All in all, this new, more exciting Optima no longer feels like a stripped down sedan delivered explicitly for those who need low monthly payments.
The Mazda6 is still the sportiest of the bunch, with a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 engines; the V-6 is sweet and strong, but the base four-cylinder model isn't as quick or fuel-efficient as the Optima.
That's the case with many of the base engines; the base Accord and Camry both come with engines that feel reasonably quick off the line but can run out of steam in highway passing or with a full load.
Neither of those models comes as well-equipped as the Optima.
The Malibu is about the same size as the rest, but it feels the most mature, with a great, settled ride and a 'big car' interior.
Finally, the Hyundai Sonata is closely related to the Optima and essentially has the same engine, though its style is entirely different; it rides a bit softer but doesn't steer or handle as well in our opinion.
The Nissan Altima is one other worthy rival, but it's due to be replaced next year.
|2011 Kia Optima||2011 Chevrolet Malibu||2011 Hyundai Sonata||2011 Toyota Camry|
|$19,200Browse Used Listings||$21,975Browse Used Listings||$19,395Browse Used Listings||$20,195Browse Used Listings|
|22 MPG City / 39 MPG Hwy||22 MPG City / 33 MPG Hwy||22 MPG City / 39 MPG Hwy||20 MPG City / 33 MPG Hwy|
|Gas I4||Gas 4-Cyl||Gas I4||Gas I4|
|Midsize Cars||Midsize||Large Cars||Mid-Size|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L Manual LX||4-Door Sedan LS w/1LS||4-Door Sedan 2.4L Manual GLS *Ltd Avail*||4-Door Sedan I4 Manual (GS)|
|Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive|
|4 Door Sedan||4 Door Sedan||4 Door Sedan||4 Door Sedan|
|Manual||Automatic w/OD||Manual w/OD||Manual w/OD|