With its redesign for 2011, Kia has transformed its Optima family sedan from a plain, forgettable entry to one of the most distinctively styled cars in the class. In addition to new exterior and interior styling, the 2011 Optima offers a choice of more powerful engines as well as a hybrid version. Three trim levels are available — LX, EX and SX — and the Optima competes against cars like the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It's scheduled to hit dealerships in fall 2010, with the hybrid arriving in early 2011.
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With its creased sheet metal and low-slung shape, there's a luxury-car sophistication to the Optima's exterior that you don't see in a lot of family sedans. The Optima features the new face of Kia cars that we've seen on models like the Sorento and Sportage crossovers. It's essentially a black mesh grille bordered by angular headlights, and the design enhances the car's aggressiveness. The placement of the Kia badge above the grille is a little odd-looking, though.
The base LX trim comes with 16-inch steel wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and supplementary turn signal lights in the side mirrors. The midlevel EX gets 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, heated side mirrors and chrome-accented body-colored door handles. The sport-themed SX gains 18-inch alloy wheels that are partially painted black, auto-leveling high-intensity-discharge headlights, LED taillights, a small rear spoiler and red brake calipers. A panoramic sunroof is available.
The five-person cabin features front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. The redesigned interior features a more driver-oriented design, with the entire center control panel angled toward the driver.
Standard features include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cloth seats, a cooled glove box, a CD stereo with a complimentary three-month Sirius Satellite Radio subscription, auxiliary and USB ports, and Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone use. EX trims add Kia's UVO entertainment and communication system that's similar to Ford's Sync technology, a power driver's seat, a backup camera, push-button start, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The top-of-the-line SX features leather upholstery, stitched seams, paddle shifters in front of the steering wheel, metal pedals and illuminated scuff plates.
Available features include a memory feature for the driver's seat, heated and cooled front seats, rear seat heaters, a heated steering wheel and a navigation system that incorporates Infinity surround sound.
Under the Hood
The base engine for the front-wheel-drive Optima is a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that teams with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. SX versions are powered by the 274-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which works only with the automatic transmission.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system and active front head restraints.
Kia Optima Hybrid
Like its sister vehicle, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Optima Hybrid combines a 30-kilowatt electric motor with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder to produce a combined 206 hp. The transmission-mounted motor works with a six-speed automatic rather than the electrically variable transmissions most hybrids employ. The Optima Hybrid can cruise on electric-only power under light acceleration and sufficient battery charge. For pedestrian awareness, the Optima emits simulated engine noise when the car is moving on electric power alone.
The electric motor draws power from a lithium-polymer battery that's mounted behind the rear seat; consequently, the backseat forgoes a 60/40-split folding arrangement for a center pass-through. Overall trunk volume falls to 9.9 cubic feet. That's a considerable drop from the non-hybrid Optima's 15.4 cubic feet, but it's typical of a hybrid sedan: The Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid each sacrifice about 30 percent of trunk volume versus their non-hybrid equivalents.
Visual changes amount to a hybrid badge in back, aerodynamic 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels, minor differences to the grille and front lights, and a small rear trunk spoiler. Aerodynamic enhancements include lower bumper extensions and a slight reduction in ride height. All told, the Optima Hybrid looks far more like the regular Optima than the Sonata Hybrid does a Sonata.
Standard features include a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless access with push-button start. Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic moonroof, a navigation system and a backup camera are optional. Back to top
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