Family sedans should not look this good. This would be the conventional wisdom, anyway. But the 2013 Kia Optima does not follow conventional wisdom. Its styling and interior design are not only sleek, sophisticated and timelessly handsome for a family sedan, but also impressive for any car, period. Driving an Optima down a crowded street draws double-takes from bystanders and then inevitable squinting as they attempt to identify the badge on its tail. A look of confusion usually follows as the answer turns out to be "Kia."
Behind the pretty face is a well-rounded midsize sedan with a long list of positive attributes. It starts under the hood with a choice of four-cylinder engines (one is turbocharged) that produce exceptional power and fuel efficiency. There's even the Kia Optima Hybrid model, and the automaker has made changes to the hybrid drivetrain for 2013 to improve its smoothness and efficiency in traffic. The 2013 Optima Hybrid LX earns 36 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 38 mpg combined EPA ratings, up from last year's 34 city/39 highway/36 combined. Alongside that, the overall horsepower rating on the hybrid has declined slightly (206 versus 199 previously), though the effect on acceleration is negligible.
As with any Kia model, the Optima sedan gives you plenty of features for your money. Even the base LX model, for instance, comes standard with items such as alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Optima can also be had with sophisticated features like ventilated front seats and a panoramic sunroof -- items unavailable on most competitors. A long warranty is another dollars-and-sense attribute.
Of course, the Optima isn't perfect. Headroom might be an issue for some passengers, especially those seated in back, and the cabin in general is less spacious than the confines in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. Also be mindful that your mileage is likely to vary from Kia's lofty EPA estimates. Overall, though, the 2013 Kia Optima is a great family sedan choice that boasts equal parts style and sensibility. The mechanically related 2013 Hyundai Sonata pulls off a similar trick, and we suspect the eye-catching new 2013 Ford Fusion is likely to as well. However, if you're looking to go beyond conventional wisdom -- as well as the conventional family sedan -- the 2013 Kia Optima is a great place to start.