2020 Kia Optima rental review

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1,531
Location
MN
The better half an I returned this past Saturday from a much needed vacation, this pandemic has kept both of us so busy (I'm an auto tech, she's a production scheduler at a large machine shop that was shifted to produce ventilator parts for Ford, among others) so the past 6 months have been rocky. I had booked a flight and hotel for SEMA in Las Vegas before all the stuff hit the fan, neither of which was refundable, however as luck would have it we encountered a global pandemic that cancelled basically every public event in the world. I take maybe one vacation a year, if I'm lucky, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to go to Vegas, even if just to walk around and enjoy the weather.

So, the better half bought herself a cheap ticket on my flights and off we went. We spent 5 days, with a 2 day trip to the Grand Canyon nested in the middle. I reserved a "Dealer's Choice" from Ace rent-a-car (insert every shady car rental story here), but overall it was a fine experience. I was given a 2020 Kia Optima FE with 16k, which I have to assume stands for "fuel economy" however I could not find any reference to that trim in any of the Optima literature. From what I read, it was simply a base LX. In total, I put around 700 miles on while I had it.

That being said, it was a wonderful car. It had a 7" touch screen, Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and a full compliment of safety tech: blind spot monitoring, backup cam with cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, everything you could want. I immediately turned off the BSM, my head has been equipped with this feature since I was born and I can't stand the incessant beeping every time the car thinks I'm drifting or thinks a car is too close. I did enjoy the rear cross-traffic alert, that one saved me a couple times while pulling out of a casino lot blindly.

My favorite feature, however, was the LKAS. Normally, driving around town, I haven't found the system to be particularly useful in the handful of models I've driven that are so equipped. However, on a 4 hour drive through the desert it was a God send. I wasn't tired or otherwise impaired in the least, but it is wonderful to be able to just lightly rest a hand on the rim of the wheel and let the car do the rest. It was quite good at maintaining my lane, except when it lost lane markers occasionally. Also, the combined solid/dotted center stripes used to denote passing zones would for some reason cause the car to want to pull towards the middle, seemingly ignoring the single solid line on the shoulder.

As for the car itself, it was quite a nice ride. The seat adjustments were basic, just manual height, distance, and recline. No lumbar adjustment is provided, which can often be the bain of my bad lower back, but I had no real issues up until the last 30 minutes or so of the drive which is when my tailbone and lumbar area started to get pretty sore. The 2.4 engine and 6-speed auto were a decent pair, there was a bit of gear hunting on the steep grades, but I found that using manual mode and locking in 5th gear provided a better experience with little speed loss. Downhill was better, the trans was very good about downshifting on the grades and the car had no trouble holding 70-80 MPH while heading down, without touching the brakes.

All the rest was fairly standard fare: the trunk was plenty big, the ride was comfortable although there was very little in the way of sport. There were 3 drives modes available: Comfort, Sport, and Eco. Sport mode must be chosen every ignition cycle, Comfort and Eco modes remember your choice. I found Eco to be the most enjoyable, mostly due to the reduced throttle response. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the super short 1st gear combined with cheapy Nexen all-seasons led me to scratch the tires on take-off more than once. Eco mode dampened this just the right amount, yet still provided plenty of acceleration when requested.

Fuel mileage was great, as was the range. I didn't do any hand calculations, but the trip computer reported an overall of 33.2 by the time I returned it and reported 37.9 while doing an average of 75 MPH back from The Canyon. Knock a couple off for the notoriously generous computer readings, and I still consider it quite good. On a full tank, range was reported between 510-535 miles which seemed easily achievable. I got about 400 miles before my first fill up at 1/4 tank, with 95 miles of range still showing. On a flat highway drive with no wind I see no reason why 530 miles would be out of reach.

I am a big fan of Hyundai/Kia vehicles and recommend them to everyone. I know that's not a universally shared opinion among members here and others, but their value is hard to beat. If I were to spec an Optima, I'd get one with a few more creature comforts but stick to the 2.4 engine. Unfortunately, the replacement for the Optima, the K5, is only available with the 1.6 turbo engine or the 2.5 turbo. I understand the reasoning, however I truly think that leaving the NA engine as standard at least in the base LX would have been smart. Oddly enough, the mechanically similar Hyundai Sonata uses an updated 2.5 NA motor in it's lower trims, and saves the 1.6 turbo for it's top trim. Only the new N-line gets the 2.5 turbo that's in the new K5 GT. The 2.5 uses dual-port injection and actually makes 11 more HP, but 14 less lb-ft of torque than the 1.6 turbo. Hardly worth the extra complexity. With the upgraded 8-speed auto vs. the 6-speed of my rental I have to imagine that the 2.5 will be more than adequate.
 
I was very disappointed with the K5. Missing many features. Even the
“GT Line” which is NOT the GT missing many Optima features. Not sure about the GT as they were not available when I was looking, but the “GT Line” that I drove plus the lesser models do not have a factory Nav (GPS) and the 1.6T is gutless. (Sure, I could use Apple Play, but I don’t like it except for very special apps that I seldom use). In addition, the transmission is not the regular automatic. (Can’t remember if transmission was the DCT or CVT - either way, I did not like it). I liked the 2020! Optima better, but dealer did not have any loaded Optimas.

