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Hyundai Sonata vs Kia Optima


They share components but the Korean siblings are very different. Richard Blackburn separates them.

value

Hyundai Sonata Premium

$41,990

Cheaper than the Optima, it comes relatively well equipped with satnav, leather, front and rear parking sensors, auto folding mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats, sunroof and dual-zone climate control. Hyundai is heavily discounting it this month — it’s as low as $38,990 drive-away, $7500 off the sticker price and roughly $10,000 less than the Optima. The deal is likely to continue into the New Year. Warranty is a generous five years and servicing a reasonable $777 for three years/45,000km.

Kia Optima GT

$44,585

The RRP is $2000 more than the Sonata and Kia charges $595 for prestige paint. But the premium brings plenty of extra kit. The GT has unique front and rear bumpers, red brake calipers, heated steering wheel, paddle shifters, alloy sports pedals and a 10-speaker Harman-Kardon audio. No deals, though, so the driveaway price nudges $49,000. Seven-year warranty but three years of servicing cost more than twice as much ($1716 for six services to Hyundai’s three).

design

Hyundai Sonata Premium

The interior is conservative and lacking a little flair. Infotainment and satnav menus are simple and easy to operate and there are three 12-volt plugs. Attention to detail drops away in the back and below eye level, with plenty of hard grey plastic. Driver’s and passenger’s seats are power adjustable and there’s plenty of legroom in the rear. The boot (on both cars) is generous at 510 L.

Kia Optima GT

The cabin has a sportier feel than the Sonata’s, with red stitching, GT logo embroidered on the seats, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, piano black highlights in the armrests and a splash of brushed alloy in the centre console. The dash also has a more premium feel, with better graphics in the instrument panel. The satnav and Blutetooth pairing aren’t as intuitive as the Hyundai.

technology

Hyundai Sonata Premium

Engine

The Sonata and Optima are powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which puts out a healthy 180kW/ 350Nm, line-ball with Ford’s four-cylinder Falcon. It punches above its weight, with good response off the mark. It is also pretty refined and willing to rev but the Sonata’s fuel consumption is on the high side at 9.2L/100km.

Kia Optima GT

Engine

Outputs are the same as the Hyundai’s but somehow the Kia returns 8.5L/100km, roughly 8 per cent less than its stablemate. Neither brand can explain why. The transmission on both cars isn’t as quick-witted as some rivals, which is more of an issue for the Optima, given its intent. It would benefit from a sports setting with better throttle response and quicker shifts.

safety

Hyundai Sonata Premium

Ticks all the passive safety boxes with six airbags and a five-star crash rating but its score of 33.84/37 in the ANCAP test is solid rather than spectacular. Also lacks the driver aids increasingly found on cars of its price, with no blind spot or lane departure warning and no automatic emergency braking. Seat belt warnings for all five seats are a plus, though.

Kia Optima GT

All models get automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, while the GT adds blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alerts. This Optima hasn’t yet been crash tested, but the 2011 model scored higher than the Sonata with 35.58/37.

driving

Hyundai Sonata Premium

The suspension has been specially tuned for local roads and it shows, coping better than most with our bumpy country roads and potholed city streets. The steering feels a little too light but reacts accurately to driver inputs. The suspension set-up is biased more towards comfort than cornering but it feels secure and predictable through the bends.

Kia Optima GT

The Optima GT is fitted with different dampers to improve handling, while the steering is rack-mounted instead of column-mounted to give better steering feel and sharper turn-in. Grippy Michelin tyres also make a difference. The steering is sharper and more responsive and the car sits flatter through corners. Tends to get more upset by mid-corner bumps than the Hyundai.

Verdict

Hyundai Sonata Premium

Kia Optima GT

At the moment, the driveaway deal on the Sonata makes it the better buy. But at the regular RRP the Optima is a better car.

Which is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below.