2011 Kia Optima SX looks young, exciting and racy
The new midsize Kia Optima sedan couples good looks with moderate pricing.
I tested the Optima SX with a turbocharged 2-4 liter engine that generates 274 horsepower.
This front-drive sedan is comfortable and capable of hauling four adults and five if you need to. The Optima is an excellent family car, and the SX Turbo is fun to drive.
The six-speed Sportmatic transmission does a good job of putting that power to the road smoothly. Sportmatic means you can shift it manually, and that allows you to decide how you want to use the turbo’s boost.Handling is good and on the sporty side, as there is no body lean in turns, and you can push the car a bit on winding roads. Kia creates an overly heavy steering feel, equating heaviness with sportiness. It feels falsely heavy and delivers little road feel.
Ride from the four-wheel independent suspension is stiff and can be a little tough on occupants when the roads turn crumby.
Braking is excellent from the four-wheel discs with ABS and stability control.
The quietness of Optima’s interior and the car’s overall feel delivers a luxury message. You feel as if you’re in a car costing well over $40,000. The Optima SX starts at $25,995, and even with a couple of premium packages, the test car hit $30,840. That’s at the upper edge of what you’d pay for a well equipped Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, its two major import competitors.
Weight is moderate at 3,385 pounds, and the car rides on a 110-inch wheelbase, which generally helps spread road imperfections and create a more luxurious ride.
I love the soft feel of its black leather interior. There is carbon fiber-look trim on the doors and shifter, and black leather seats that feature a silver-gray mesh edging, making the Optima look young, exciting and racy.
That said, the moderately contoured power front seats are fairly hard. They could become tiring on a long trip.Both front seats are heated and cooled. The rear outboard seats also are heated.
Cargo room is generous in the trunk, which measures 15 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold down.
The dash is well laid out, and the buttons and knobs are all large and easy to get at and use. The main gauges feature a black background and white numbers, with a digital trip computer readout between the gauges.
The steering wheel is a tilt/telescope model that’s easy to adjust, but gets button crazy on the hub, with 14 buttons or toggles. The wheel also is wrapped in a smooth leather that becomes almost slippery in hot weather.
Two premium packages on the test car added a navigation system, backup camera, Sirius Traffic and Infinity audio system with eight speakers for $2,000, and a panoramic dual sunroof, power front passenger seat, driver seat memory, heated/cooled front seats and heated outboard rear seats for $2,150.
Inside, you’ll find a trunk and fuel door release on the driver’s door, plus mood lighting in the front doors to add some ambience to the car. There also is push-button start, and the driver’s seat powers forward and back when the car is started or stopped.
This turbo also allows you to enjoy both power and luxury without sacrificing much in the way of fuel economy.
A base Optima with the 200-horsepower engine starts at $19,200 and gets 24 mpg city and 35 highway. The turbo model is rated 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 27.1 mpg in about 70% city driving.