The all-new 2011 Kia Optima range is a quantum leap ahead of previous Optimas, and the mid-size sedan has emerged as a strong and stylish competitor to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Chevrolet Malibu.
Its greenest model, the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid, shares a hybrid-electric system with the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and receives the same gas-mileage ratings: 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 37 mpg. Unlike many hybrids, the Optima Hybrid is tuned to achieve slightly better mileage on the highway than around town, with the ability to run up to 70 mph in all-electric mode. The Ford Fusion Hybrid tops out at 47 mph, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid around 30 mph. Kia says that U.S. drivers spend more time at highway speeds than in city driving, so the overall fuel savings are greater.
The styling of the 2011 Optima range is upright, crisp, and slightly European. For the gasoline version, a 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Unlike competitors, the Optima has no V-6 alternative, saving weight and making for a more compact powertrain. The ratings here are 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, for a combined mileage of 28 mpg.
There’s also a sportier version with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that produces 274 horsepower, which you can order with a six-speed manual transmission as well as the six-speed automatic. Mileage is only a few mpg down with this combination, which evokes small, high-performing European turbo fours at a far more tolerable price point.
The Optima’s ride is firm but smooth, and the steering offers good feel—which not all mid-size sedans do—making it handle better and feel more nimble than its size would indicate. The car is quiet inside, giving an unexpectedly refined air to this up-and-coming Korean brand. Its one flaw is seats that we found not only uncomfortable, but short and lacking in padding. Rear seat space is good, however.
Kia has made its name on value for money, and the feature list of the 2011 Optima lineup is impressive. Even heated back seats can be ordered in the middle EX and upper SX trim levels. Most models offer smart keys, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.
For more details, see the full review of the 2012 Kia Optima range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|Manual LX Specs||$19,500||$19,095||24||35|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic (3)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|