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Road & Travel Magazine Names the 2013 Kia Optima - International Car of the Year

2013 Kia Optima Road Test Review

by Courtney Caldwell

Luxury Car Buyer's Guide - RTM's Top 8 Picks for 2013

Acura ILX

Kia Optima SX

Buick Verano Turbo

Lexus GS

Road & Travel Magazine Names Kia Optima

2013 International Car of the Year

Range Rover Evoque Named 2012 International Truck of the Year - Road & Travel Magazine

I’ve never fancied myself much of a sedan girl. More like a speedy sports car siren or a mother trucker… the latter of which was my first priority for many years when rearing rugrats and camping out by babbling brooks in the back woods of New England. But this week, priorities changed when the new 2013 Kia Optima SX sedan was delivered as our test car. What a looker!

“Is that the new Jaguar,” one man shouted from across the parking lot. “No, it’s the new 2013 Kia Optima,” I yelled back. “Wow, woulda' never guessed,” he said shaking his head with surprise.

And that’s the reaction the Snow White Pearl Optima received all week long. Driving this car was like having a new puppy. Everyone wanted to stop and pet it, stoop down and take a closer look, inspiring miles of smiles and constant curiosity. I found one woman peering into the windows with her hands cupped around her eyes to get a better look inside. Approaching the car, I asked, “What do you think of it?” Startled and somewhat embarrassed she was caught, she replied, “Oh, so sorry, I wasn’t being nosy but this car is just so gorgeous. I had to get a closer look. I can’t believe this is a Kia!”

The beautiful black and white Nappa leather trim interior was surprisingly stunning upon opening the door. Not only elegant and upscale in appearance but also spurring sensations of a sexy sports car. Our SX test model came with the premium touring package, which included 18” luxury design alloy wheels with red brake calipers presenting a lower, wider stance in appearance, appealing to those who need practical but love performance. The SX delivers both. The chrome accent rear spoiler completed the overall exterior look and style of the Optima placing this unique sedan in a class above its 2012 predecessor. The new 2013 SX dispels any myths about a sedan being for old folk… this ain’t your grandma’s car!

In fact, this is one impressive car, completely changed my perspective on what a sedan can inspire in a driver, and inspire it did. Driving the Optima inspired feelings… I felt very proud to be seen in it especially as one neck after another craned from curbside to catch a look as it passed by.

Everyone within earshot had something to say. Pulling into a crowded parking lot in downtown LA, a valet attendant walked up to my window to inform me they were full. He then smiled with a smitten look as his eyes glanced over the Optima from bonnet to bumper. “Wow, this is such a nice car,” he said. “Is this the new BMW?” Before I could answer, he then walked to the front of the car, caressing the hood, noting how it looked so BMWish in style.
 
Knowing I had him at ‘wow’ I informed him that it was new 2013 Kia Optima SX. With a surprising look on his face, he said, “Kia? Man, have they come a long way! This is so nice.” The full parking lot no longer mattered. He told me to leave it. He’d find a space for it. Walking away, I looked back over my shoulder (with a tad fear that he liked it so much he might take it for a joy ride) but instead found him fondling the roof as if he were gently stroking a woman’s back, and then with a big smile he entered the luxurious interior. I heard a rev and with that knew he was a happy man in fantasy land. Returning two hours later, I found the Optima parked in the first spot next to his booth. The SX seemed to unleash the autophile in him!

Once getting past the Optima’s stunning exterior and bold interior, and over the shock that this is not a BMW or Jaguar, there is a boatload of creature features such as heated outside mirrors that also display turn signals, remote keyless entry and push button start with Smart Key (excellent safety features for a quick entrance and fast exit). The power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support and its position memory are particularly handy if more than one person drives this car. Evening entry is enhanced with LED running lights highlighting the way into the cockpit with the name KIA subtly aglow in red on the carriage edge.

Not only does the Optima SX look sleek inside and out its 6-speed Sportmatic Transmission guides and glides vehicle direction with super smooth ease on all roads leading anywhere. Exit ramps were a welcomed sight just to cop a feel on how well the bootie hugging bucket seat prevented body roll when cornering, which means drivers won’t end up in the passenger seat in a tight turn.

The Optima’s 2.0L turbo gas direct injection 4-cylinder engine offers more than enough power for escaping tailgaters, road-ragers or highway hogs. In fact, the power is so efficient it’s enough to fool yourself into thinking you’re in a roadster at red lights. Beware the delusion. However, if you find the need for speed pumping up your adrenaline you’ll find comfort in the Optima’s anti-lock brake and traction control systems when control of your senses returns for a reality check.

