Sneak Peek- 2011 Kia Optima

Recently the Kia crew came through Seattle, throwing a press event for their new Sportage crossover.  The major redo starts with designer sheetmetal penned by a team led by former Audi stylist Peter Schreyer.  The interior is larger, more comfortable and adds upscale touches like panoramic roof and ventilated drivers seat.


I’ll have a full review of Sportage in a couple weeks but first something that whipsawed me around so hard my neck will hurt for a week.   During the lunch stop the Kia folks trot out a bit of a surprise, the new 2011 Optima.  To my knowledge this is the first time it’s been seen in America (other than the New York International Auto Show where it debuted).

Often photographs don’t do a car justice and to be honest my first impressions of the Optima’s web pics were tepid.  I’m now a believer.  In person this car has a gravity that’s hard to describe.  It’s design appears more expensive than many cars wearing established premium badges.  These days it’s hard to create an attractive signature look that doesn’t mimic some other brand, Kia appears to have done it with a sweeping piece of chrome that slices through the top of the C pillar.  It’s a home run.


If your not familiar with the current generation, the 2011 version is MUCH more dramatic.   Drawn up in Germany and California studios, there are cues that are almost Swedish, reminiscent of SAAB but the overall shape is more evolved and complex.  It is slightly longer lower and wider than the car it replaces.  The current 2010 model goes for 27 grand loaded.  Prices have not been set but Kia hinted with Sportage that they would be keeping things in the same neighborhood.  If Kia can do the same with Optima, even remotely, buyers will look like they got a big fat raise.

Behind Kia’s corporate grille will be a choice of 2 engines, and in 2011 a hybrid version.  A base model gets Kia’s 2.4-liter GDI (Gasoline Direct Injected) engine producing 200 horsepower.   42 Moving up to the SX finds a 2.0-liter turbo GDI engine 4-cylinder that produces 274 horsepower.  Six speed automatic and manual transmissions will be available depending on engine choice.  The hybrid will use a 2.4-liter engine.

In other markets Optima will be called K5 and the copy on display had that logo lighted up on the sill plates.  The interior gets an upscale look with small panels of stitched leather on the instrument panel.  No doubt it will come with tilt telescope wheel, keyless ignition and UVO, Kia’s answer to the Ford Sync system.  Woven panels in the well bolstered leather seating is part of the SX trim level which also gets you a spoiler, carbon fiber-like trim and other sporty stuff.  Buttons on the center console show red and blue graphics telling the seats will get a heated and cooled option.


For practical people the rear seat seems roomy and the seat backs will split and fold.  How big is the trunk?  Hard to say, we couldn’t open it.

That’s all the info I have for now.  It will hit Kia dealerships in the fall.  The full press release from the New York International Auto Show is posted below for all you car geeks like me out there.  It’s obvious by looking at the Optima and the new Sportage (along with the recent Forte and Sorento), that Kia is getting into the fashion business in a major way.  A reminder that competition is a good thing.




Midsize Sedan Offers a New Level of Style and Performance Features from Kia

Three all-new powertrains, including turbo and Kia’s first-ever hybrid offer class-leading power1 and fuel economy
Segment-leading1 premium amenities and technology features
NEW YORK, April 1, 2010 – Kia Motors America (KMA) today globally unveiled the all-new 2011 Optima midsize sedan at the New York International Auto Show. Arriving in showrooms in early fall, the next generation Optima continues Kia’s design-led transformation while revealing a completely new and stunning design language for Kia, highlighted by a dynamic and streamlined profile that conveys elegance and athletic confidence from every angle. Optima’s groundbreaking spirit continues under the hood and inside the cabin with the introduction of three new powertrains – including the brand’s first-ever hybrid in the U.S. (available in 2011) – which deliver class-leading power1 and fuel economy while the latest technology features and luxury amenities are available at the touch of a button or a simple voice command.

Designed at Kia’s studios in Frankfurt and Irvine, Calif., the all-new Optima is longer, wider and lower than the vehicle it replaces and is based on an all-new midsize platform that allowed for distinctive dimensions and proportions in the segment1 while also providing a unique canvas for Kia’s global design team to pen a vehicle that stands apart from everything else in the segment.

“The all-new Optima is a new strand in Kia’s growing design DNA with a blend of simple and fluid lines and elegant but uncomplicated shapes that draw the attention of the eye in much the same fashion as a perfectly-tailored fine Italian suit,” said Peter Schreyer, chief design officer, Kia Motors Corporation. “From the distinctive sweeping chrome accent that stretches through the C pillars to the sleek greenhouse and flared wheel arches, every inch of the Optima projects a distinguished and refined style and extreme attention to detail.”

