Review: The Optima’s elaborate arrival
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Fri., Feb. 25, 2011
It quite often starts with the Super Bowl, but regardless of where new TV ads are launched, when a car company introduces a new product, they ultimately land in just about everybody’s living room sooner or later.
In the case of Kia, they have been on a seriously wide-ranging promotional campaign to expose their new Optima sedan, ranging from the aforementioned Super Bowl ads to even serving as a prop/obstacle in the NBA’s dunk competition during the All-Star weekend. Ordinarily, the skeptic in me would imply that the company is spending all this money on exposure because their new midsize sedan may need some help winning over the public (i.e. it’s not all that exciting on its own).
But having spent a week with a new Kia Optima SX Turbo, I can confidently say this car stands up quite well on its own, thank you very much. In styling alone, the sedan distinguishes itself successfully with what the company describes as “a completely new and stunning design language for Kia, highlighted by a dynamic and streamlined profile that conveys elegance and athletic confidence from every angle.”
The new Optima is longer, lower and wider than the previous version, and in terms of interior room is another midsize that knocks on the door of the full-size category. The engine choices are all four-cylinder units (all part of Kia’s Theta II engine family), and includes two Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) mills and one hybrid gas/electric entry that should arrive later this year. The non-hybrid engines include a 2.4-liter version with 200 horsepower, and a two-liter Turbocharged unit with 274 horsepower.
Our test mule had the Turbocharged engine and it proved to be both quick and refined, with 60 mph arriving in 6.16 seconds, all while achieving 22.8 MPG in mixed driving. This was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddles located on the steering wheel for quick, hands-on-the-wheel manual shifting when desired. The front-drive chassis handles well and is actually sporty in character, with a compliant ride and flat cornering. The standard ABS brakes were responsive (and were easy to modulate in the snow), and Electronic Stability Control is of course standard.
Stretching the wheelbase on the new Optima has done great things for interior room, and where this car impressed me most was the quality of the interior furnishings. The controls are logically arranged and have a quality feel, and the trip computer located between the analog speedometer and tachometer has a sharp, full-color display that is striking. The support of the front buckets inspires aggressive driving, while the spacious rear seat likewise has excellent lumbar support, and the seatbacks fold forward in 60/40 sections to increase trunk room.
The 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo is EPA-rated 22 MPG city/34 highway and has a base price of $25,995. With options including a Technology Package with navigation system, our MSRP came to $30,840. www.kia.com