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2011 Kia Optima Test Drive | Toronto Sun

2011 Kia Optima Test Drive
 
2011 Kia Optima Test Drive
By Glen Woodcock, Toronto Sun – June 2011
 
Optima’s prime in the mid-sized market
 
The 2011 Optima is Kia’s version of the new Hyundai Sonata, which went on sale last year as a 2010 model. They are sisters under their slightly different but equally pretty skins, with similar pricing and the same choice of engines and transmissions.
 
Both are well put together and have excellent five-year bumper-to-bumper warranties. Both give you an awful lot of car for the money. Picking one may depend on which appeals the most to your eye – and that will be a hard choice, because both of them will.
 
Longer, lower and wider than the Magentis it replaces, the 2011 Optima is a gorgeous automobile available in a wide range of models and prices.
 
The base Optima starts at $21,995, but the EX Luxury + Navigation and the SX Turbo models tested here list for $32,095 and $33,695 respectively and are so well equipped no options are available. The list of standard features is extensive and includes leather seating, power heated and cooled front seats with memory, heated rear seats, automatic headlamps and windshield wipers, panorama sunroof, six airbags, ABS brakes, navigation, 530 watt Infinity sound system with eight speakers, power windows/locks/mirrors, rear view camera, automatic climate control, six-speed automatic transmission – and more.
 
Externally, there are a few differences. The SX Turbo gets sportier front bumpers and grille, a rear spoiler and sport tuned suspension. And while both models run on 18-inch alloys, the Turbo’s are a boldly unique design and are shod with low profile tires.
The big difference is under the hood. The EX gets a 200-hp, 2.4-litre inline four with gasoline direct injection (GDI) and the SX has a 2.0-litre turbo with intercooler that generates 274 hp. They’re mated to the same six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and feel much the same in town and on the highway – when driven normally. The difference is when you hammer the turbo’s accelerator and it takes off like a scared cat.
 
Both models have an “eco” button on the dash which tells the computer to optimize engine and transmission management for better fuel economy. On the EX, this reduces consumption from 8.7 litres per 100 km to 7.9. I haven’t tried it on the SX because driving the twin turbo is just too much fun – and I’m still averaging 8.6 L/100km. Got a slowpoke in your way paying no attention to his rear-view mirrors? No problem; with the turbo you’ll be out and around him before he wakes up and knows you’re even there.
 
That’s not to say the normally aspirated 2.4-litre engine is a slouch. Its 200 horses help it scoot from 0-100 km/h in about 9.4 seconds. But hammer the Turbo’s throttle and it responds immediately – without the torque steer once common to small displacement four-cylinder engines – and flashes from 0-100 in 6.5 seconds.
 
Despite the difference in their tires and the Turbo’s supposedly sportier suspension, I have noticed no change in ride or handling between models. They’re quiet and smooth with a good grip on the road.
 
The cabins are almost identical – the only difference is that SX Turbo has paddle shifters instead of the EX’s heated steering wheel. Interiors are well crafted and comfortable.
I like the orientation of the controls in the centre binnacle, which are angled slightly toward the driver and the way the driver’s seat slides back when the ignition is switched off to allow for easier exits.
 
Other nice touches: the glove box is cooled so you can chill your drinks; the counterbalanced hood doesn’t need a prop rod; both halves of the panoramic sunroof open, not just the front section.
 
There’s room for five adults with cargo capacity of 437 litres.
 
The Kia Optima’s a real contender at the 2012 Canadian Car of the Year competition, where it will hope to accomplish what its Kia cousin couldn’t in 2011.

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