon,Suburban,Sunfire,Cavalier are made in Mexico and America is made of immigrants too)

  • Surly Optima

    Yep! Also, the Hyundai Sonata was redesigned in 2011, just like the Kia Optima; not in 2009 as the article states. Autoguide, you fail at writing reviews.

  • pismopal

    I am impressed with Mazda and Honda but prejudiced in favor of anything made in Japan. I realize that some Japanese cars are assembled elsewhere but the new Mazda6 is not. It is made in Japan and I like that. I keep cars for a long time and I don’t like having to repair them. No guarantee but I like the odds.

  • momo

    Every car is the same on this list except for the Subaru. Symmetrical AWD is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

  • 4wheelpilot

    Let me throw a wrench in this entire comparo…as with some of the other members, I have driven dozens of cars from high performance coupes to luxury sedans to suvs. I recently test drove the M6 2.4 , Honda Accord 4 and v6, Ford Fusion 2.0T, Nissan Altima 4 and 6 and VW Passat and CC. I chose the 2013 Kia Optima SX Turbo. It was better overall by a significant margin (the VW CC is a great car but much more expensive when comparably equipped) including acceleration, handling and features. And was less expensive than any of the v6 cars AND less than the M6 GT with comparable features but with less power and slower paddle shifters. I have had Optima EX loaner but the SX blows it away….obviously in power but also in steering feel, suspension and handling. Autoguide lists the EX at 33k when the SX msrp maxes out at about 31k. Real world prices are 27k.

  • jctsv

    Fastest car hands down 2014 cts v sedan

  • Moh’m Yahya

    I hope to do this teat again , and bring 2015 new cars .
    ( Sonata , Passat , Camry , Fusion , Legacy , Accord , Mazda 6 , Optima , Altima )