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The 2011 Kia Optima doesn't have much of anything in common with the competent but unremarkable Optimas of the past, and that's just fine.
The new Optima is now about the same size as all the best-selling mid-size sedans, like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Chevrolet Malibu; but visually it's a good deal more exciting—upright, focused, and clean, with just a bit of Euro influence. Inside, the Optima gets more of a sport-sedan look, with the instrument panel canted toward the driver. An aggressive stance, chrome tipped dual exhausts and, on top trims, flashy chrome wheels complete the look.
Performance-wise, the new Optima does it all right, with a sweet, powerful-yet-economical engine, great steering, and a quick, nimble feel overall. The 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine makes 200 hp—just as much as the turbocharged four that's been offered in the Volkswagen Jetta—and comes with stellar EPA ratings of up to 24 mpg city, 35 highway. All the while, ride quality is firm but comfortable, and the Optima's cabin is a quiet, refined place to be.
However, seating in the Optima is one weak spot. Front seats in particular feel quite short and very flat, lacking padding and contouring compared to other vehicles in this class. There's decent space though—just enough headroom in front, but reasonably good accommodations in back for adults. The bright spot is that heated-and-cooled front seats as well as heated back seats are optional on the Optima EX and SX.
Features remain a strength throughout the Kia lineup, and the Optima is no exception. You sure get a lot of value for the money, and desirable connectivity features like Bluetooth and iPod connectivity aren't limited to the top models in the lineup. Even mid EX trims get things like dual-zone climate control and a smart-key system.
Top SX trims will offer a more powerful 274-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while an even higher-mileage Hybrid model will join the lineup late in the model year.
- Chiseled, handsome exterior
- Sporty instrument-panel look
- Perky, refined driving feel
- Excellent fuel economy
- Standard Bluetooth connectivity
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- Short, flat seats
- Not much headroom
- Can't get UVO and navigation together