2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test - Interior

2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test

2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: No Change

February 14, 2012


After all this time, the Kia Optima Turbo still seems the same to me.

So this means that it's still a little too much for me. You know, trying too hard with the way it looks, those less than resilient seats, all that rebound damping, and stiff-sidewall tires. Then again, this Kia is not for wimps, and it's nice to see a sport sedan that lives up to its billing.

But no change also means a very good thing.

After a year and the new wears off, a lot of cars are genuinely frayed at the edges. Suddenly the compromises in quality, specification or performance are more apparent than ever. And this has been especially true with cars with a Korean nameplate.

The Kia Optima Turbo seems to be a conspicuous exception. It might not be exactly my kind of car, but it looks and drives just as it did when it arrived. And considering the things this car has been through while in our hands, the fact that it still seems the same to me makes a bigger statement about quality than even a 100,000-mile warranty.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 17,540 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Quite literally, cool.

February 14, 2012

Optima glovebox cooler open.jpg

Found this hidden gem during a recent video shoot with our Kia Optima: No, not the candy bar, but a cooled glove box, which comes standard on all Optimas. This is great if you don't want something like a candy bar to melt on a hot summer day. Or any day here in southern California.

All you do is open that vent and the air conditioning system routes cool air into the glove box. Provided the a/c is on.

Or, if you have no need for a cool glove box, just close the vent as pictured here.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Nice

February 12, 2012

Optima rear shot.jpg

It had been quite some time since I last drove our long-term Kia Optima SX. And you know what? I'd forgotten what a genuinely nice car it really is.

I mean it's got the flashy styling that attracts attention if you're into that. A sporty-looking interior with generally nice materials. And seat coolers (I'm definitely into that).

But what gets me more than anything else...

is the Optima SX's turbocharged four-cylinder. It has excellent low-end torque along with a truly decent 274 horsepower. Just punch it and it goes. Never overwhelming, but always more than adequate for any situation.

Plus, it's a pretty smooth-running piece. Nice.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 17,240 miles.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Dated Interior?

January 31, 2012


Every time I see the exterior of our 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo I remember how much I really dig the styling of this Kia (Peter Schreyer does good work). And I'd option mine in this very same Corsa Blue, it just looks right with the dark grille and Kia's slightly over-the-top wheels.

But then I get in and see the touchscreen that doesn't really make anything easier. It's just a touch-based interface because that's what someone said a car like this needed. And then there's the display in the IP. The resolution is low and the displays are, again, kind of pointless. The whole thing feels like a forced attempt at hitting the marks set by market research.

Kia apparently knows this, though, as they've got the new UVO system available on a host of 2012 MY cars, but you can't get it with Nav. Not in the Optima. The system is dated but isn't deal breaker bad. It would, however, count as a check in the "cons" column of the list I make for every purchase and in a field this tight, every check counts.

(It should be noted that the non-touchscreen controls -- HVAC, hard radio buttons-- are very good.)

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Not Feeling the Paddles

January 30, 2012


Actually, feeling the paddles is the problem. As you can see, they're made of plastic, which is fine for some things but it's rarely a good idea for something you grab with several of your fingers and pull on.

There's nothing mechanical about plastic no matter how hard or indestructible it may be. It's a flimsiness that's hard to ignore. So although these paddles are unlikely to break off at any time, they lend a certain cheapness to the car that I'm sure Kia would rather not promote.

Oddly enough, the Bentley Continental GT suffers from the same problem. Go figure.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: My New Must Have

January 24, 2012


In 2007 my commuter car must have was an Aux jack. Quickly that was replaced by a dedicated iPod cable and then, rightly, to the USB input where it sits today. The must have feature is something-- in a daily driver -- that I wouldn't go without. It would be a deciding factor in initial car selection.

With the exception of something like our Mazda 3, USB ports are common and easy to get. It's still a must-have for me, but it's no longer something special. The new special is paddle shifters on normal cars. Yes yes I should want a manual damn the traffic but here's the reality of the situation: I drive, on average, 19 miles per day and average somewhere around 19 mph. The traffic isn't stop and go as much as it is 2-8-2-15-5-30-5-40-5 and doing any work at that time of the morning in that stupid traffic is maddening. But having paddle shifters that allow me to slow the car down with the engine make this process significantly more efficient. They even make driving a slushbox more fun if you happen to break free of traffic and hit one of those canyon roads.

