Review – 2011 Kia Optima 2.0T
If you are not fond of the “Fluidic Sculpture” design of the Hyundai Sonata, we take a wild guess and say that you might like the more traditional and masculine look of the new Kia Optima, a car that borrows the Sonata’s 274 hp 4-cylinder turbo engine. Kia has brought several changes to Sonata’s sibling, by modifying the suspension which is now a little bit stiffer and reworked the power steering of the Optima, offering a more athletic driving experience.
Some say that the design of the Optima was a little bit inspired by the BMW models if we look at the aggressive front fenders and the bulging hood. The resemblance to the 5-Series is seen at the pair of scowling and wraparound HID headlights, which is certainly not a bad thing. However, the looks of the Optima state very well the fact that this car is a Kia, thanks to the signature Kia grille, the blacked-out roof and the very subtle windshield detail that imitates the lines of the car’s front fascia. Thanks to the addition of the exaggerated fog light insets, the Optima 2.0T is one of the most aggressive looking mid-sized sedans at the moment. Similar with the Hyundai Sonata, the Kia Optima has as sporty, low-slung profile that is exaggerated by the car’s very stylish 18-inch rims.
In the back of the Optima, we find the very stylish looking LED taillamps and the small lip spoiler. Unlike the Sonata, the Kia offers a little more flash thanks to its twin oval exhaust tips and the red-lettered 2.0 GDI badge that make it look very sporty. In order to enhance this manly look, the Optima has a swept rear glass and a tall deck height. Without any doubt, the exterior of the car looks very nice, which is something that we cannot say about the cockpit, at least in our humble opinion.
The leather seats of the Optima don’t look very good in our opinion and they certainly don’t fit with the general look of the car. The driver-oriented center stack looks nice if you give it a quick look, but spend more time examining it and you will probably don’t like the cheap black plastic inserts around the touchscreen interface, climate and audio controls. On the contrary, the center console and the doors feature very attractive carbon-fiber detailing, giving the car a very powerful and noticeable contrast between cheap plastics and carbon-look materials.
The car will be available in two trim levels: EX and SX. If you go for the first one, you will be able to choose between grey, tan and black interior colors. The SX customers don’t have options as they can go only with black. If you want the LED tail lights, the HID headlights and the sexy 18-inch wheels offered by the Optima, you will be stuck with the very unattractive one-color-fits-all interior.
Regardless of your choice for the trim level, you will certainly get a very good powertrain with your 2011 Kia Optima 2.0T. The heart that powers this car is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder direct-injection engine that can output 274 hp and 269 pound-feet of torque. This excellent engine is linked to the 6-speed automatic gearbox that was developed in close collaboration between Hyundai and Kia. Similar with the Sonata, it benefits from the same horsepower-building and fuel-saving technologies.
One of the most interesting technical aspects of the Optima can be found in the intercooler system which uses some very crafty duct work in order to funnel the air through the intercooler in a specific route by keeping the outlet temps 50 degrees cooler in comparison than what is seen without the ducting. The significant drop in temperature translates into an improved fuel economy, horsepower increase and a more agile engine, all very important to any car.
The power unit of this Kia benefits from the same quite innovative twin-scroll turbocharger that is integrated into a cast stainless-steel exhaust manifold. Not only is it more durable and lighter in comparison with cast-iron 2-piece units, but it is very capable of withstanding significant abuse. Add to this the fact that Kia is known for offering some of the best warranties in the automotive market, you will not that you purchased a very reliable car that will last you a long time.
All of the above can be found in the Hyundai Sonata, but Kia made sure that their Optima model has better handling capabilities, offering a little bit more precision. In order to achieve their target, the engineers at Kia reprogrammed the electric power steering so that it will offer the driver a slightly heavier wheel. More than that, the car has firmer shocks that are capable of taking away some of the float. For the SX trim level, the Optima uses 12.6-inch front brake rotors instead of the standard 11.8-inch units, in order to guarantee an extra level of stopping power.
Although both the Hyundai Sonata and the Kia Optima are cut from the same cloth, the engineers of the latter company did their best in differentiating the car, offering a sportier handling, but this does not mean that it can compete with more powerful cars from the upper segment.
Speaking of fuel economy, the EPA ratings say that the 2011 Kia Optima 2.0T will do 22 mpg city / 34 mpg highway.
The entry-level EX level will cost you $24,995 while the more expensive SX trim will set you back $25,995.
Some of the most important competitors of the 2011 Kia Optima are the Honda Accord V6, priced at $27,080 for the model that has just about the same feature; and the Toyota Camry V6, priced at $26,195. The Honda has a less powerful engine and will do only 30 mpg highway while the Toyota has a 268 hp power unit and will do only 29 mpg on the highway. In fact, the only real competitor is the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, offering identical fuel economy and power figures.
Post tags: Tags: Hyundai, Kia, optima, sonata