Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: 2011 Kia Optima LX

The Kia Optima has never come across my mind all of these years until it’s recent design. I thought of it as a very bland and forgettable car, and it became the punch-line of my many jokes. But after seeing and driving the new Optima I can see that my perception of this car has truly changed. The 2011 Kia Optima is stylish, great to drive, and offers so much value. The Optima competes against the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and Suzuki Kizashi. This is the first Kia I have ever driven and I can say that it is a true player in the competitive and crowded midsize car market.   The 2011 Kia Optima is powered by a 2.4L I4 engine that produces 200 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. I drove a LX model with the automatic transmission that came in at a little over $22,000.

The Kia Optima rides on the platform as its sister the Hyundai Sonata, but you would never think that by looking at both vehicles. There are 5 Optima trim levels to choose from, which are the LX, EX, EX Turbo, SX, and Hybrid. The fuel economy for the LX with the manual transmission is rated at 24 city and 35 highway. The LX with the automatic transmission, and the EX model are rated at 24 city and 34 highway. The EX Turbo and SX models are rated at 22 city and 34 highway. The hybrid Optima’s fuel economy is rated at an impressive 36 city and 40 highway.

The designers at Kia did a damn good job of making the Optima look fantastic and stand out against the other midsize cars on the road. When I had first seen the 2011 Optima on the streets I was really blown away because I couldn’t believe how good it looks. I think that the Optima is actually the best looking midsize car there is right now (no offense Hyundai Sonata). The Optima looks great from all angles. The Optima I drove was a metallic bronze. I am not too big on dark colored cars but I would definitely take an Optima in this color.

I have to say that the interior of the Optima would be the main reason why I would purchase an Optima. The interior is fantastic and reminded me of a mix between Audi and Saab. I thought that the materials used in this car were of really high quality. One thing that I am fascinated with in any car is the shifter, I just like a great shifter design and the Optima delivers on that. My car had the fabric seats and I found them to be quite comfortable. I have come too really like leather seats lately and would probably choose leather over the cloth. While there is a sloping roof line I still found there to be more than enough headroom. But anyone taller than 5’9” might find headroom to be a little tight. The backseats were very spacious and comfortable, and could fit 5 people very comfortably. I really loved everything about the center console; I liked how it was positioned towards the driver for easier access. All of the buttons and knobs were positioned very well. My car came equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, 6 speakers, and an auxiliary jack.  The trunk which has 15.4 cubic feet of storage space was a highlight of the Optima. The 60/40 rear split seats are also a plus which the seats can be folded by the use of two buttons in the trunk. One of my favorite features was the cooling glove box. This interior really made me want to go out and buy myself a Optima.

I had a great time behind the wheel of the Optima. The Optima’s 200 hp engine really blew me away, because I was not expecting the power to kick in so instantly. The 6 speed automatic transmission was also a highlight in this car. The ride in this car was very smooth and there was more than enough power on hand when I needed it. The 6 speed transmission really works well and I didn’t find too many problems with it. I thought that the Optima accelerated great; it's acceleration was better than the 2011 Buick Regal CXL that I also tested. I really did not like the brakes in this car at all, I felt that I always had to push harder on the brakes than I needed to. I am not really big on 4 cylinder engines but I think that Kia has done a great job with this engine.

For my first time behind the wheel of a Kia, I can say that I had a good time with the 2011 Optima. I can actually say that I wouldn’t mind having this car as a daily driver. I would like to have the navigation system because I feel that it makes the console look better rather than having the small storage space that was in my LX. I think that Kia did everything right with this vehicle and the Optima should be taken seriously as a midsize contender. This car offers so much style and a lot of value. Anyone who is in the market for a midsize car should really check out the 2011 Kia Optima. I promise that this car will not disappoint you at all.

I hope to have the opportunity to drive the Turbo model and other Kia models.

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