2013 Kia Optima SXL vs. 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

By Eve Pickman and edited by Christina Selter.

Want a family sedan that offers high style, tons of value, good fuel economy and all the high tech bells and whistles? With so many vehicles to choose from in the very crowded midsize sedan market, don’t overlook these two very strong offerings from the Korean car manufacturers, the 2013 Kia Optima SXL and the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited.

2013 Kia Optima SXL

A new trim level for the 2013 model year, Kia Optima SXL leaves very little to choice. Four-wheel disc brakes, 12.6-inch vent front and 11.2 solid in the rear are all part of the Optima SXL’s sport sedan feel. Red front and rear brake calipers scream performance, an SX sport-tuned only suspension with performance dampening keep Optima SXL from wallowing during hard braking.

2013 Kia Optima SXL

Available with only one engine choice, the turbocharged 2.0L I4 GDI engine 274 hp, 269 lb.-ft. torque engine is paired with a 6-speed Sportmatic transmission with paddle shifters. The 2013 Optima SXL delivers an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city, 34-mpg highway. And the Active Eco system alerts you when you are achieving optimum fuel economy, helping you improve your fuel economy numbers by teaching you how to drive smarter.

Large 18-inch chrome wheels, auto-leveling HID headlights, fog lights, a black grille and SXL only power-folding chrome outside mirrors are all standard, in fact there are very few options that can be added to the well-equipped Optima SXL. Only smaller items like wheel locks are optional; even the large panoramic sunroof is standard equipment.

2013 Kia Optima SXL

New for 2013, Kia Optima’s UVO Powered by Microsoft Infotainment System with rear-camera display is what sets the Optima SXL apart from other Optima trim levels. UVO pairs your Smartphone to infotainment system, giving you access to numerous convenience and safety features. It requires no subscription and includes roadside assistance, 911 alerts, maintenance reminders that allow you to schedule service appointments right from your car or computer. You can even log on to your Twitter and Pandora accounts right through the infotainment system. An 8-speaker Infinity sound system with voice-activated navigation is included. Of course, Bluetooth, SiriusXM and SiriusXM Traffic are standard (with a paid subscription.)

Upscale Nappa leather seats and real wood accents give the Optima SXL a decidedly classy look, though some plastic interior surfaces aren’t of the same quality as the natural materials used. Not only are the front seats heated and ventilated, the rear seat bottoms are heated too. There’s even a cooling glove box. That’s one way to keep chocolate from melting in warm weather!

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

How does the Hyundai Sonata Limited differ from the 2013 Optima SXL? For starters the Sonata Limited offers two engine choices – a standard 198 hp 2.4-liter GDI I4 engine or the available 2.0-liter Turbo GDI I4 with 274 hp. The 2.4-liter puts out 184 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the 269 lb.-ft. of torque generated by the turbocharged 2.0-liter. Both engines are mated to a six-speed Shiftronic transmission, only the 2.0-liter turbo gets paddle shifters. The 2.4-liter engine has EPA-estimate fuel economy rating of 24-mpg city and 35-mpg highway. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbo delivers an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city and 34-mpg highway. Not much of a trade-off given the significant horsepower difference.

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

Outside, the Sonata Limited offers fog lights, side-mirror integrated turn signals, chrome grille and door handles and 18-inch alloy wheels. The chrome-tipped dual exhausts and special badging can easily distinguish 2.0-liter turbo models. A panoramic sunroof is optional with both engine configurations; a smaller power tilt-and slide sunroof is standard.

The Hyundai Sonata Limited offers all the same safety and security equipment as the Optima SXL with one notable exception. Navigation and rearview camera is standard on the Optima SXL as part of the UVO system, the Sonata’s rearview camera and navigation system is part of the Premium Package, along with navtraffic and weather, an upgraded 9-speaker Infinity sound system and Hyundai’s Blue Link system. Blue Link offers a variety of safety and convenience features, including SOS emergency service, maintenance reminders, remote access, stolen vehicle recovery and a host of other features. It can be accessed via Smartphone, app or the in-car infotainment system.

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

The interior of the 2013 Sonata Limited features a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob plus leather seating surfaces. Both the front and rear seats are heated; ventilated front seats are not offered at this time. While the seats do not have the pronounced bolsters of the Optima, they are a bit softer and cushier. And 2013 Sonata Limited actually has 16.4 cubic feet of cargo space, more than the 15.43 cubic feet offered by Optima.

The 2013 Kia Optima SXL carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $34,500, fully loaded with the limited number of available accessories and options bumps the total cost to $35,740 (including $775 destination and delivery charges).

The 2.4-liter Hyundai Sonata Limited starts at $25,845 (including $795 in destination and delivery charges); the Sonata Limited 2.0T starts at $27,595 (including $795 in destination and delivery charges). A Sonata Limited 2.0T with Premium Package and the rest of available options comes to $32,440 (including $775 destination and delivery charges).

Stylistically distinctive, with different quality interior materials, each sedans offer exceptional value for the money. Drive both, get a feel for your local dealership, check your wallet and make your best choice.

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