2013 Kia Optima SX Limited vs. 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

By Emme Hall and edited by Christina Selter.

Remember when Korean cars were seen as…well….not so cool? I went to prom in one and never lived it down. Oh, how times have changed. Today the related Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai are known for producing stylish cars; chock full of amenities, for a decent price.

Two of their most popular models, the 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited and the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited both offer turbo charged engines wrapped in a neat little package.

The Optima is the family sedan for the stylish and modern clan. Both inside and out it’s distinctive without being ostentatious; sophisticated yet still sporty. Kia offers you an explosive bang for your buck when it comes to features. The SX comes standard with Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth, push button start, a panoramic sunroof, an 8 way adjustable driver’s seat, 4 way adjustable passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats AND, my favorite, a cooled glove box.

2013 Kia Optima SX Limited

With such a nicely appointed SX, you have to wonder at why anyone would spend the additional $3350 for the Limited package, which adds navigation, 18-inch chrome wheels, nicer leather, an electric parking brake, LED running lights, a first aid kit, and red brake calipers. (Do red brake calipers make you stop faster? No? Didn’t think so.)

The SXL comes with a 2.0L turbo charged inline 4-cylinder engine, good for 274 horsepower and 269 lb/ft of torque. A 6-speed auto is all that you can get, but they soften the blow by including paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. 0-60 time is right around 5.9 seconds, which is in line with this class of vehicle. EPA fuel ratings are 22 in the city and 34 on the highway.

2013 Kia Optima SX Limited

However stylish the Optima is, don’t get it confused with an enthusiast car. It gets the job done, and quite well, but even with the sport tuned suspension and lower ride height, this is not something you’ll find in any Fast and Furious movie. Sure you can scoot along in traffic, confident that you’ll be able to quickly maneuver around bad drivers and potholes, but don’t expect supreme handling. Turbo lag is minimal off the line, but fortunately delivers smooth and reliable power from there. The electronic power steering is a little heavy, but still a bit numb most of the time.

If the Kia sports a more European look, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited comes to us with a fluidity that is just as pleasing. This too also offers a myriad of features at a fraction of the cost of other manufacturers. Standard amenities include sunroof, heated front and rear seats, Sirius satellite radio, push button start, an 8 way adjustable driver’s seat, and Bluetooth. Upgrade to the Premium Package for $2900 and you’ll get a panoramic sunroof, navigation, backup camera, a premium audio system, and real time traffic and weather.

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

The 2.0L twin scroll turbo charged 4-banger knocks out 274 horsepower and 269 lb/ft of torque. It comes with your choice of transmission as long as it’s a 6 speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. 0-60 is 5.8 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are22 in the city and 34 highway. Hmmmm…does any of this sound familiar?

There is no pretense at “enthusiasm” in this car, and a sport tuned suspension or steering is not even an option. Having said that, the Hyundai Sonata doesn’t claim to be a sports car and it does what it does very well. The ride is comfortable, the turbo lag is minimal, and the steering is adequate. It’s for families, not 23 year old hoonigans, and that’s fine.

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

Both cars come with stellar warranties. The Kia Optima offers 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain, a 5-years/60,000 basic warranty, 5-years/100,000 miles anti-perforation and 24/7 roadside assistance for 5-years/60,000 miles. Hyundai is nearly the same, but with 7-years/unlimited miles anti-perforation and 24/7 roadside assistance for 5-years/unlimited miles.

The 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited will set you back $35,275, the Hyundai Sonata as tested comes in for less at $31,290. If price is your deal breaker, the Sonata won’t disappoint you. It’s stylish and reliable with excellent features.

As for me, I’d spend my hard earned dollars on the Kia. I just prefer its Euro look. Plus, you really can’t beat a cooled glove box.

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