Not only are the paddles are available as standard on the SX Turbo, they're standard on the 2012 Toyota Camry SE. That bodes well for me. If the Camry's got 'em, everyone will soon and I'll need to find a next Must Have. Proximity entry is pretty neat. Automatic headlights are already pretty much standard. Maybe power doors? Power hatch would be cool, but no...

Mike Magrath, Features Editor Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima: Better Sunroof Shade

December 22, 2011

Kia Optima Sunshade.jpg

The Kia Optima has a panoramic sunroof with a thin, roller-style sunshade. My camera is pointed directly at the sun in this shot. Keen readers will note that they cannot see our local star.

So, how come Kia manages to block out the sun with this type of shade but Fiat, Mini and many more cannot?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Pushing My Buttons

December 09, 2011

kia optima shifter

Last night, I fell in love with the button on the Optima's shifter. It was kinda immediate. The shifter itself fits well in my hand, the button is in exactly the right place and takes little effort to push. But it's not so easy that you'll accidentally hit it and shift it when you don't want to.

How do you feel about your car's shifter?

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: New Seat Design for 2012

November 23, 2011


At the LA Auto Show last week I ran into Michael Sprague, Kia's VP of marketing and public relations. Michael's fun to talk to and is part of the team engineering the current success of Kia.

Eventually the conversation wandered to our long-term Optima SX Turbo. I expressed our affinity for the car, but told Michael we felt it needed better tires. His expression told me he had heard that criticism before. But then he told me that the Optima was getting a long list of improvements for 2012.

Sadly new tires aren't coming, but the entry-level LX trim will come with standard chrome-accented exterior door handles, foglights, heated outside mirrors and automatic headlights. The EX model will get standard LED taillights as well. Silver wheel caps replace the black caps on all 16- and 17-inch wheels.

Inside, the Optima receives a revised center fascia finish, and the EX sedan gets new wood and metal trim. Kia has also removed the Infinity audio system from the Technology package, and will include the eight-speaker Infinity system, the Uvo in-car hands-free entertainment and communication system package, HD radio and power-folding outside mirrors in the Premium package instead.

Sprague also told me that the seats have been redesigned for 2012 to respond to customer feedback. They'll have a little more shape and a softer foam. I've never had issue with the seats in our 2011 Optima, but we'll sample the 2012 seats soon and report our impressions.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Better Pedals Than I Thought

November 21, 2011


The whole "sport pedals" thing is a bit overblown. Sure, shiny metal pedals look cool and all, but do they really add anything to the driving experience? For the most part I would say no, and I still don't think any different after driving the Optima.

I do, however, find the rubber studded pedals in our Kia better than your average footrests. Unlike most pedals that are hard and flat, these actually have something to grab onto.

We had rain here all day yesterday and it was a noticeable convenience. I could get in the car with soaked shoes and use both the brake and the gas without my foot constantly slipping off the pedals. A big deal? Hardly, but it's a nice touch nonetheless. Not sporty, just useful.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Perfect Feature for Quick Getaways

November 15, 2011


Thanks again, guys, for the heads-up about what you'd like to see us blog about on our 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo. I put in a request to Dan Edmunds for a suspension walkaround. I'll leave the tire test and NSX vs. Optima SX comparo to the testing team.

In any case, one thing I wanted to point out about our Kia that you didn't ask about but that those who watch too many zombie movies or are skittish (both me) will certainly appreciate. When parked somewhere creepy, you'll love the fact that with the smart/keyless entry, you don't have to dig around in your bottomless bag or pocket looking for the key. Not only do the interior lights turn on when you put your hand on the door handle but the handle has that nifty button that you can just press to unlock the car right quick. Pfew! Facilitating quick getaways from the Boogeyman (be it imaginary or real).

I know the Kia isn't the only car in existence with this feature but when I was talking about it to a BMW 1 Series owner she complained that her Bimmer only turns on the interior light when she touches the handle but the handle doesn't have that unlock button. Anyway that surprised me.

Turns out that the Comfort Access keyless entry option comes with the $1,000 Convenience package for the BMW. While Kia offers the keyless entry (with panic alarm function) standard for all its Optima trim levels except the manual LX.

Whatever the car, it's a little feature that I really appreciate, especially going out at night in the city as much as I do.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 14,365 miles

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2011 Kia Optima: Good Visibility

October 27, 2011

kia optima v1.jpg

When it comes to cars, handsome sheet metal is often the enemy of good outward visibility -- something to do with those trendy high beltlines.

