Stunning design, energetic performance, roomy and cozy cabin, spacious trunk, excellent mileage. MINUSES:
Back up camera failed to beep when approaching car behind. Driver cupholder too close for comfort. Kia Optima
offers something for everyone for the 2011 model year, one midsize sedan that comes in three different versions-high mileage, high performance, and hybrid, a gas/battery rendition aimed at those concerned with conserving fuel by letting electricity do some of the work.
In addition to a redesign with a sportier, and much more fashionable appearance including sharply chiseled body panels complimented by jewel-like headlamps and honeycomb grille, the sedan is almost 2 inches longer and an inch wider for 2011 to give it more secure footing on the road while giving those riding inside more room to stretch legs, arms and even melon. Optima
is offered in LX and EX versions with a 2.4 liter, 200 h.p. four cylinder, EX and SX renditions with its first turbocharged engine, a 274 h.p. 2 liter four cylinder, and a HEV or hybrid gas/electric with a 2.4 liter four cylinder and lithium polymer battery pack powering an electric motor to deliver a combined 166 h.p.
We tested the SX turbo, which quickly sprints from the light or around the 18 wheelers, or up the inclines without any need to huff or puff. Turbo lagg is minimal, though perhaps imperceptible is a better term.
Fast, yet steady on its 18 inch all season feet. Sports suspension and stability control keep it planted to the road. Crisp handling thanks to an electric power steering system designed for precise response to wheel input. Only drawback is that you will feel the tar marks below.
Despite the power, the SX turbo is rated at 22 m.p.g. city/34 m.p.g. highway, which means from 500 to 600 miles travel before the need for a pit stop to fill the 18.5 gallon tank-a most welcome range.
Mileage in all models is very good, with the 2.4 liter, non turbo 200 h.p. four rated at 24 m.p.g. city/35 m.p.g. highway with 6-speed manual or 24/34 with 6-speed automatic, or 2 m.p.g. better than a year ago with the base 2.4 liter,
175 h.p. four cylinder and either manual or automatic.
Rather than a turbo, the optional engine last year was a 2.7 liter, 194 h.p. V-6 rated at 20/28 with automatic only versus 22/34 for the new turbo 2 liter with automatic only.
The hybrid, of course, is the mileage leader with a rating of 36 m.p.g. city/40 m.p.g. highway.
Thanks to the very well cushioned leather bucket seats with a most attractive stitching that looks both sporty as well as elegant at the same time, travel is very pleasant, even for long distances. One suggestion, however, would be to redesign the speakers housed in the front doors to slim them down in order to gain more thigh room.
In back, the seats are cozy and leg and foot room ample for even adults. There were no "Can you slide your seat forward an inch or two" requests from those in back to those in front.
Though the roofline features the slanted coupe look, melon room doesn't suffer in back. And thanks to wide open rear doors that gives the body more freedom to move, you can enter/exit the rear seats in back without having to cradle your melon in your lap to ensure it doesn't butt up against that low slung roof line.
Trunk space is large enough for a family of five to fit the vacation luggage or a couple weeks if vittles from the grocery store. If more room is needed the rear seat backs fold flat when you yank the release levers located in the trunk.
But the opening from trunk to cabin isn't one of those spacious top to bottom and side to side holes as it is one of those partial half moon gaps.
Nice touches included a panoramic sunroof with slide open glass up front, fixed glass in back that helped make the cabin feel more open, though it was part of a $2,150 option package that included two other neat and much appreciated features---heated AND cooled front seats and heated outboard rear seats.
It took only seconds to enjoy coolness to back and bottom on a hot day. And those in back were quick to point out how happy they were that heated seats usually reserved only for those up front, were serving them in back on a rather cool day.
The grained trim on dash, doors, and instrument panel added a touch of class to the car. And grand daughter Haylie glowed with satisfaction that auxiliary, iPod, and USB plugs in the center console allowed her to recharge whatever that thing was that was growing from her ear.
It was nice that there was some stowage under the center front arm rest, but the dual cupholders in front of the arm rest were positioned at an angle that forced the driver's side holder too close for comfort to slip a cup in or out of the holder with maximum dexterity.
Another gripe was the backup camera on the navi system ($2,000), which provided a clear picture of the vehicle behind, but failed to beep a warning that our bumper was about to kiss the other car's bumper. Perhaps we touched a mute button that we shouldn't have? Optima
prices start at $19,200 for the base model and go up to $26,200 for the SX turbo tested. The hybrid is the highest priced version, starting at $26,500.
A few tweaks to reposition the cupholders, slim down the speakers in the door panels, and get the back up camera system to holler "whoa!" when needed would be a nice move.2011 Kia Optima SX turbo Wheelbase:
110 inches Length:
190.7 inches Engine:
2 liter, 274 h.p. turbocharged four cylinder. Transmission:
8-speed automatic. Mileage:
22 m.p.g. city/34 m.p.g. highway. Base price:
$25,995. Price as equipped:
Add $2,000 technology package with navigation system,
backup camera, and traffic reports plus Infinity audio system, $2,150
SX premium touring package with panoramic sunroof, power front passenger
seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, 18
inch alloy wheels, and $695 freight.