2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Eco Vs. Normal Fuel Economy

February 17, 2012

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Eco mode in this turbo-charged sports sedan always struck me as an oxymoron. I was pondering this yesterday on a drive to the Palm Springs area and decided to see what difference eco mode made to the fuel economy. After all, if you're going a constant speed you won't miss the punch. And there are times when you just want to save a few bucks on gas.

So I drove to Palm Springs, 130-miles from my house, in normal mode and monitored my fuel economy using the on-board gauge. The traffic was stop and go most of the way. (Yes, I know these gauges are somewhat unreliable, but I felt if it was consistently unreliable it would at least reveal the difference.) Then, I made the return trip of the same difference in eco mode. The difference was much bigger than I thought.

In normal mode I got 26.6 mpg.

In eco mode I got 34.7 mpg.

If I owned this car I think I would be in eco mode any time I was just trying to get there.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 17,920

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Not Very Picky for a Turbo

February 13, 2012

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Notice something about the gas cap on our turbocharged Kia Optima?

That's right, it's blue and it has a cap holder. More importantly, it doesn't feature a sticker that warns owners against using regular gas.

This seems like a no brainer for a midsize family sedan, but when you're talking about a car powered by a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, it's a little more unique.

It's one thing to offer a high-powered four-cylinder engine in place of a V6, but if owners are then forced to use premium gas the cost savings go out the window. Look for this to become a more prominent issue as more and more manufacturers adopt smaller, turbocharged powerplants.

Gas issues aside, the Optima's engine remains impressive after all these miles. It's responsive, smooth-running and quiet even at full throttle. The quick-shifting transmission helps even if the paddles are a little on the cheap side.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 17,241 miles

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2011 Kia Optima and 2012 Volvo S60: Numbers and Non-Numbers

February 06, 2012

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I was at a Super Bowl party this weekend. Between mouthfuls of corn chips and guacamole, a fellow attendee who knows what I do for a living asked me what I was driving. I told him an S60. He asked how it was. I replied that it's a nice sedan -- drives well, pretty comfortable, has a lot of features. "How much?" he asked. "Well, our car is loaded up. But mid 30s would be more typical," I said.

He nodded his head. Then he asked: "So why would somebody get an S60 when they could just get a loaded Optima instead?"

Super Bowl advertising influence, perhaps? But it's a good question.

Here's a quick chart of a 2012 Optima EX Turbo and a 2012 Volvo S60 T5.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Road Trip Fueling

December 28, 2011

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That's our long-term 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo fueling up in Baker, CA on my last visit to Las Vegas. Baker (and Barstow) are popular fuel stops as they are the last "cities" on the road to Vegas. Some of my colleagues love to make this 600 mi roundtrip journey from Los Angeles on one tank of fuel.

Not me. I get no thrill from running on vapors. Besides, who knows what the weather will be like on those mountain passes? And if there's a horrific crash, like the overturned big rig in the opposite direction on my return trip, you could be parked on The 15 for some time.

So I fuel up at least once on the roundtrip, and usually twice if I do some driving around Vegas.

I ended up getting 26.3 mpg running on 87 octane (per RTFM) and in Eco mode (entirely) for my trip. That's about spot-on with the EPA 26 mpg Overall, but way off of the EPA Highway 34 mpg.

But I think that's pretty good considering the grades, that the car was full of four people and luggage, and the fact that I was driving fairly quickly.

What do you think? Is that good mpg for our Optima?

And what is your general guideline on the tank level for fueling up? For me it's a 1/4 tank on a road trip or in my regular driving. When I was in Detroit, during the winter it was about 1/2 tank after several co-workers recommended it.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~16,500 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Charged Up

November 15, 2011

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I have turbocharging on the brain today. That's because I'm editing an article about the role turbos will play as manufacturers continue their quest for lighter, more fuel-efficient engines in order to comply with ever-more-stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The federal agencies that regulate fuel economy and emissions have set a 2025 goal of 54.5 mpg for the U.S. fleet. (For a bevy of complicated reasons, that's equivalent to about 36 mpg on a window sticker.)

