Quick Drive: 2011 Kia Optima EX
By Winding Road Staff
February 16, 2011
Every member of Kia’s styling department should get a raise, and a bonus, a big one.
Let me be clear; I really like the Hyundai Sonata. It is a handsome car inside and out, is pretty good to drive, comes in at an affordable price, and can be equipped with some heavy hitting options. But the Kia Optima is just better. Allow me to elaborate.
As good as the Sonata looks, the Optima’s styling is much cleaner. The way the headlights and taillights wrap around into the fenders, and the bizarro Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar give the car a great deal of design presence. Hell, even the side grills look pretty good. It’s the same story on the interior. The driver-centric orientation of the center stack is more conventional than the modern-looking Sonata, and just feels easier to work with while driving.
I’m also partial to the steering in the Optima. Anyone that has read anything I’ve written about the Sonata will notice I’m not particularly fond of its steering. While I’d still like to have a bit more feedback, the Optima offers a marked improvement over the Hyundai as far as I can tell. The Kia also features a better ride than its platform-mate thanks to a slightly different suspension. While both cars feature fully independent suspensions, the Optima uses coil springs at all four corners, while the Sonata features gas-charged shocks up front. I can safely say that the Optima feels better controlled through the bends than the Sonata, with less body roll. The Optima did feel a bit unsettled over the rougher patches of Detroit asphalt, but I’d happily be jostled occasionally and have decent handling the rest of the time.
The Sonata has been my choice for a family sedan for some time, but after a few hundred miles in the Optima, I’m rethinking that choice.
I, too, was quite impressed by the Optima’s interior. It comes off as very mature, with a good attention to detail and a high level of quality and content for the price. The two-tone interior, clad in what appeared to be perforated leather, is impressive, and features like seat heaters in the second row make it feel pretty special.
- Really, really good-looking. Better in person than in pictures, trust us.
- Sporting suspension makes it fun to throw about
- A truly premium-feeling cabin, especially for the price
- Despite its overall brilliance, Optima is not an enthusiast’s dream sedan
- Steering is confident while still feeling pretty numb
- Could use a little more refinement in the ride quality to match its looks