2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ vs. 2013 Kia Optima SX

By Eve Pickman.

The midsize family sedan. Not the most exciting group of cars out there, but certainly some of the most competitive. So how can you tell one 4-door sedan from the other? Let’s take a look at two of the hotter offerings out there, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ and the 2013 Kia Optima SX. Both come equipped with 2.0L turbo engines, lots of creature features and distinctive style, both are worthy of a test drive and serious consideration.

A muscular, thoroughly American sedan the Chevrolet Malibu LTZ boasts the same 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as the award-winning Cadillac ATS and Buick Verano Turbo. Tuned to 259 horsepower, with a healthy 260 ft.-lbs. of torque, the 2013 Malibu LTZ moves easily in and out of traffic, making passing and merging a piece of cake. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth, no hunting for gears. The suspension on the 2LTZ is slightly stiffer than the other Malibu models, standard Stabilitrak stability control, balanced braking and responsive steering add to driver confidence. The Malibu LTZ gets a respectable 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway using regular fuel.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu

The sleek Kia Optima SX has a turbocharged 2.0L I4 GDI turbo-charged engine which generates 274 hp and 269 lb.-ft. torque. Paired with a 6-speed Sportmatic transmission with paddle shifters, the 2013 Optima SX delivers an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway. An Active Eco system alerts the driver when the Optima achieves optimum fuel economy, helping improve fuel economy numbers by educating the driver how to drive smarter.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Don’t let the large bowtie and Camaro-inspired looks of the Chevy Malibu deceive you, the inside is extremely quiet, with refined features and high quality finishes. The dash of the Malibu LTZ has large well-placed controls, steering wheel mounted control make it easy to scroll between features like SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher radio. Malibu LTZ comes with Chevy’s intuitive MyLink system and 6-months GM’s OnStar System with Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Keyless access and push button start are all standard.

The sleek Optima SX features standard 18-inch wheels, with a curve hugging sports-tuned suspension, front fog lights and dual chrome tipped exhausts. The materials on the inside of the Optima are not quite up to the quality of the Malibu; plastic surfaces don’t look or feel as upscale. The 15.43 cubic foot trunk of the trunk of the Optima is smaller than the Malibu’s 16.3 cubic feet, though the lift over height of the Optima makes trunk access easier.

Kia’s UVO system is a newly available feature on Optima SX. Unlike the Malibu’s OnStar System, there are no fees associated with the UVO system. In addition, Optima offers optional heated and ventilated driver and front passenger seats, Malibu 2LTZ has standard heated front seats; ventilated seats are not available, however Malibu LTZ comes with a standard sunroof, a panoramic sunroof is optional on Kia Optima SX.

2013 Kia Optima SXL

So how do you pick just one? Let the numbers do the talking. The 2013 Chevy Malibu 2LTZ has a base price of $29,595, the available $1,350 Electronics and Entertainment Package, which added a Pioneer Premium Sound System, Rear Camera and 19-inch aluminum wheels, the $1,000 LTZ Premium Package and $795 Navigation and $395 Advanced Safety Package can bring the cost the 2.0L Malibu 2LTZ over $35,000.

2013 Kia Optima SXL

The 2013 Kia Optima SX base MSRP is $26,800, the $1,400 SX Technology Package adds navigation and satellite radio, the $2,950 Premium Touring Package, with UVO, panoramic sunroof, rear camera display, HD Radio, heated and ventilated seats and a variety of power features brings the Optima close to $32,000. The Optima, like all Kia vehicles carries a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, the Malibu a 5-year, 100,000-mile one. If you plan on keeping your vehicle for an extended period of time, the Kia Optima wins this comparison by a warranty.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Chevrolet and Kia.)