Carries Party of Five - 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo Long-Term Road Test

2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test

2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Carries Party of Five

September 19, 2011


Dodger Stadium had derrieres in maybe half its seats yesterday, which was a darn shame as the boys in blue exploded for 23 hits and 15 runs against the Pirates, returning to the .500 mark (76-76) for the first time in a very long time. (Apparently, I parked on the least photogenic side of the stadium, but at least Billingsley was the starter yesterday.) Ah, I know, this isn't a baseball blog, so let's talk about our long-term 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo, which I was delighted to have for the trip to the game if for no other reason than Santorini Blue might as well be Dodger Blue.

I filled every seat in the Optima on this adventure. In back, we had two adults and one 6-year-old in a bulky booster seat. The main thing everyone noticed was the surplus of rear legroom in the Optima. It's absolutely not a problem to have adults seated behind adults.

Rear shoulder room was tighter -- tight enough that I couldn't see taking a long trip with this grouping -- but it was fine for 30 minutes at a time. Also, the adults were coming out of a 2002 Accord sedan (a much smaller car, as you'll recall), so the Kia's passenger quarters felt like an upgrade all the way around. The lateral bolstering on the rear seats added to comfort, they said, as it held them in place around entrance ramps. The 15.4-cubic-foot trunk also impressed them.

In general, I'm an Optima SX fan, mainly because the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine offers a lot of usable torque. I think the ride quality is better than our Sonata GLS -- it's more buttoned down (less float) and small bumps and ruts don't feel like as much of an event. Still, with those flashy 18s, the Kia's ride can be stiff over L.A. freeways.

I expected my passengers might not be thrilled about this, but instead they offered perspective: Compared to their '02 Accord, they said, the Optima rode a lot more comfortably. That might sound like faint praise, but honestly, this is the first Optima I've driven that really is better than a Honda Accord of one to two generations ago. When I drove earlier Optimas, I could think of all sorts of used midsize sedans I'd rather have. But not this time.

My passengers also commented on the Optima's strong and sure braking response whenever traffic ground to a halt, as well as its strong acceleration... I think they were surprised to learn it didn't have a V6.

I enjoyed my weekend in the Optima, too. Good driver seat, good acceleration, good brake pedal feel, with plenty of room for four and just enough for five.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,780 miles

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