At times advice to posters is to rent a car and see how they like it. So, I though I’d put up some info on a rental Kia Optima from Enterprise. I just got back from 2 weeks in LA where we put 800 miles on the Optima visiting family in So. Ca. This a lot of freeway miles with heavy stop and go at times and local driving. A mix with a bias for freeway miles. I used the HOV lanes when available and would cruise at 70 mph.
The overall mpg was 30.0 on the car’s computer, which seems pretty accurate. The Optimal had 19,000 miles on it and Enterprise considers it a “Full” sized car. It was a basic model, no power seats, 4 cyc., auto trans., nice but not fancy. the seats were comfortable for long trips. While manual, you could adjust seat height if needed. There was ample leg room for rear seat riders, so it is very comfortable car for long rides with the family.
The trunk is big but the opening is small. The view to the rear is also poor for backing up due to the sloped rear window and small rear door windows. The cars styling looks great, but if you buy one a rear view camera would be a big help. I had to do a lot of backing up and it was not easy and I was really careful when backing up.
There was no “owners manual” in the glove box and it took me a long time to figure out how to reset things like the trip odometer, and average fuel mpg. With some fiddling I figured it out, but it was not intuitive. My guess is most drivers will not be able to figure these things out without some coaching from the salesperson or reading the manual. The heat controls were easy to understand, but this car did not have auto temperature control so the controls were basic; fan speed, temperature, and buttons for A/C and what outlets the air comes out.
The standard radio was no better in terms of sound quality than my old '03 Civic, and 2000 Camry. I figured even a standard radio in a new car would sound much better than my old cars, not so. If you want really high quality audio you will need to get some sort of audio upgrade package. The radio controls were pretty poor also. Since this wasn’t a car with high tech features the radio shouldn’t be confusing to use, this one was. Just to change bass, and treble you have to move through a couple of menu screens to make it happen. Not really something you do when you are on the freeway. I would rate the radio as distracting for any action beyond changing stations (if they are preset ones) and volume. Set up your bluetooth, iphone, mp3 player etc. while parked.
The motor seemed to have plenty of power, and the 6 speed auto tranny would downshift quickly when you needed acceleration as in handling on ramps in heavy traffic. The car handled fine, but I didn’t do any challenging curvy roads on this trip. The car handled some pretty big “bumps” over uneven pavement without getting too unsettled. In the HOV lanes you have little room side to side and mostly I felt confident and comfortable in the Kia that it wasn’t going to surprise me on the bumps. Braking felt strong.
Enterprise seemed to maintain the car OK. Tires were inflated, oil was at the full mark, etc. It seemed odd to me that the 2 tires on the passenger side were a different brand than the 2 one the driver’s side. Tread depth was similar, but tread design was quite different. The driver’s side were Kumho tires and I don’t think any new cars come from the factory on Kumho’s. The passenger tires were not a brand I’ve heard of so I wonder if they were OEM tires either. At 19K miles this car might have already run off the OEM tires so I wouldn’t be surprised if a buyer of a new Optimal was tire shopping at 15K miles.
As a rental I was fine with the car. As a buyer I’d be much less so. It says something to me that when I get home my old Civic with 165K miles and 5 speed stick feels like a fun drive. And my 2000 Camry XLE at 182K miles with a V6 has a much better stereo. I don’t feel I’m missing much by driving my old cars. All the ads for all the cars want me to feel depressed and that my manhood, and/or esteem with my friends and neighbors will be greatly enhanced by a new car in my driveway. In fact, my neighbors don’t care what I drive and my wife is happy; so no big new car payments for me anytime soon.
An Enterprise car lot where they sell their cars was nearby to my hotel and I took a look at the inventory. I thought the prices were fair and the cars look good and they offered a good variety of makes, models, and sizes. Most had 30 to 33K miles with a few at 15K. If I do need a newer car some day I’d take a look at the Enterprise lot.