This isn't the case with the Optima, though -- the sedan is sharp-looking as it gets, while offering a clear view from most directions.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Feature Rich

October 20, 2011

seat controls.JPG

Maybe Magrath isn't enamored by some of our 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo's features, but here's one that I appreciate every time I drive the blue sedan -- the crotch cooler. I slap that sucker on within seconds of pressing the 'engine start' button.

The seats themselves tend toward the flat and unyielding side, though. I'm not saying they need a massaging function, just a little more attention paid to the shape and density of their foam bits.

Anyway, DeRosa's right that the coolers are fairly subtle, but that's like complaining that your fifty-dollar bills are too big for your wallet. I mean, the level of content in a car of the Optima's class was unheard of just a few years ago.

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Dear Seat, STOP MOVING

October 17, 2011

Optima SX Seat.jpg

I drove our Long Term Kia Optima SX Turbo over the weekend. The first time I'd done so in quite a while. When I saw the SX wasn't taken, all I could think about was the cool blue paint, the touch screen nav/iPod interface I like and the cool dual-material seats. I sort of forgot about the gummy steering and I completely forgot about the comfort-access seating.

Kia calls this process of moving your seat needlessly backwards and then automatically forward "easy access" and it appears to be absolutely mandatory. (*Edit: Ottowasx looks to know the fix. Will check in the AM and report back. -mm)

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Built to Last?

October 12, 2011

Optima-dash interior.jpg

The Optima feels pretty well screwed together. Nudge the steering wheel and it turns crisply. Stab the throttle and it unloads a streaming shot of boost. Even the turn indicator stalk has some damping to it (and a clucking signal sound somewhere between mindful and annoying). The interior, while not made of remarkable materials, still feels substantial. Even the faux leather wrap around the center stack features stitching that both breaks up the base dashboard stuff and adds a subtle level of detail that you don't really expect. It all feels tight, like a very good Audi imitation. Maybe Kia should hunt a few more heads around Ingolstadt.

It's holding up well under our 13,000 hard miles, a testament to how far you can stretch materials and components that are just good enough, while still coming up high on the value sheet.

You have to be impressed with how finely Kia manages the quality ledger on this one.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Kia Optima: What About the Passenger?

August 31, 2011


The center console in the Kia Optima is skewed to face the driver. As a shorty I appreciate this because it makes all of the buttons a little easier to reach.

But how would feel as a passenger, left out?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Not-So-Restful Armrest

August 29, 2011

Optima armrest.jpg

Some might say there's no place in a car for fake carbon fiber. I'll leave that point for you guys to argue out among yourselves.

But the Kia Optima Turbo's door armrest is definitely NOT the place for a piece of plastic, carbon-fiber-look or otherwise. For me anyway, my left elbow touches down right where the padded leather and non-padded plastic trim come together, at least when I'm holding onto the steering wheel with my left hand.

And that's just plain silly, not to mention uncomfortable.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 11,008 miles.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: At Your Fingertips

July 28, 2011


When a car company goes to the trouble of mounting a gear changing apparatus to the steering wheel, you'd think they would put the controls within easy reach - you know, to make it convenient. Surprisingly, not everyone does that.

But from my muddled memory banks, cars like the SHO, the Aura and early PDK equipped Porsches stand out as having really poorly placed shift paddles/buttons. Thankfully, our Optima SX Turbo's paddles fall right to your fingertips. The paddles are quite broad, making it easy to flick up or down a gear without having to move your hands at all from the 9 and 3 o'clock positions. I like the lip on the end of the paddles too; it's a nice finger hold.

How could they be better? I'd have them coated with a rubber backing. And, perhaps the only real gripe here, I'd prefer them mounted to the steering column instead of the wheel, like on a GT-R or an Evolution X.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 9,515 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Not So Editor-Proof Rear Folding Seats

July 21, 2011

kiaoptimaturbo 025.jpg

So I'm moving yet again. And the other night I had to pick up a big load of broken-down cardboard boxes. I was driving our 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo but figured with the backseat folded down they could fit in the trunk easy.

Unfortunately when I arrived at my destination, a quiet street in Manhattan Beach, it was dark and there weren't any street lights. The person whose house it was where the boxes were lying in front of didn't even turn on the porch lights. So I'm blaming the darkness and my unfamiliarity with our Kia for not being able to figure out how to put down the seatbacks.

I fumbled around the backseat looking for a latch to release the seatback. The seatbelt holders weren't it. There was no lever on the side of the seat. Last resort: grab the owner's manual but even then I couldn't figure it out.

