2011 Kia Optima Page 1

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Kia's redesigned Optima gets overshadowed by the sexier Hyundai Sonata--with which is shares a platform--but that doesn't mean the stylish Kia is simply riding the Sonata's tail lights.

No, the Optima is a looker in its own right, if not as exhibitionist as the swoopy Sonata. With lines that are sleek and attractive but don't attract unwanted attention from law enforcement, this revamped mid-size sedan will go a long way in Kia's continuing quest to revamp its image from "budget Korean automaker" to "Korean automaker offering plenty of value for the money."

Kia simply gets it; basic doesn't have to be boring, and the 2011 Kia Optima shows that mid-size sedan shoppers don't have to settle to design boredom or a lack of features.

Most of the nation got its introduction to the Optima during Super Bowl XLV, thanks to a big-budget ad that Kia ran during the game. I got my first up close and personal look with the car during the week leading up to the game. In fact, it was parked outside the party I was at while I saw that ad. Talk about coincidence.

Or not. There is no great metaphor or irony here. But I was able to tell my fellow party-goers that Optima delivers on the ad's promise.

It's rare that I am charmed by a mid-size sedan. But now the same platform has done it to me twice--first with Sonata, and now with Optima.

The Sonata charms by being a looker in a traditionally bland segment. The handsome Optima is less flamboyant, but it charms the wallet in much the same way that the Sonata does--only with more flair in terms of driving dynamics. More on that in a bit.

My EX tester came with the 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated direct-injection four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower (a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is available, as is a hybrid model). The mid-level EX trim (LX is base, SX is top-line) comes standard with this engine, and the turbo is optional. EX models come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.

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