The good on that visit is that dealer had a previously owned Cadenza SXL that I loved. Although I could not deal the first couple days, dealer phoned me four days later and came down to my price. SXL is loaded, 3.3 liter and
8 speed (real) automatic. In the rest of the world, it is called the K7.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,531
Location
MN
I was very disappointed with the K5. Missing many features. Even the
“GT Line” which is NOT the GT missing many Optima features. Not sure about the GT as they were not available when I was looking, but the “GT Line” that I drove plus the lesser models do not have a factory Nav (GPS) and the 1.6T is gutless. (Sure, I could use Apple Play, but I don’t like it except for very special apps that I seldom use). In addition, the transmission is not the regular automatic. (Can’t remember if transmission was the DCT or CVT - either way, I did not like it). I liked the 2020! Optima better, but dealer did not have any loaded Optimas.

The good on that visit is that dealer had a previously owned Cadenza SXL that I loved. Although I could not deal the first couple days, dealer phoned me four days later and came down to my price. SXL is loaded, 3.3 liter and
8 speed (real) automatic. In the rest of the world, it is called the K7.

Interesting take on the K5. It will be a while before I get a chance to drive one, most cars that visit my shop are at least 3 model years old or more. Very interesting about the 1.6 turbo being gutless, I actually believe that 100%. The few 1.6 Ecoboost equipped Ford's I've driven are complete dogs, I wasn't even impressed with the hopped-up version in the Fiesta ST. The 2.5 NA motor in those vehicles (Fusion and Escape, mostly) feels much more responsive. I think you made the right choice on the Cadenza, it's a beautiful car. Just an FYI: parts for them can be difficult to find. For example: I had an earlier year Cadenza in my shop a month or so ago that had it's driver's front window smashed out. The Cadenza uses laminated glass, and is VERY expensive from the dealer. There were no aftermarket options, and the used market was basically bare. We did find one, however as luck would have it it got broken during shipping. That being said, it's sales numbers in the KDM market were better, and many parts can be imported for little cost.

Thank you for the comprehensive review--I think those Optimas are great looking and a great value. The replacement (K5) looks good, too.

I agree, the K5 is a very nice looking car. It's just the lack of powertrain choices that lets it down. It really should have the new 2.5 engine as an option. It's not like it costs Kia anything, the underlying architecture is already there in the Sonata. It remains to be seen how the 2.5 GT performs, but it will probably be quite good.
 

14Accent

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1,531
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MN
Great review. Sounds very similar to my 15' Sonata I had, was a great car.

Got any pics of this trip?

I must admit, I'm not much of a photo taker, however I couldn't resist the urge to test out the camera on my S20. Not much variety, but here's a Google Drive link to pics from the trip:


We stayed at the recently renovated Strat hotel. There's a photo in the album of the view from the 108th floor at night. I truly enjoyed our stay, we were upgraded to a room on the 22nd floor with a beautiful view of the mountains, and every staff member I came in contact with was nothing short of delightful. The lounge at the top of the needle offers amazing views, which I enjoyed over several glasses of some expensive bourbon which I forgot the name of in short order (on the plus side, I woke up in a stupor the next morning to $200 in casino vouchers plus more cash than I remembered having the night before).

I'd never been to the Grand Canyon before, and boy am I glad we went. It really is a marvel, seeing how time has such a slow but profound effect on our environment. We did hike about 1,500 feet down from the rim but were not prepared to go any further on this trip. I will absolutely be going back, and intend to plan time to be able to hike all the way to the bottom and back up. As much as I hate camping, that may be a smart move for such an endeavor, from what I've read. I'm in good shape and have no issue with a cardio workout, however living at an elevation of ~850 feet and attempting such a thing at 6k feet are completely different things. I've only been to the high desert once, although I've been to Vegas several times, and I can't believe how difficult it is to breathe at that elevation. It really takes a toll on the body, unless you're specifically trained for it.
 
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13,331
Location
Kendall, FL
Great review. We share a fondness for the brand so I know I'm biased. 😊
But when the last four you've owned have been remarkably reliable, that tends to happen.
 
Messages
5,563
Location
Los Gatos, CA
I'd never been to the Grand Canyon before, and boy am I glad we went. It really is a marvel, seeing how time has such a slow but profound effect on our environment. We did hike about 1,500 feet down from the rim but were not prepared to go any further on this trip. I will absolutely be going back, and intend to plan time to be able to hike all the way to the bottom and back up. As much as I hate camping, that may be a smart move for such an endeavor, from what I've read. I'm in good shape and have no issue with a cardio workout, however living at an elevation of ~850 feet and attempting such a thing at 6k feet are completely different things. I've only been to the high desert once, although I've been to Vegas several times, and I can't believe how difficult it is to breathe at that elevation. It really takes a toll on the body, unless you're specifically trained for it.
I was reduced to tears the first time I looked over the rim.
No human could concieve much less build anything as beautiful as the Grand Canyon.
 