Experts say that turbos are present in about 10 percent of the light-vehicle market today, headed toward 23 percent by 2016 and as high as 80 percent by the end of the decade. That's speedy adoption.

From a consumer standpoint, the Optima seems to be an excellent example of why turbos might take off. If all turbocharged cars drive like it does, achieving that 80 percent figure should be a snap.

What's your take on turbos? Are there downsides that would deter you from having turbo in your next car?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @14,428 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: The Cruising Range Thing

October 27, 2011

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Just when you're thinking that a cruising range of 500 miles isn't so special, you're reminded that it is.

The day after I went off to Santa Barbara to the start of the Mille Miglia North America Tribute with a half tank of fuel in the Jetta TDI turbodiesel, I found myself in the Kia Optima Turbo with about the same number of miles elapsed on the tripmeter but significantly dimmer prospects for ultimate cruising range. Ah, back to reality.

It's true that there are more cars than ever than can get close to 500 miles of cruising range, but there still ain't many of them.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 13,827 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX: Hauls The Mail, Among Other Qualities

August 15, 2011

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Last week I mentioned that I'd seriously consider buying an Optima if I needed a family sedan. Well, today I've listed ten attributes about our Optima that I find most appealing.

  1. Engine power. It "hauls the mail," as editor Josh Jaquot would say. Of course, this is relative statement. But the Optima Turbo is quick for a family sedan.
  2. Good fuel economy. We're only getting a combined 21.7 mpg so far. But that could be related to people enjoying item number one. The EPA combined estimate is 26 mpg.
  3. Styling. Aggressive and distinctive, I love the way it looks.
  4. The Corsa Blue paint. This paint color just pops. And its availability is limited to the SX trim only.
  5. Sporty handling. There's room for improvement, but at least Kia makes a sport-tuned suspension available.
  6. Paddle shifters. Ditto.
  7. Logical control layout. Everything falls readily to hand.
  8. Lots of interior storage. There's plenty of space to put your stuff.
  9. Extra convenience features. By this I mean things like xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry and the hated/ventilated seats.
  10. Price: Even though our car has just about everything on it, it still rings up at just $30,840.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 10,192 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Ranger

July 28, 2011

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With two bars remaining in the electronic fuel gauge (sigh) by the time I neared the office, I could've pulled a Richard move on Niebuhr, leaving him to fend for his own gas when he took the Optima home that evening. But we try to stay classy here at the Edmunds/IL. And anyway, I like engaging the aimless Deadhead who hangs around the station, thanking people for gassing up at Shell (something about how the station owners treat him right). Hey man, no problem - always happy to funnel money to oppressive African governments.

Pleasantly surprised to see the Optima pull almost 400 miles on its last tank. The computer says we could've gone another 40. Sans the optimism, let's call it 425. Not a bad mark for a 274-horsepower directed-injected turbo four that weighs about 3,500 pounds and drank 15.7 gallons of 91 premium.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Active Eco System

April 11, 2011

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There are a lot of lead-footed drivers around the office. I'm not one of them. I'm always looking for ways to improve fuel economy in any car I drive. So during my weekend with our 2011 Kia Optima Turbo, I decided to try out its Active Eco System.

This eco mode is activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel and it stays on for subsequent drives, even if you turn off the car. According to the owner's manual, "Active Eco helps improve fuel efficiency by controlling the engine and the transaxle."

It turned out to be one of the better eco modes I've experienced. The manual said that the power and torque would be limited while in eco mode, but it was never an issue for me. There was a notable drop in power, but you always had enough to pass other cars or climb hills without heavy throttle inputs. Unlike our (now-departed) long term Honda Insight, the air conditioner didn't take a hit, and kept its cool the entire time.

Although the Optima Turbo is a performance-oriented vehicle, it's nice to know that it has the ability to conserve fuel. We may need to run the car in eco mode more often if we want to match the EPA estimates of 22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. So far we are averaging 19.7 mpg, with a best tank of 23.6 mpg and a worst of 12.6 mpg.

If your car has an eco mode, do you use it? What do you think of it?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 4,085 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Kia Optima in VA is:

$140 per month*
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