Quality » 8
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QUALITY | 8 out of 10
leather felt high quality, but Kia could stand to crank up the padding
The center stack is discreetly angled towards the driver, delivering a cozy feel without hindering passenger access.
.Material choices are unlikely to have the Germans seeking therapy, but they're wholly class-appropriate.
Sitting upright, my head mashed into the ceiling
The 2011 Kia Optima has an interior layout that's not much different than any other model in this class. Front seats are a bit disappointing; the lower cushions are especially flat and hard, lacking proper padding and more importantly contouring. The upscale EX, comes with a power driver's seat for greater adjustability, but even then the passenger-side seat doesn't adjust for height or tilt.
However, heated and cooled front seats—as well as heated back seats—are available on EX and SX models. The cooling feature's effectiveness was appreciated in the hot sun. Backseat comfort is quite good though, with decent legroom and just enough headroom. There's enough width in back for three across, provided your passengers aren't too tall or wide.
Underpinnings are also pretty ordinary for this class of car—struts in front, a multi-link layout with coil springs in back, and front anti-roll bars. But it's all been tuned in a way that makes the Optima feel as refined and comfortable-riding as the Volkswagen Passat but as responsive, nearly, as the Mazda6. Hit the tightly curved canyon roads, and the Optima doesn't lean and roll overtly; response is crisp, and rough surfaces don't throw you off-course—basically meaning that you can enjoy driving a little more without upsetting your passengers. All the more impressive is that the Optima's cabin stays quiet inside.
The asymmetrical dash layout is appreciated, as then audio and climate controls don't use seemingly identical knobs and buttons. And the Optima's interior isn't drowning in matte-metallic grays—instead the matte-black surfaces feel sporty and just fine—while the dash is surrounded by a somewhat soft, synthetic-leather-like trim material.
With the exception of disappointing front seats, the 2011 Kia Optima is a very comfortable, practical family sedan.