Kia Optima Wins 2013 International Car of the Year - Trophy

As one might expect for a car of this caliber, the Optima is loaded with a gaggle of gadgets from a Sirius satellite radio to a steering wheel with paddle shifters to supreme safety features including electronic stability control and vehicle safety management. And, so much more.

Fuel economy might be a bit of an oxymoron for the 2013 Optima, especially with recent gas spikes in California, with an average of only 26MPG but the pride in owning and driving this sedan is priceless, well worth the cost and the exhilarating emotional delight it delivers.

Speaking of cost, if the 2013 Kia Optima SX with all its goodies sounds like a rev-raising rock car boasting a $60K price tag, you’d be wrong. Here’s some sticker shock in a good way. The 2013 Kia Optima SX MSRP, including the premium package options, AND freight and handling, is a mere $35,275, before the haggling begins.

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. If Kia can penetrate a market of practical purchasers with power and performance for half the price, then maybe it’s time for luxe lovers to take a second look at this under the radar rising star. 

___________________________________

The trophy for the 2013 Kia Optima was presented to Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Kia Motors, during a private ceremony during press week of the 2013 North American International Auto Show. Presenters included Courtney Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief, Road & Travel Magazine and ICOTY founder; and Mike Martini, president Bridgestone America OE.

“With its sleek design and fun-to-drive performance, the Optima continues to be a sales leader for the brand, “said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing & communications, Kia Motors America (KMA). “Receiving this prestigious award will help carry the Optima’s momentum forward into 2013 and further cement its position at the top of its class.”

"ICOTY celebrates its 17th year in 2013, however it will be the first year that eligibility for vehicle consideration evolved from 'must be brand new models to 'new or existing models with significant changes in design and/or technology, as well as standing out as the most emotionally compelling vehicle among consumers," said Courtney Caldwell, ICOTY founder and producer.

"The ICOTY Awards are not about power and performance, but rather about personality, passion and personal lifestyle."

In 1996, the ICOTY Awards pioneered the 'emotional connection' (theme) as it related to cars and consumers to help raise awareness that people have strong feelings about their vehicles throughout the purchasing process and ownership. It's not, nor has ever been, just about camshafts and chrome. It's about how cars reflect our personalities and status in life. Therefore, public passion and opinion are strong influence factors in the final decision.

"By far, the 2013 KIA Optima received more 'vigorous vocal reactions' from the public than any other 2013 vehicle we tested," Caldwell adds. "So much so, the Optima was 'the' deciding vehicle that inspired us to re-consider ICOTY's contender criteria going forward. Previous year models can often morph into something spectacular with new design, technology and creature comforts. To not include these vehicles as contenders was an injustice."

SEE ALL 2013 INTERNATIONAL CAR OF THE YEAR WINNERS

Kia Optima Press Release

2013 Kia Optima Named 2013 International Car of the Year by Road & Travel Magazine
Presenting the 2013 International Car of the Year Award to Kia are Courtney Caldwell, ICOTY founder and Michael Martini, president Bridgestone Americas OE, and ICOTY sponsor (r).

The trophy for the 2013 Kia Optima was presented to Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Kia Motors, during a private ceremony during press week of the 2013 North American International Auto Show. Presenters included Courtney Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief, Road & Travel Magazine and ICOTY founder; and Mike Martini, president Bridgestone America OE.

“With its sleek design and fun-to-drive performance, the Optima continues to be a sales leader for the brand, “said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing & communications, Kia Motors America (KMA). “Receiving this prestigious award will help carry the Optima’s momentum forward into 2013 and further cement its position at the top of its class.”

"ICOTY celebrates its 17th year in 2013, however it will be the first year that eligibility for vehicle consideration evolved from 'must be brand new models to 'new or existing models with significant changes in design and/or technology, as well as standing out as the most emotionally compelling vehicle among consumers," said Courtney Caldwell, ICOTY founder and producer.

Bridgestone, longtime lead sponsor and supporter of the ICOTY Awards, recognizes the consumer-product relationship as critical to vehicle success.

“Bridgestone is proud to support the ICOTY awards, and applauds the Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazineefforts of these automakers that like our company demonstrate a strong commitment to innovative technology,” said Michael Martini, president, Consumer OE, Bridgestone Americas. “Through the combined efforts of everyone in the auto industry, and led by automakers like those being recognized today, we will continue to meet and exceed the demands of the motoring public.”

"We would like to thank Bridgestone Tire for sponsoring the 2013 International Car of the Year Awards," said founder Courtney Caldwell. Their continued annual support has allowed us to honor automakers for vehicles that not only relate to consumer lifestyles and connect on an emotional level, it has provided RTM with the opportunity to elevate awareness on how people feel about their cars, and thus help revolutionize, the way agencies now market and advertise cars to consumers on an international level. 

For more information on the Kia vehicles, click here.

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