The Kia Optima received a badly needed re-design for the 2011 model year, which saved it from the bottom of the heap in the affordable mid-size car class and turned it into a solid competitor with like models. The Optima has an MSRP range of $19,200 to $26,200 and gas mileage rated at 24 city and 35 highway. Overall, it's a near perfect mix of performance, efficiency, and style, with a lengthy list of standard features including Bluetooth and a USB port.
The favorites in the class are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, and both the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata are also models to consider. (Don't forget that Hyundai owns Kia.) Given the state of the economy and the new trend toward buyer caution, drive them all if you can. Some people may have to make a mental leap to go with the Kia, but it's a beautifully well done sedan that just might have the competition looking over their shoulders.
There are two engine options for the 2011 Optima, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 200 hp and a turbo-charged version that ups the power to 274 hp. Reviews are highly mixed on steering quality, so buyers will have to decide for themselves. The general consensus seems to be that the electric-assist makes for a light feel, but pulls the feedback down too far. The brakes, however, are firm and smooth.
The Optima takes its design cues from Euro sedans, having a wider stance and longer body than previous versions. It achieves a sporty tone set against upscale elegance. Inside the dash is completely oriented for the driver's convenience. The seats could be a little more cushy and the backseat is a bit cramped, but overall, the cabin gets high marks.
Standard features on the base time include USB, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio and phone controls, and an auxiliary input jack. Step up to the EX trim and you pick up the Kia UVO system, which is like Ford's SYNC, for hands free control of key cabin systems. Other options include heated seats and even a heated steering wheel. The trunk has 15.4 feet of cargo space, which is more than generous for this class. All the standard safety measures are present including anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, and six airbags.
Kia really did its homework in revamping the Optima for 2011. If you're one of those drivers who thought you'd never even consider owning a Kia, this is an affordable mid-sized sedan that is worth a second, and maybe a third look. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the high value for the money in an attractive, feature-filled package.