I have been involved in the automotive industry for the past 30 years and in that time have experienced firsthand the roller coaster of desirable and not-so-desirable design trends. With the help of a close uncle who introduced me to car shows, historic car events, and hot rod outings, educated me as we perused the halls and streets lined with those special vehicles of our past. This, laying a foundation for styling cues of the future, was a vision of days gone by. Cars of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s were cool, the ‘70’s and ‘80’s not so cool, the ‘90’s were a mixture of good designs, and over the past 11 years; things keep getting better. Case in point; the 2011 Kia Optima.
Kia first introduced us to the Optima in 2001 which had some upscale interior touches; however, an exterior that blended into the background. Also, in 2001, Kia’s overall reputation was still pretty low on the totem pole. A lot has changed in the past 10 years as Kia’s reliability and satisfaction numbers have escalated. Over the past two years when most other car companies were struggling, Kia did extremely well, and the all-new 2011 Optima will help keep the momentum going strong.
As part of a bold new product roll-out that started with the launch of the thrill-seeking Soul, Kia is now producing intriguing vehicles, eye-catching designs, improved quality, and impressive fuel economy. The 2011 Optima ranks as one of the newest cars that are turning heads.
For 2011 the mid-size Kia Optima sedan is available in three trims, LX ($18,995), EX ($22,495) and SX ($25,995). The LX comes standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder mated to 6-speed manual transmission. An optional automatic 6-Spd overdrive with a Sportmatic transmission is available on the LX and is standard on the EX and SX.
The exterior styling blows the doors off both previous versions and the Japanese competition. Personally, I think the Kia designers have made the new Optima more appealing and relevant to the generation X and Y buyers over anything coming out of Japan. The aggressive lines of the 2011 Optima come under the leadership of Kia’s lead designer Peter Schreyer. He took the Optima to new dimensions that grew nearly two-inches in both length (190.7-inches), and width (72.1-inches), while lowering the overall height. The result is improved leg room, sculptured proportions, and an assertive profile that competes with likes of Lexus and Infiniti.
From the front, the Optima features Kia’s new signature bold “tabbed” grille that is broader by menacing projector headlamps that, along with a vigorous lower fascia, completes the sharp looking face. The profile takes on a “Coupe-like” sweeping angle that flows from the A through the C pillars. If you opt for the Premium package ($2,150), it transforms the roof into a glass ceiling with a power panoramic view with two sunroofs. High and pronounced rear shoulder lines and bold flared wheel arches help to create a powerful stance that leads into the sculptured rear-end. The rear bumper surges up to meet the tail lamps on either side of the trunk lid. The bottom two-thirds of the trunk lid back portion is recessed delivering an added 3-D feel. Chrome dual exhaust tips project out of the lower valance.
From the moment you enter the cockpit, you are presented with the feel of luxury and many up-scaled features you would expect in a more lavish vehicle. The Optima’s dash is contoured towards the driver where buttons and knobs are easily accessible. A large screen positioned at the top of the center stack displays radio, cooling, optional navigation, and a rear backup camera view. The steering wheel is loaded with controls for the radio, cruise control, Bluetooth- controlled phone access, and Eco and Trip settings. Paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel add a racing flare to the vehicle. Smart Key Fob with touch buttons on the outer door handles and push button start is always a favorite of mine.
The seats were very comfortable and offered six-way adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat offers flexibility for multiple seating and cargo configurations. The 2011 Optima is full of technological features including AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system with SIRIUS® Satellite Radio capabilities, auxiliary, and USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players. Bluetooth®, wireless technology connectivity with steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls, enables hands-free operation and a cooling glove box.
The 2011 Optima is built on an all-new light weight platform that produces an extremely comfortable ride and utilizes high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength while also achieving high torsional stiffness. The benefits include: improved handling, ride quality, and refinement. Kia took the Optima to new levels to help ensure minimal noise vibration and harshness (NVH). The front-wheel-drive Optima is built on a unibody frame and utilizes independent front and rear suspension systems. MacPherson struts are used in the front with a multi-link layout in the rear to provide the utmost comfort whether the road is smooth or less than ideal.
Power comes from the choice of two flavors of the 4-cylinder 2.4 liter engine. The standard configuration is a direct injection dual overhead cam generating 200 horsepower and 186 pounds of torque with an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. If you want your mid-size sedan to have a few more horses under the hood, the 2011 Optima grants your wish with a Turbo version of the 2.0-liter that cranks up the power output to 274 horses and 269 foot pounds of torque with EPA ratings of 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Room for improvement:
Electric power steering needs improvement.
- UVO powered by Microsoft® for hands-free in-car entertainment and communication system
- Rear-view camera option
- Optional panoramic roof
The 2011 Optima was created with safety in mind, and is equipped with six airbags (dual advanced front and front-seat mounted side as well as full-length side curtain), front active headrests, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners, side-impact door beams, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Also standard are Four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control and Brake Assist Systems and Hill Assist Control.
In Summary – The 2011 Kia Optima is a seriously attractive automobile that will leap-frog its competition in design and features. It is a head turner especially when people realize it’s a Kia. The Optima is a bold statement from Kia that it is willing to take great steps to create vehicles with a strong presence, equipping them with the latest and best technologies to help improve the driving experience. The 2011 Optima is not last year’s Kia, it is the Kia of the future. Partly, it’s the drive which has bolstered KIAs new found popularity and sales. This car is worth a test drive and it leads the pack on my list of favorite new cars.
For more information and a complete list of features and specifications go to www.autofastracks.com.
2011 Kia Optima EX Turbo Sedan
Base price: $24,495 as driven: $29,340 (including destination and optional equipment)
Engine: 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder Turbo
Horsepower: 274 @ 6000
Torque: 269 foot pounds @ 1750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission with Overdrive and Sportmatic
Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
Turning circle: 35.8 feet
Cargo space: 15.4 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3223 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
EPA mileage: 34 highway, 22 city
Wheel Base: 110 inches
Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
Also consider: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda MAZDA6, and Toyota Camry