2011 Kia Optima Road Test Review

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A complete break from the two generations of Optimas preceding it, the 2011 Kia Optima's crisp lines, short overhangs, modern angularity, and near perfect proportions are guaranteed to attract attention.

Inside, the interior is seemingly lifted directly from a late-model Audi, which is not a bad thing at all. If you're going to copy somebody, it's never a bad idea to mimic the best and that's exactly what Kia's done here.

Still, it takes more than good looks to make a car desirable over the long run, and Kia's product planners have endowed Optima with a number of innovative technologies to help the car hold your imagination once it's been captured by it. Standing out most significantly is Microsoft's UVO. Similar in function to the telematics solution Microsoft does for Ford (dubbed SYNC), UVO provides verbal and touch-screen interface for communications, entertainment and navigation functions. UVO eliminates stepping through menus, one simply asks for the operation desired and it is activated.

The other pleasant surprise is the 530-watt Infinity audio system available to optimize (you had to know it was coming at some point) your listening pleasure. A surround audio system, it's clean with a detailed soundstage and outstanding fidelity. Other nice touches on my test car (which was a U.S.-spec EX 2.0 turbo, not available in Canada: only the regularly aspirated EX 2.4 or the SX 2.0 turbo can be had here) include heated and ventilated seats, a cooled glove box, a warmed steering wheel, rearview camera and a panoramic sunroof.

Positioned as a driver's car, the 2011 Kia Optima has two engine choices. The 2.4-litre, normally aspirated four-cylinder engine produces 200 horsepower and 186 ft-lbs of torque. The 2.0-litre turbo makes 274-horsepower and 269 ft-lbs of torque. Both engines use direct injection to improve their efficiency. A six-speed manual transmission is available for base model Optimas equipped with the 2.4-litre engine. Go for the turbo and a six-speed automatic (with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel) is your only transmission choice.

Out on the road, Optima serves up a nicely controlled ride, easily the equivalent of the leaders of its class (Accord and Camry). Independent suspension front and rear enable the Optima to do so while also delivering balanced and competent handling. Our test car was pleasant to drive, although the brake pedal required a bit more input than we'd have preferred.

The engine in our test car, the 2.0-litre turbo, spooled up energetically and offered more than enough thrust to keep things moving along with enthusiasm-if not exactly alacrity.
Adequate for the task presented, the engine ran smoothly and exhibited no turbo lag. The six-speed automatic transmission's ratios were well selected, but it didn't really play along very well when we asked it to behave in a more sporting manner. Shifts were a tad late and matched revs on downshifts would have been a nice touch.

All in all though, Kia has come up with a nice package. The only other things we'd change are the look of the grille and eliminate the side vents altogether. We realize they were in vogue when the car was being designed, but as a styling feature now, side vents (particularly non-functioning ones) are played out. Still, the 2011 Kia Optima is a completely fresh-looking car with nice presence.

Available in three trim levels, pricing for the 2011 Kia Optima starts at $23,450.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Kia, 2011, Optima, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

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