Kia Optima

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Choosing between Sonata and Optima will largely be a matter of styling preference.

A mid-size sedan with some style. i:[Qi4-. i-niTl To replace the aged Optima, Kia has wrapped Hyundai Sonata mechanicals in a fresh, distinctive wrapper. The Optima starts as fairly basic transportation (with sixteen-inch steel wheels) but can be equipped like a near-premium sedan with options such as a panoramic sunroof. The powertrain lineup exactly mirrors that of the Sonata, with normally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders plus a hybrid model.

■ ON SALE: October I BASE PRICI $19,000 (est.) I SPECS: 2.4L 1-4, 198 hp. 184 Ib-ft; 2.0L turbo 1-4.274 hp, 269 Ib-ft; 2.4L l-4/electric hybrid, 209 hp. 195 Ib-ft (est.); front-wheel drive

G23 A mid-size crossover for the budget-conscious buyer. i:iou7i»]:«ifll The Sorento has made strides in design but hasn't come quite as far in driving dynamics. It's competent on the road but doesn't ride as well as the competition. The interior is nothing special, but all Sorentos come nicely equipped, with aluminum wheels, a USB audio input, and Bluetooth. There's an available third-row seat, but it's suitable only for kids less than four feet tall.

■ ON SALE: Now BASE PRICE RANGE $23,190-$27,095 SPECS: 2.4L 1-4,175 hp, 169 Ib-ft; 3.5LV-6,276 hp, 248 Ib-ft; front- or 4-wheel drive

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It certainly looks and drives better than previous Kia sport-utes, but the Sorento's strongest selling point is still value.

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