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Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 Kia Optima EXMeet the Sonata's hipper sibling.
The Kia Optima: Yeah, basically a Sonata, but the look is real different. We'll see about the rest as we drive a 2011 Optima EX and check the tech. Hyundai is on a roll these days, but less is being said about its corporate cousin, Kia, until lately, Kia was mostly seen as a cheaper version of a Hyundai and that's not cool. But now that Hyundai underpinnings are a good thing, Kia is building on that with its own bold styling. Thanks to nabbing former Audi design boss, Peter Schreyer. He's the guy who did the TT. While this is the sibling of the sonata, it shares little of that car whoopee external looks, instead the Optima is kind of bold, more handsome of the two, sort of a demi-Saab to Hyundai's demi-Lexus. Inside, the same applies. The Kia exhibits the narrow rear driver-centered cockpit layout that most cars have given up. The first thing you notice in this Optima is it ain't a Sonata in the cabin. The Sonata got a whole different thing with these Darth Vader masks and kinda weird face down here. This is very centered. This car is totally cockpit-oriented. It reminds me a lot of Saab cabin. I don't know where they picked up that design motif, but you've got the 3-ring thing. It's very Hyundai-Kia, but this sort of angled cockpit panel, lot of folks has come and to do me, "Hey, I don't see that very often, and I like it." So, it's a very driver-centric setting. You've got a steering wheel crammed with lots of interesting buttons; they're useful, media on the left, cruise control on the right. Eco trip and reset on the left. We'll talk about that in a minute. And here is your voice command and your Bluetooth controls over here. By the way, the Bluetooth rig is standard on this Optima EX. Let's go to the head unit. You've got your single CD slot right here, which also digest MP3 CDs, though not WMA, I don't think. Here's your navigation screen, pretty good resolution. That's optional, by the way. We'll talk about the pricing little later. But you've got touchscreen, voice command as I mentioned, but not really kind of any sort of standardized controller. There's no Audi MMI or BMW iDrive. It's either touch or voice, or you've got some dedicated buttons, but this is not a master jag wheel, nothing like that. Lots of buttons for the nav system. It's get a little bit fuzzy here. You have map and voice, I'm not quite sure why those are all in one button, little odd; destination, there's a destination screen; route is separate of set of route option. You see, they kinda split this up a little bit much for my tastes, but that's easy to use. And notice the response is quite quick on this guy to do a destination, address, it's real simple, and moves quickly, I like that. Now, let's go to our media options, AM, FM. No HD radio available on this car any way, shape or forms; satellite radio is the serious flavor. The media button brings you up to our phone, which is Bluetooth streaming as well as the Bluetooth hands-free I talked about. We've also got the CD option in here. If I didn't have my iPod plugged in, which is another option, I do have these connectors down here, standard analog Aux, and I've got the USB jack. The only weird thing is Hyundai-Kia still use this guy, which you're not gonna find at Best Buy if you lose it. It's a USB-Aux siamese connector. They move audio over one connector to control and charging over another. Now, gang, all the sounds out of there is a 6 speaker, kinda generic audio system base, or we have the infinity rig, which is obviously noted up here-- That's part of the premium package, by the way-- gives you a variety of settings. You know, you got a mid control which I don't think the base rig has. Audio volume control might not be on the base rig. Asides from that, it's not fancy. The transmission is a one choice only on this guy. It's a 6 speed automatic, true automatic. It's not a CVT. It's not an automated manual. It's got a little sport shifting gate here on the left, which isn't all that sporty. They all work about the same. Okay, the last cool thing in this car, which is kinda mid tech, is this roof, well, roofs, one over me and one over there. You've got this control right here, which does a dual power rollback of the screens and then slides this big glass panel up over the 2nd row. They still end up with that pretty good glass top overhead, or better yet, if you're gonna be a little more magnanimous, just bring your panel forward and give it a little kick up to tilt, and then everyone gets a full glass overhead. Now, what's most interesting about this engine is not that's it's a 2.4 liter side settle in line for, seen about a million rows, but these 3 liters GDI, gasoline direct injection, kinda cutting edge stuff, especially for a car in this price class. The sonata has the same powertrain. There's also a turbo, by the way and a hybrid coming on this Optima, but we'll cover those in another video. Here are the numbers: 200 horsepower out of this guy; 186-foot pounds of torque; 0-60's about 9.4 seconds for this third-degree 100-pound car; and the mileage is pretty darn good, 24/34. Okay on the road, this car is not terribly impressive on paper with 200 horsepower, but the power is ready and willing. That's what a car like this needs to have is power across a wide range of RPMs and it does have that. The combination of the direct injection and the other technologies being used here like this eco we've got going on give you a really good fuel economy for a biggish car and at the same time, it's not a gutless car. Now, the eco button down here that I mentioned, what that does is modify throttle response, shift points on the transmission, and air conditioning, which means the air conditioner is going to engage less often as I understand it. All of those lead to better fuel economy through different means. When it's in drive and you're in eco, you definitely feel a difference. The car gets a little non-responsive. But for drivers that wanna maximize their MPG, they don't care; if you're cruising down a boulevard, perfect mode to be in. But if I'm driving around town and eco mode was annoying. It made the car kinda rubbery and numb. So, I popped out of it most of the time. That said, what am I seeing here in my average? 19.9 MPG have probably been more city than highway by far, up and down and lot of hills and like I say, out of eco mode. So, I'm pushing it down toward the bottom of its average range. The steering is very heavily weighted on center. So, once you've come off center, it doesn't really wanna stay there, wants to go back to center very strongly which all cars do. The thing is this one is very heavily weighted back down toward the middle. I bring this up because in long sort of leisurely driving on curve highways or boulevards, you kinda need two hands to keep it in the curve, one hand will get fatigued and not gonna takes away from the every day driving comfort a little bit. But overall, it's nice to see a put-together new entrant to go up against Camry and Accord and not one that makes you think, "Okay, what can it do being a 2nd rate car?" Now, you just have to grade it as a first rate car. Okay, let's price this Optima. Again, it's the 2011 EX. It only come front-wheel drive. It's kind of a mid trim. There is an Essex or sportier one above it and like I mentioned, also a hybrid and a turbo for another time. This guy will base at 232. To go CNET style, you got really 1 package and maybe one another to think about. The one you gotta get is that tech package, $2,000 that gets you the navigation system, that whole speedy interface, serious satellite radio, the better infinity sound, the backup camera for 2 grand, kind of a steel. Then, there is this premium package that gets you the panoramic roof, which I like, and heated and cool front seats, power passenger seat and the rather noble heated roof seats. I think I'd go for that, too.