2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2011 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test


2011 Kia Optima - Introduction

This was one of the comments we received in response to our full test of the 2011 Kia Optima Turbo:

"jaggery: So Edmunds can we get a Long-Term test of this vehicle, and you guys just change the tires since that was the main thing you complained about??? I'd love to see how you guys like the vehicle over a longer period, and the gas mileage as well."

Dear Jaggery, yes we can. Set the clock; we've got 12 months and 20,000 miles with our new Long-Term 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo. But we're not going to change the tires on it. At least, not yet.

Sure, the Nexen Classe Premiere tires were less than ideal on our track, but outright grip isn't the main focus of the Kia Optima Turbo despite the cool body kit and turbocharger. Instead, the 274-horsepower turbocharged motor is simply there to deliver V6 power with four-cylinder fuel economy. The EPA works these figures out to be 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway — better than the Accord or Camry V6.

So here we've got a Kia midsize sedan with better fuel economy and power similar to the Honda Accord V6, better looks than a Mazda 6 and handling that splits the difference. Kia really is aiming to take over the world, starting with our long-term garage.

What We Got
Without ticking a single option box, our 2011 Kia Optima SX is in a price range rarely thought of as Kia's turf: $26,690. But this SX turbo is intended to be a direct competitor to the major players' V6 offerings. The Optima SX also includes 18-by-7.5-inch wheels, a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, a cooled storage compartment, leather trim on the dash and steering wheel, Sirius Satellite Radio, USB and Bluetooth, in addition to the normal standards like power windows, door locks and mirrors.

But why stop there? We also added the Premium package ($2,150) which adds a slick panoramic sunroof, four-way power front passenger seat, driver seat memory, heated and cooled front seats and heated outboard rear seats. The Technology package was next at $2,000. That includes navigation with back-up camera and an eight-speaker Infinity audio system.

Total: $30,840. This time, though, we didn't shell out the $30K, as the Optima was provided by the manufacturer for this test.

Why We Got It
It's certainly not cheap, but Kia's done with cheap. It's focusing on what it calls a "design-led transformation" that has this Kia Optima looking like some bastard offspring of an Audi and an Acura with a dash of Vauxhall thrown in for good measure. Which sort of makes sense, as the design was a joint venture between Kia's studios in Frankfurt, Germany, and Irvine, California. Somehow, the German-American-Korean look works.

The design intrigue continues on the inside where Kia shows surprising restraint and tact. Everything faces the driver (which has irritated more than a few passengers, but we'll get to that), the silver cloth detailing on the leather seats is sporty and cool and the dash is simple but crammed full of function. At first blush, this is a fairly kickass entry in a hugely competitive segment.

But long-term road tests aren't about first blush, or second blush, they're about the long(ish) haul and what a car is like to live with every day. The Optima SX turbo has a more aggressive suspension and sharper steering than the normal Optima and you bet it feels and rides differently from a Hyundai Sonata.

How this Kia Optima Turbo strikes a balance between these different roles is what's important here. Is it a fuel sipper? A sport sedan or — sorry, Kia — a budget car playing in a world where it can't really compete?

Twelve months and 20,000 miles in our long-term test fleet should settle some of this. Follow along with our blog for frequent updates.

Current Odometer: 1,684
Best Fuel Economy: 21.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.8 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 20.3 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests