2011 Kia Optima EX Review & Test Drive


The all-new 2011 Kia Optima EX is the first Kia that I have tested and photographed and I must admit that I am very impressed with the overall package.  The styling is unique,   performance is excellent, fit, finish and attention to detail inside the cabin is first rate.  All this at a very reasonable price of $22,495.00 in base trim, and $26,745.00 nicely loaded with some features not available from the competition.

The all-new Optima EX that I tested came equipped with a 2.4 liter gas-direct injected, all-aluminum, DOHC, 4-cylinder engine generating 200hp at 6,300rpm and 186lb.ft. of torque at 4,250rpm.  That is plenty of power to easily get past slow city traffic, and quickly merge onto fast moving freeways.  When equipped with Kia’s new, fun-to-operate, silky-smooth, six-speed electronically controlled, automatic transmission with Sportmatic sequential shifting, you pass gas stations with an EPA rating of 24mpg/city and 34mpg/highway.

Maneuvering around town and the freeways is also fun and easy because of Kia’s new fully independent suspension system.  It is nimble and quick reacting to your inputs at the wheel with MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar up front, with a multi-link setup including coil springs, gas-pressurized shocks and an anti-roll in the rear.  With a weight distribution of 59/41% front-to-rear, the feeling is more neutral than most front-wheel-drive sedans.

The new electronic assisted rack & pinion steering system keeps total weight down and was nicely weighted and giving me a good feel for the road.  Standard electronic stability control and traction control systems kept me on track and out of trouble during hard cornering and when driving over slick pavement.

My test Optima EX came equipped with P215/44R17in. performance tires wrapped around 17X6.5in. alloy wheels that left a good sized footprint that helped with stability and traction at launch time. When it was time to slow down the all-new Optima EX was up to it with standard four-wheel steel disc brakes.  Up front are 11.8in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 11.2in. solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers in the rear.  Standard ABS and BA helps keep you in control during emergency stops and when braking on slick pavement.

Further enhancing your driving fun and enjoyment is its all-new platform.  Optima’s low, lean and powerful stance is assisted through its overall length of 190.7in. and increase of 1.7in. over the previous model.  Optima is built on a platform with an overall width of 72.1in. and a wheelbase of 110in. with a low ground clearance of 5.3in. for enhanced aerodynamics.  Optima’s lightweight design uses high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength while also achieving high torsional stiffness, benefitting handling, ride quality and refinement.  Additional measures to help ensure good noise vibration and harshness reduction qualities are fitted throughout the Optima.

I was totally impressed with the power, performance and ride quality of this all-new Optima EX and it doesn’t disappoint inside the cabin or its sporty exterior design.

The new Optima EX projects a high-performance yet elegant image with its unique silhouette and sleek stance that builds upon Kia’s philosophy of creating high quality and dynamic vehicles that evoke a certain passion that I certainly felt during my seven-day test drive.

The striking front fascia of the Optima EX features Kia’s signature bold tabbed grille with its unique grille opening geometric cover.  The deeply cut headlamp clusters feature projector headlamps and the lower grille features deeply cut formed foglamps.  The power-domed hood flows into the steeply raked A-pillars.  Longer, lower, and wider than before, Optima’s coupe-like profile is enhanced by a sweeping chrome arc that flows from the A through C pillars, a unique, distinctive design motif that I haven’t seen before that visually lowers the car further and enhances it proportions.  Optima’s roofline connects with its high and pronounced shoulder line that leads to its sculpted flanks and extended wheelbase.  Boldly flared wheel arches, the heat extracting openings on the front fenders with a thin chrome bar, the deep lower side extensions, all create a sedan with a graceful muscular stance that looks like it is in motion when parked.

The rear features a fastback styled rear glass that meets the high-mount trunk lid.  The rear lamp clusters wraparound the sides to enhance nighttime visibility and below the bold rear bumper are dual, 4in. wide, oval exhaust tips finished in chrome that furthers the upscale performance theme.

Open the front doors and you’ll be in for another surprise, an immediate sense of a driver’s car with luxury features.  The instrument panel is contoured toward you to suggest a real cockpit feel with a precise gauge cluster ringed in chrome, and controls for an overall sport performance experience with out sacrificing comfort or roominess.

The center stack is arranged smartly with separate audio and climate control buttons and dials that are separated with thin aluminum bars.  The center console features dark wood around the perimeter, the stubby stick shifter is wrapped in leather with dark wood on top, and the gate is edged with real aluminum trim.  The small, sporty leather wrapped, tilt/telescoping, steering wheel feels perfect in your hands for quick inputs to change your direction.  The door switch plates are also lined with dark wood giving the Optima EX a further luxury touch.  Even the headliner is tucked in where it meets the top of the windshield glass.  That’s another real luxury touch.  The center console features dual cup holders, a storage slot under the center stack and a dual-tiered storage box with a padded armrest.   The leather trimmed front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive for spirited driving times.  The driver’s side feature 6-way power adjustments including power lumbar adjustments, and the passenger bucket seat comes with 4-way power adjustments.

In addition to offering a comfortable cabin, impressive technology features also come standard throughout including an AM-FM-CD/MP3/Sat audio system with SIRIUS satellite radio capabilities, USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players and Bluetooth wireless technology connectivity with steering-wheel mounted voice activation controls to enable hands-free operation for compatible mobile phones.  The steering wheel also features hands-free operation of the audio system, trip computer and cruise control.

More standard equipment includes map pockets behind the front seats, air-vents behind the center console, a pull-down rear armrest with dual cupholders, dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows with front express up/down, power door locks, push start/stop ignition with Smart Key, auto-dimming reaview mirror with compass and Homelink, front door mood lighting, cooling glove box, floor mats, thick-cut pile carpeting, dual map lights, dual lighted vanity mirrors with ticket holder, grab handles above each door, solar glass, aero-designed power side mirrors with turn signal indicators, flat folding rear seatbacks to enlarge the trunk storage capacity, storage slots in each door, remote trunk and fuel door releases.

My new Optima EX came with these options-a Technology Package with Kia’s navigation system with back-up camera and SIRIUS Traffic and an Infinity audio system with 8-speakers.  The EX Premium Package contained a dual, panoramic electric sunroof with one-touch operation, driver memory for two persons, heated and cooled front seats heated outboard rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.  The Optima EX that I tested was more like a near-luxury sedan.

Standard safety systems include dual front advanced airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts for all seats including front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH system for child seats, downhill brake/hill-start assist control, front/rear crumple zones, steel beams in each door and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The all-new 2011 Kia Optima EX that I tested was simply amazing with contemporary, sporty styling, plenty of performance, an interior cabin that leaves nothing to desire and standard safety systems designed to keep you and your passengers safe.

With a base price of just $22,495.00 and $26,745.00 for my nicely loaded test EX model, there isn’t anything else in the segment that comes close to what you’ll experience behind the wheel.  Kia has done a remarkable job of bringing more for the money than the consumer expects.




  • Price: Base Optima $22,495 As-Tested $26,745
  • Engine: 2.4-liter 4cyl 200hp/186 ft-lbs torque
  • Drive: FWD
  • Wheelbase: 110in.
  • Total length: 190.7in.
  • Total width: 72.1in.
  • Total height: 57.3in.
  • Track: f/r-62.8/62.8in.
  • Turning circle: 35ft.
  • Headroom: f/r-40/37.8in.
  • Legroom: f/r-45.5/34.7in.
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • 0-60mph: 8.9 seconds
  • EPA cargo volume: 15.4cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,206lbs.