If Kia's all-new Optima is any indication of where the company is headed, everyone else had better take note. I got my first in-person look at the all-new 2011 Kia Optima SX at our 2010 Car of the Year program.
"Is that really the Kia? I thought it was one of the Germans," I said to associate road test editor Carlos Lago. Just a few years ago no one in their right mind could possibly confuse anything produced by the Korean manufacturer with something from Germany. Which is why we had to get an Optima in for an extended stay to see if it works as well as it looks.
We added two options to our top-spec Optima SX, which started at $26,690. The $2150 SX Premium package adds a panoramic sunroof, power front-passenger seat, driver-seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, and heated outboard rear seats. We also added the $2000 Technology package, which includes a navigation system with back-up camera, Sirius traffic, and an Infinity eight-speaker audio system. When all was said and done, our Platinum Graphite Optima SX totaled $30,840.
Normally, our arriving long-term cars get a good break-in before being released to the hounds, but with just 350 miles on the clock, our new Optima headed north to San Francisco with online production manager Kirill Ougarov. As soon as the Optima got back, I immediately signed into it for about a week to get familiar with it.
The first thing I noticed was the styling, which is like nothing Kia has ever done. The exterior flows evenly and nicely incorporates angular bits. I don't really care for the wheels, but, other than that, the lines are fantastic. The Optima has the most handsomely appointed interior Kia has created. The black-on-flat-black paint scheme looks great, but replacing some of the plasti-chrome with a brushed plasti-metal to complement the shift paddles would make a big difference.
So far the Optima has made a positive impression on the staff, and we're looking forward to seeing how it performs as a family-hauler. As we rack up the miles and adventures, we will report all our findings-good, bad, or indifferent.