Buyer’s Guide: Kia’s Latest Sedan Has an Audi Influence

The 2011 Optima gets a sportier makeover that adds some stiff competition to the midsize market

The optimum view (Source: JeffCars.com)

2011 KIA OPTIMA EX

  • MSRP: $27,440 (Base Kia Optima starts out under $20,000)
  • Engine/Horsepower: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder/200
  • Fuel Mileage: 24-city/34-hwy
  • Highlights: Power driver’s seat, dual-zone a/c; Bluetooth connectivity; push-button keyless starter; automatic dimming rearview mirrors; leather seat trim; 3-month Satellite radio subscription;17-inch wheels
  • Competition: Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Suzuki Kizashi and Toyota Camry

WHAT’S NEW:

The exterior design of the Optima was influenced by Kia’s design chief, Peter Schreyer, who formerly worked for Audi. With that said, the 2011 model year offers a sporty design along with a high-level of class-leading features.

PROS:

Surprisingly, the midlevel Optima I reviewed was outfitted with Kia’s optional Technology and Premium Package, which one would typically expect on high-end vehicles. The Tech Package includes such high-end features as a nav system with a back-up camera and a premium sounding 8-speaker Infinity audio system.

The EX optional Premium Package, on the other hand, includes a panoramic sunroof, a power passenger seat, a programmable driver seat memory, heated (and cooled) front seats, separate heat controls for the rear seats and a heated leather steering wheel. Who would have expected all that on a Kia, right?

Also, a version of Ford’s SYNC system will be available in the Optima soon. Kia’s system will be known as UVO, a hands-free in-car entertainment (and communication) system, which will allow texting, emails and the like.

Moreover, the fuel-efficient Optima EX I reviewed managed to achieve close to 460 miles on one-tank of gas. Who needs a hybrid when achieving this type of driving range? Ironically, an Optima hybrid will join the lineup soon. Go figure.

Kia makes another sporty sedan (Source: JeffCars.com)

CONS:

I would have liked to have seen a sportier wheel package available on the midlevel EX trim just like what’s available on the high-end turbo engine. And while the Optima I test drove was equipped with a number of high-tech features, it didn’t offer a blind-spot detection system, which alerts the driver of vehicle’s in its blind-spot before changing lanes. However, knowing Kia, they’ll probably add this safety feature in another year or two. Furthermore, don’t be fooled by the sporty Audi-like exterior design, it still drives like a comfortable, but uneventful family sedan, as opposed to a German-made vehicle.

FINAL VERDICT:

Kia has another winner on its hands, with the roomy, fuel-efficient, value-packed 2011 Kia Optima. Overall it’s the sportier alternative to its sibling, the sexy Hyundai Sonata, offering more content at a lower price. Like the Sonata, the stylish Optima sets a new standard for midsize family sedan, complete with one of the best new-vehicle warranties in the industry.

For those in the market for a standout midsize sedan, the Optima should be placed at the top of the shopping list. Besides the Hyundai, what other vehicle offers all of this for under $30,000?

  • Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To price a new-vehicle or get the latest car-buying tips, drive on over to JeffCars.com.

 

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