The Fast Lane:
KIA REVIEW 2011 Optima “The mid-level 2011 KIA Optima with the normal engine and automatic transmission gets 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. That’s not just “good” it’s outstanding. I mean, why bother with an expensive, midsized hybrid when a car this size gets this type of mileage?”
December 09, 2010
Review: the 2011 KIA Optima is sultry and exotic Korean Kimchi
Forget about the last KIA Optima – just put it out of your mind. Tell yourself it was a bad dream, a mistake, a hullabaloo covered in bad Kimchi. It wasn’t exactly a horrible car, but it managed to have less personality than an old, four-cylinder Camry – which is hard to do.
This new model has taken an odious name and made it great. How good? Public reaction to my tester was more enthusiastic than a recent drive in a new Corvette Grand Sport. People from their late teens into their hip-replacement years approached; baited by a metal skin sultry and exotic.
Corporate sharing has the Optima sharing many components – but good luck finding them.
The normally aspirated, 200 horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 186 lbs-feet of torque and is hooked up to either a six-speed manual (only on the LX model) and a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. There is a 274 hp turbocharged engine capable of 269 lb-ft of torque that I have yet to test, but if it’s anything like the Hyundai Sonata’s turbo, it’s damn good – but (sadly) will not be offered with the manual transmission.
Having 200 ponies is a good thing – 274 is a better thing.
I love every single angle of the exterior on this family sedan. It begs the question, “Why can’t all cars look this good?” Best of all, the interior is just as surprising. In order to maintain a low-slung design, some headroom had to be sacrificed. It’s only noticeable for tall folk or people with abnormally long torsos. On the other hand, legroom is outstanding and one of the very best in class.
Seats are comfortable with firm cushions throughout. I like firm seats, but those with dainty derrières may find them less forgiving than some of the competition. Rear seats are comfortable, although the low height of the Optima makes for lots of bending when loading toddlers and babies.
The doors are huge. Keep a weary eye out for wide parking places as the rear doors are capable of inflicting serious damage given their shape.
Interior surfaces are better than most Japanese vehicles in this bracket. Better still, the overall design of the 2011 KIA Optima’s interior is European chic rather than Korean cheap – as in olden days. The dashboard on the higher level Optima’s has sections tastefully covered in leather. The overall appearance is unique with some of the best instrumentation placement I’ve seen in this bracket.
Driving the 2011 KIA Optima is not as dramatic as its design. Not that it’s a bad ride, but when you’re expecting Mercedes Benz’s levels of road refinement (because of that sweet design) and get something closer to Mazda6 levels, it can be a disappointment. Optima’s long wheelbase helps make for an excellent riding sedan on the highway.
The steering feel is far too light for sporting pretensions. It reminds me of the over-boosted feel of the Ford Taurus which is not a complete criticism – there are consumers who like as little effort as possible. Fortunately, the handling is quite good. One gripe I have is with the suspension’s ability to soak up bumps and challenging surfaces on the road. The body is solid, but you can definitely hear the suspension do its thing – often.
On the plus side, the tight suspension helps keep body roll in check. It still rolls and dips, but no more than most of the competition. Brakes are good and provide decent feedback. This is a fairly long vehicle and it takes time to learn the dimensions – so tight brakes are a real plus.
I like the smooth six-speed automatic transmission and was surprised at its sophisticated feel. It takes its time with down-shifting, but it’s no worse than many competitors. 0 to 60 mph took a shade under nine-seconds. I measured it at nearly 5,400 feet elevation, so that’s a respectable time. The turbo should be well over two-seconds faster.
Get this: The mid-level 2011 KIA Optima with the normal engine and automatic transmission gets 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. That’s not just “good” it’s outstanding. I mean, why bother with an expensive, midsized hybrid when a car this size gets this type of mileage?
I suppose that’s my argument for just about everything this 2011 KIA Optima represents. It’s sensuous externally, beautiful internally, comfortable, quick, frugal and well put together. The 2011 KIA Optima starts at about $19,000 and can come extremely well equipped for about $30,000. Add to that one of the best warranties available in the country and I have a hard time recommending ANY equivalent competitors.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
I give the 2011 KIA Optima a TFLcar.com rating of