All-new for 2011, the Kia Optima is dimensionally similar to the previous generation model. But the 2011 Optima's wheelbase, or the distance between the centers of the front and rear tires, is longer, offering more interior space overall and especially in the rear seat area. Design-wise, the new Kia Optima looks lower and sleeker than its predecessor and prominently sports the "tiger nose" grille characterizing the Kia brand. The new design's downside is that it slightly impacts rear headroom for taller passengers, but get the optional panoramic sunroof and once inside, the cabin feels bigger.
The 2011 Kia Optima is offered in three models, differentiated by their engines and equipment packages. The Optima GDI, or base model, uses a four-cylinder gasoline-direct injection engine (hence the GDI moniker). The 2.0T model uses a turbocharger with its four-cylinder engine. Both models have similar fuel economy, with the base model getting an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city and 34-35 mpg highway while the 2.0T gets an estimated 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The latter, though, generates 74 extra horsepower and 86 greater pound-foot of torque over the base engine, making it the choice for sportier driving. The last model, the Kia Optima Hybrid, goes the other direction as the "fuel sipper" of the three and gets an estimated 36 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. The base model comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or the (more popular) six-speed automatic transmission. Both the turbo and hybrid Optima sedans are equipped with the automatic transmission only.
The base Optima is available in LX and SX trims while the turbo model is offered in EX and SX trims. There are no trim levels for the Optima Hybrid. All Optima sedans come well-equipped. In safety, the Optima comes standard with dual-front advanced airbags; front seat mounted side airbags; full-length side curtain airbags; and a plethora of active and passive safety equipment including power-assisted front-wheel disc brakes; anti-lock brakes (ABS); electronic stability control (ESC); and Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The 2011 Kia Optima is also a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and received a Five Start Crash Safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Optima is covered by Kia's ten-year / 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.
All Optima models come with standard chrome-tipped dual exhausts, a feature usually reserved on sportier vehicle trims. Inside, the Optima's dashboard is angled towards the driver to maximize instrument visibility and reach. Standard features include tilt / telescoping steering wheel column, power door locks and windows, and keyless entry. Kia recognizes many Americans consider their vehicle as a second home, especially when stuck in traffic, and as such, the Optima comes standard with AM/FM radio, CD-player, and is MP3 capable, with auxiliary and USB jacks and power outlets. A three-month complimentary subscription from SiriusXM satellite radio is available on all models as well. Finally, the glove compartment is actually cooled to store sodas and fruit for a quick, refreshing cold drink or snack.
Kia offers eight distinct option packages for the Optima. The Technology package offers GPS / navigation, SiriusXM real-time Traffic data, backup camera, and the excellent Infinity audio and speaker system. The Premium package, depending on the Optima model and trim, offers a panoramic sunroof; heated and cooled front row seating (which we found delicious on sunny days); and heated steering wheel. Microsoft-powered UVO hands-free infotainment system is available on certain models and trims as well.