The Kia Optima, now in its second decade in the midsize sedan segment, has a new design for 2011. It’s a streamlined profile the manufacturer says “conveys elegance and athletic confidence from every angle.”
Designed in Frankfurt, Germany and Irvine, Calif., the 2011 Optima is slightly longer, wider and lower than its predecessor. Available in LX, EX and SX trims and as a hybrid, the gas-engine Optima offers a 200-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Like other unheralded cars, the Kia Optima is surprisingly impressive when driven, and it’s the recipient of lots of disbelief. During my week with the EX, the mid-level option, more than one friend couldn’t identify the car.
“That’s a Kia?” was a common query, based on the sleek new exterior design that fits the carmaker’s definition.
In addition to the dual exhausts=, solar glass and outside mirror turn signal indicators, the upgraded X offers standard fog lights, heated outside mirrors, and exterior chrome/body-color door handles with 17-inch alloy wheels.
Driving the Optima is a treat. It’s smooth in city and highway conditions, and it corners confidently. It’s not particularly quick when passing or when other sudden acceleration is required. But the Optima’s speed blemish is minor, particularly considering its other attributes as well as the quality of interior construction and its new, sharp design.
Exterior styling. It sure seems like elements of Audi, Infiniti, Toyota, Nissan are morphed into the Optima, and it all works.
Interior spaciousness, with the exception of slightly restrictive headroom (I’m 6-feet tall).
The standard feature list is long and varied, cooling glove box to Bluetooth and multiple functioning power windows, doors and seats to front door mood lighting to solar glass.
Optional panoramic sunroof in EX model.
Tight front seat entrance for drivers six feet or taller.
Heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats are nice but part of the costly ($2,250) EX premium package.
2011 Kia Optima EX: Facts & Figures
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.9 seconds.
Airbags: Dual front, front side-mounted and side-curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 24 mpg (city), 34 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,495.00.
Price As tested: $27,440.00.
Manufacturer’s website: www.kia.com.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper 5 years/60,000m miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Anti-Perforation, 5 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000 miles.
What Others Say:
“All told, we see no reason the new Optima shouldn’t be on any midsize sedan buyer’s shopping list.” —- Road and Track.
“The midsize sedan market is crowded and competitive. But buyers seem increasingly willing to take a chance on new entries–especially ones with a reputation for value, like the Kia’s. The Optima’s long list of options should make it a compelling choice for those who want a sedan that won’t get lost in the four-door crowd.” —- Popular Mechanics.
“If Kia’s competitors didn’t take notice when the company known for cheap transportation released the Soul, Forte and Sorento, they’ll definitely take notice when the Optima starts rolling off dealer lots this fall. It’s got all the goods it needs to go toe-to-toe with segment leaders, and hot looks to boot.”—- Motor Trend
What The Wife Says:
“Where’s the clock?” (You have to push a control button to see it displayed). Maybe it’s a way to have drivers slow down. I don’t know. I also like the horn tone.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Remember when mentioning Kia to friends resulted in varying offerings of , ‘A Korean car? You’re kidding, right? No way.’ The 2011 Kia Optima ideally bolsters my response. “No, I am not kidding.” It may not yet be providing strong competition from segment leaders Honda and Toyota, but it should be.”