Option out a Hyundai Sonata Limited, and you wind up with a sticker price of $31,170. If that seems high for a Korean sedan, it likely is, and Hyundai sells the bulk of its Sonata models in the middle-trim range, where a well optioned Sonata prices below $27,000. Once you top the $30k price point, stepping into Hyundai’s near-luxury Azera (which begins at $32,875) starts to look like a reasonable alternative.
That’s why we’re so surprised at Kia’s latest move. Its range-topping 2013 Optima SX Limited sedan will price from a jaw dropping $35,275, including destination charge. Sure, the car comes well equipped, boasting such amenities as unique front and rear fascias, LED running lights, genuine wood trim and Nappa leather upholstery and trim. Buyers get a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a premium Infinity audio system and navigation, too.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which generates 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission option is a six-speed automatic, but Kia also includes steering wheel paddle shifters for buyers wishing to choose gears for themselves.
While we admire Kia’s boldness, we can’t help but question its sanity. Hyundai was careful not to price the Sonata (its equivalent to the Optima) into the range of its Azera, which, in turn, is priced below its Genesis and Equus sedans. Perhaps Kia is taking the Optima upscale because it lack the depth of model range that Hyundai has, but we don’t see the Optima as a near-luxury car, no matter how well equipped it is.
We wish them the best of luck, since $35,275 also buys you a new Hyundai Azera, an Audi A4, a Cadillac ATS, an Acura TSX or a Volvo S60, all of which we’d choose over the Kia Optima. There’s a reason, after all, that Burger King doesn’t offer a $50 Whopper with foie gras, shaved truffles and Kobe beef.