Monday, October 3, 2011

2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Sporty, Stylish and Affordable

Highlight: This vehicle shares the same platform form as the sexy looking Hyundai Sonata. Yes, they are siblings.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $30,990 (Base price starts at $26,950)

Optima SX’s Standard Feature: 18-inch tires; a 6-speed transmission; Sport design alloy wheels; a sport-tuned suspension; high-performance dampers; electric power steering; unique leather black woven seat trim; black interior trim with Carbon insert film; steering wheel paddle shifters; metal pedals; lighted metal door scuff plates; a dual-zone automatic temperature control; a push-button keyless starter ignition; keyless door entry system; power driver’s seat with lumbar control; manual tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel; automatic on/off headlights and dual tailpipes

Standard Audio System: AM/FM/CD/MP3 Player with a subscription-based Sirrus Satellite System

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

Standard Engine/Horsepower: a six-speed, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder/274-hp

Standard Fuel Mileage: 22-city/34-hwy

What’s New: The redesigned Optima SX is the brand’s first midsize sedan to offer a super sporty design along with a turbo engine.

Pros: The restyled 2011 Optima is available in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX and a hybrid model. Earlier this year we had an opportunity to review the restyled EX model. While we found the EX model to be leap years in both style and design from the 2010 model, it just didn’t ignite the same passionate feel as the super sporty SX model.

The bold, almost seductive-like styling of the Kia Optima SX looks almost like it should be in the same league as a premium-class import, as opposed to a vehicle that’s in the same league as the conservatively styled Toyota Camry, the best-selling vehicle in the midsize segment.

In fact, besides the standout exterior design of the SX model, what makes this trim package our top choice in the Optima line up is that it can be loaded-up with a number of features usually reserved in premium-priced vehicles. For instance the SX model (just like the EX) can be outfitted with a panoramic sunroof, a memory driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a power front passenger seat. Moreover, the vehicle can be equipped with a voice-activated navigation system, a back-up camera and Infiniti’s eight-speaker premium sound system. What else can you ask for in a vehicle priced at $30,000?

Cons: Despite the extremely firm seats and the plastic surrounding the instrument panel (and the gear selector), we were truly smitten with Kia’s new head-turner. Besides the minor gripes we noted, we hope that the engineers have plans to come out with a true manual transmission, as opposed to the paddle shifters, which are located on the steering wheel.

The Verdict: It’s hard to believe that the Optima SX is apart of the Kia family. With the Optima SX, the design engineers have broken the mold with this year’s Optima. It’s no longer considered to be a boring, me-too type of vehicle. The vehicle now makes a statement for itself. The super-sporty nature of the Optima SX puts this vehicle in a league by itself, as it relates to the exterior design.

In our opinion, there isn’t another vehicle in the midsize segment that offers the same sporty flair along with all the features that the design engineers managed to bundle into the Optima SX. In fact, the folks from Kia managed to do all of this, while holding the price down to just over $30,000, when the vehicle is fully optioned. This is truly a bargain, especially when the brand’s generous warranty is piled on top of this.

Competition: Chevy Malibu, Dodge Charger, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and VW Passat


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