The reason? Because I'm an idiot and when I panic I don't see what's right in front of me. For some reason I glossed over Step 4 (with the big ol' illustration) here:

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: What a Passenger Thinks

July 06, 2011


As I mentioned in a previous post, we took the 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo up to San Luis Obispo for the holiday weekend. That's about eight hours of seat time total, not including the time it took to explore the area. In any case, here are some passenger seat impressions:

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Stop Moving

June 17, 2011

Optima seat overall-thumb-717x956-90326.jpg

The Optima has a memory feature which moves its driver's seat back when the ignition is turned off (see video after the jump). When the car is started the seat returns to its preset position. It can probably be disabled.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Reflash Fixes Dash Lights

June 10, 2011


Well, they're working consistently now. I've been driving the Optima for a week now (OK, except for one day). More importantly, I've probably put more miles on this car than anyone and I'm yet to experience the problem.

If you've forgotten what it was...make the jump.

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2011 Kia Optima Turbo: This Is Cool

June 03, 2011


Last night when I climbed into the Optima I noticed that its sunroofs were uncovered. Because I'm a hermit who can't stand direct sunlight, I immediately reached up and tapped the button to close them. And this is what happened...

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Climate Control Seats

May 26, 2011


As I mentioned in an earlier post I tried out the cool setting on the driver seat in the Kia Optima. I'm not a fan of cooled seats. They give a weird sensation.

I used to have a sweater that had crocheted sleeves in a wide stitch. You could feel that you were wearing something but the wide apart stitching allowed air to hit my arms. It gave the weird feeling of being wet. Sounds gross, right? It was a cute sweater. It looked similar to this:

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Hitchcock Likes It

May 25, 2011


Yesterday, I arrived home from a few days on the East Coast. First order of business was to pick up Alfred Hitchcock DeRosa from his vacation spot at the vet. He meowed and meowed the entire five minute ride home. I think he was saying how much he enjoyed the comfort of the Kia Optima's rear seat. And that the air conditioner was quite pleasant coming from the rear ventilation ducts. Or maybe he was just saying "I WANT TO GO HOME."

For the first time, I sampled the cooled driver seat. Yes, I said COOLED driver seat. Very weird sensation but it was hot outside and I had just spent 6 hours on an airplane, so I figured I'd give them a shot.

Isn't my little guy cute? He's 16 years old and doesn't look a day over kitten.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Rut roh, two pet posts in a row.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Niggles and Whines

May 17, 2011


After spending five days in the Optima during the last week, I find myself less enamored with some elements of its interior detailing. The first is one we whine about ofter and one which is truly unmerited -- chrome gauge bezels. As you can see, they create distracting glare.

Why manufactures continue to put reflective materials in interiors -- particularly in places where you must look -- is beyond me.

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2011 Kia Optima Turbo: Things I Like

May 13, 2011

center stack.JPG

Alright, that's it. If Riswick can whine about all the things he hates about our new Jetta TDI (not that I blame him), then I can certainly find some praise for the Optima Turbo -- my current favorite mid-size sedan.

Let's get started with the most intuitive and easy-to-use center stack I've seen lately. Notice the use of knobs for critical functions, logical grouping of controls and central location of virtually every critical secondary control.

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Are You Fooled by Faux Carbon Fiber?

May 09, 2011


Fake carbon fiber trim. It's a classic ploy. So much so that it's migrated down into midsize Kia sedans.

Ok, it's the sporty SX version and it does have a turbocharger, but c'mon, carbon fiber?

It's not the worst trim I've ever seen, certainly better than that piano black stuff that used to pass as sporty in some cars. I always get a chuckle when I see fake carbon, though, mostly because I have no doubts there are people out there who think it's real.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Solid Satellite Controls

May 04, 2011


This is steering wheel is admittedly on the busy side, but I like the setup of the main buttons. The rocker switch for the volume is easy to find without looking while the seek and "mode" buttons all fall under your thumb when driving with your hands in the proper position.

Not much to complain about with the cruise control setup either. Push up to go faster, down for slower and the big cancel button to get rid of it. Probably could have just made one big on/off button, but no reason to complain.

The other buttons are usable enough. Not sure why other cars don't color the answer and hang up buttons green and red. Probably just an aesthetic thing.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: The Right Angle

April 29, 2011

kia optima center stack.jpg

I like it when cars feature center stacks that are angled toward the driver. It makes sense ergonomically, since the tilt of the stack makes its buttons and knobs easier to reach. This design cue also succeeds from an aesthetic standpoint since it gives the cabin a driver-focused look.

You can't see it too clearly in this photo, but the Optima's center stack is positioned so it leans toward the driver in the most helpful way. It's one thing that I really like about the car's cabin. Otherwise, the stack's layout of assorted controls is decent enough, though I wouldn't mind having a radio tuning knob in the mix.

Is the center stack in your car tilted toward the driver?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 5,033 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: A Macro Look at Interior Materials

April 28, 2011


A macro* look of what the interior materials of our $30K 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo look like. That net material on the seats reminds me of the '80s, other than that I like the look and feel of this car's interior materials. But what do you think?

* "Macro" is photography lingo for "close-up."

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: This Could Be Better

April 26, 2011


Kia did a great job with the interior of the Optima. It looks very nice. It feels good. My one beef, though, would be this cluster: the shifter, seat heater buttons and iPod connector.

They are awkwardly placed. It's like no one thought what it would be like to drive the car and actually have an iPod connected to this cable.

First of all the shifter grip is much larger than it needs to be. And the iPod connector is longer than it needs to be and the cord itself is not very pliable. So when I connect my iPod Touch, I have to squeeze it into the bin behind the shifter. Otherwise, it keep popping out and sits on top of the seat heater buttons.

Next iteration, please rethink this setup. Thank you.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Kia Optima: Cloth Bolsters = Great Idea

April 14, 2011


While I can't yet weigh-in on the long-distance comfort of the Optima's seats, I was immediately impressed with another aspect. That ring of cloth around the leather seems like a brilliant idea. The edges of side bolsters almost always wear down with leather, and sometimes quite quickly as we found in our long-term R8 and M3. Placing a more resiliant material such as the Optima's tech fabric or maybe Alcantara to these bolsters should not only reduce wear, but perhaps even increase grip. They look kinda cool, too. Of course, we'll see how they look after a year with us.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,175 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX: Why Is My Butt Hot?

April 12, 2011


Sure, my butt is pretty good at telling me if it's unnaturally hot, but should I need to adjust said hotness, I can't actually see what I'm doing as the heated/cooled seat buttons are completely hidden by the shifter. Wait, maybe this car doesn't have heated seats. Maybe I've contracted some ass overheating disease? Oh no, they're there. Whew, I was worried for a moment. Crisis averted. All's well. Activate cooled seats to chill butt.

I'm thinking no one thought to put the car in drive when designing the center console layout.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,134 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Illumination Restored

April 01, 2011


My uber-reboot worked! The lights are back on inside our 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo after I disconnected and reconnected the negative cable from the battery. Ten seconds with a 10mm wrench was all it took. The photos don't to it justice on account of my utter lack of a tripod, but you get the idea.

Incidentally, the steering wheel illumination is dimmer on purpose; a little goes a long way when something is close to your face. This level is fine at nighttime. You wouldn't want those buttons to glow as hard as the ones in the background.

So this was a reboot issue. Lest you think this is a Kia problem, remember that we've seen reboot-related electronic issues before in a half-dozen or more cases. At one point I was keeping track, but that Excel file disappeared two laptops ago.

A partial list includes the time the stereo went out in the Cadillac CTS. And then there was the BMW 750i that set something like 200 fault codes in one go and wouldn't move. There have been other examples covering other brands. No one, it seems, is immune.

To me this is a side-effect of the increasing role of software/firware code running behind the scenes in our vehicles. Our computers and smartphones get bug fixes, patches, reflashes and updates all the time and we don't even blink.

For me, that's not acceptable in a car. A car feels like hardware, not software, and I don't like having to hit the reset button. Let's hope this doesn't happen again...and again.

Also, get off my lawn. ;)

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,004 miles

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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: The Dark Night

April 01, 2011


All was well, then it wasn't. Our 2011 Kia Optima's interior lighting has gone AWOL.

Note how the IP and nav screen are stuck on full daytime bright mode while the center stack, steering wheel and door panel switches are dark -- also daytime mode, come to think of it.

It's just the lighting, mind you; all of the buttons work properly once I find them with the dome light.

And the dimmer seems to work. Its bar graph advances from "min" to "max" when I press the switch, but the lighting itself doesn't actually change. No fuses appears to be blown and the situation is no different with headlights set to "on" or "auto". It's as if the thingie that detects daylight is convinced the sun is still up and won't hear otherwise.

So I tried the patented PC reboot solution -- turn it off and turn it on again -- but that didn't work.

Next I'm going to try the uber PC method -- disconnect the battery, wait a few beats, then reconnect it. I'll let you know if that does anything.

I'm open to any other bright ideas before we take it to the dealer, of course.

UPDATE: The battery disconnect procedure sucessfully reset the system.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,004 miles

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