Messages
3,634
Location
St. Charles County, Missouri
Girlfriend bought a '17 Hertz Optima in mid '18 a few months after my Hertz Soul. Neither of us has had a bit of trouble. Think she paid a bit over $11k. Think that gen Optima is aging very well, when it came out thought it might be a step back from the '11 generation. Still wonder about how the K5 will age, if the Sonata can fix it's catfish front end (the '21 Elantra looks better IMO) it might be the nicer car. And Kia, K5 is a stupid boring name.
 

14Accent

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Location
MN
Great review. We share a fondness for the brand so I know I'm biased. 😊
But when the last four you've owned have been remarkably reliable, that tends to happen.

I maintain several Hyundai products for friends and family, and they've all been dead reliable. My pops started in 2014 with his incredibly difficult to find at the time 6-speed manual Accent. He put 120k miles on it over the course of 4 years and all I had to do was front brakes, sway bar links, and eventually a clutch right before he sold it. The clutch wasn't a surprise, he moved to Stillwater, MN (those from here will know) which is a very hilly city perched on the mighty Mississippi. Said hills are an absolute clutch killer. I used either Fram Ultraguard or STP extended oil filters with whatever 5W20 syn that was on sale at the time, every 3-5k miles. I drained the trans at ~60k and replaced the fluid with Redline MTL90 (may have been MTL85) which greatly improved cold shift quality. Other than that, the car needed nothing. Maybe one light bulb.

Recently, I've sold two friends on Santa Fe's. Both ended up with 2017ish Santa Fe Sport's, 2.4 models. My best bud had a Katzkin leather interior installed on his GF's GLS trim, along with heated seats. I installed an HID kit in the factory projectors and LED's in the factory lower driving lights which really completed the look of the car. Neither she nor my other friend have had a single issue with their trucks, I haven't even had to do brakes on either one yet.

Compare that to said friend's own 2016 Sierra Denali pickup that he's had for a year, bought with 32k miles, and he's had it at the dealer for warranty work more times than I can recall. Just recently I had it in to do 4 wheel brakes and caught a leaking LR axle seal. He's this close to trading it in since truck prices are crazy right now. He constantly says how much he misses his 2004 Suburban Z71 that had 200k+ on it and didn't have a single issue, aside from needing brake lines which all GMT800's need in our climate. Makes me glad that I recently talked another buddy to get some trade in quotes on his relatively low-mile LT trim Silverado. He ended up getting $28k on trade plus an additional $4,500 for a credit score over 750. He walked out with a 3 year old Grand Cherokee SRT8 with 32k on the clock and his payments hardly budged. Heck of an upgrade.
 
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CKN

Messages
5,919
Location
Utah
I maintain several Hyundai products for friends and family, and they've all been dead reliable. My pops started in 2014 with his incredibly difficult to find at the time 6-speed manual Accent. He put 120k miles on it over the course of 4 years and all I had to do was front brakes, sway bar links, and eventually a clutch right before he sold it. The clutch wasn't a surprise, he moved to Stillwater, MN (those from here will know) which is a very hilly city perched on the mighty Mississippi. Said hills are an absolute clutch killer. I used either Fram Ultraguard or STP extended oil filters with whatever 5W20 syn that was on sale at the time, every 3-5k miles. I drained the trans at ~60k and replaced the fluid with Redline MTL90 (may have been MTL85) which greatly improved cold shift quality. Other than that, the car needed nothing. Maybe one light bulb.

Recently, I've sold two friends on Santa Fe's. Both ended up with 2017ish Santa Fe Sport's, 2.4 models. My best bud had a Katzkin leather interior installed on his GF's GLS trim, along with heated seats. I installed an HID kit in the factory projectors and LED's in the factory lower driving lights which really completed the look of the car. Neither she nor my other friend have had a single issue with their trucks, I haven't even had to do brakes on either one yet.

Compare that to said friend's own 2016 Sierra Denali pickup that he's had for a year, bought with 32k miles, and he's had it at the dealer for warranty work more times than I can recall. Just recently I had it in to do 4 wheel brakes and caught a leaking LR axle seal. He's this close to trading it in since truck prices are crazy right now. He constantly says how much he misses his 2004 Suburban Z71 that had 200k+ on it and didn't have a single issue, aside from needing brake lines which all GMT800's need in our climate. Makes me glad that I recently talked another buddy to get some trade in quotes on his relatively low-mile LT trim Silverado. He ended up getting $28k on trade plus an additional $4,500 for a credit score over 750. He walked out with a 3 year old Grand Cherokee SRT8 with 32k on the clock and his payments hardly budged. Heck of an upgrade.

What some fail to understand-is (sometimes) a used vehicle is a used vehicle for a reason. Sometimes because said vehicle is a real piece-despite of how expensive it was.
 
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16,414
Location
Silicon Valley
We rented an Optima FE from Dollar last Xmas in Texas, and were happy with it as well, getting around 33mpg on mostly highway. It is good enough for most of our need and drove fine. If it is a good deal and has good long term reliability it would be worth buying.
 
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