The all-new Optima also employs engine management systems like direct injection and turbocharging to help bring performance to the brand without sacrificing fuel efficiency. Its smooth-flowing lines speak of grace and style and offer a strong hint of European luxury.

Sleek and Streamlined Exterior

The 2011 Optima projects a high-performance yet elegant image with its unique silhouette and sleek stance that builds upon Kia Motors’ philosophy of creating high quality and dynamic vehicles that evoke passion. The striking face of Optima features Kia’s signature bold tabbed grille that is surrounded by projector headlamps. Longer, wider and lower than before, Optima’s coupe-like profile is enhanced by a sweeping chrome arc that flows from the A through C pillars, a distinctive design motif that visually lowers the car further and enhances its proportions. Optima’s roofline connects with its high and pronounced shoulder line that leads to its sculpted flanks and extended wheelbase. Boldly flared wheel arches and a raked cabin create a sedan with a graceful muscular stance.

Available in three trims, LX, EX and SX, the 2011 Optima offers numerous standard features. The LX includes dual exhaust with chrome tips, solar glass, outside mirror turn signal indicators and 16-inch steel wheels fitted with 205/65R16 tires. Upgrading to the EX offers standard fog lights, heated outside mirrors, exterior chrome/body-color door handles along with 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/55/R17 tires. Moving up to the athletic SX adds HID headlights with auto leveling, LED rear combination lights, unique front grille design, rear lip spoiler, sculpted side sills, aero wiper blades, red brake calipers and 18-inch black machined finish alloy wheels furnished with P225/45R18 tires, achieving a true performance look.

Luxuriously Equipped Interior

From the moment the door opens, Optima presents an immediate sense of a driver’s car. The instrument panel is contoured toward the driver to suggest a cockpit feel with precise gauges and controls for an overall sport performance experience without sacrificing comfort or roominess. Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel convey that Optima is built for people who are passionate about cars. A high console with a short shifter adds to the cockpit perception while an available panoramic sunroof provides an open-air feeling. Offering occupants both space and comfort with a number of standard convenience features, the sedan’s chic cabin unifies with the exterior design by welcoming its passengers with lean and ergonomic seat design and effective storage throughout. Modern standard features such as six-way adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors and a trip computer further expand the cabin’s luxurious qualities.

In addition to offering a comfortable cabin, impressive technology features also come standard throughout, including an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system with SIRIUS® Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service2. Also standard on all trims are auxiliary and USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players and Bluetooth®3 wireless technology connectivity with steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls to enable hands-free operation for compatible mobile phones.

Additional standard interior features include a tilt/telescopic steering column, power door locks, power windows, sun visor extension and an air-conditioned glove box. Stylishly appointed cloth seats provide comfortable seating while a 60/40 split-folding rear seat offers multiple seating and cargo arrangements depending on driver and passenger needs. Optima LX with automatic transmission features cruise control and an active EcoMinder® indicator for optimal fuel efficient driving.

Optima EX comes well-equipped and offers premium standard features, including the UVO powered by Microsoft®4 infotainment system with rear-view camera, push button-start ignition with smart key, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with rear vents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto-dimming rear view mirror with Homelink®5 and compass, auto light control, driver and front passenger automatic window up/down and eight-way power driver’s seat, lighted glovebox, rear reading lamps, floor mats and chrome door handles.

For consumers looking for even more sporty appeal, the Optima SX adds unique black leather woven seat trim, black interior trim with carbon insert film and metal accent, Supervision™ meter cluster with LCD display, center fascia and meter housing, soft trim with French seams, steering wheel paddle shifters, metal pedals and lighted metal door scuff plates.

Available upgrades for the Optima EX and SX trims include a power panoramic sunroof, leather seat trim, memory driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel for additional interior refinement. Luxuriously appointed features, including an Infinity®6 5.1 surround sound audio system with HD Radio®, and eight speakers delivering in excess of 500-watts of system power and voice-activated navigation system with a seven-inch screen enhance the cabin for audiophiles or those who seek the latest superior quality technology for a modern driving experience.

All-New Advanced Platform

The 2011 Optima is distinctive, right down to its all-new platform. Optima’s low, lean and powerful stance is assisted through its overall length of 190.7 inches, an increase of 1.7 inches over the previous model. Optima is built on a platform with an overall width of 72 inches and wheelbase of 110 inches, an increase of 2.9 inches, and has a low ground clearance of 5.3 inches for enhanced aerodynamics. Optima’s lightweight design uses high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength while also achieving high torsional stiffness, benefiting handling, ride quality and refinement. Additional measures to help ensure good noise vibration and harshness (NVH) reduction qualities are fitted throughout the Optima.

Built on a unibody frame, the front-wheel-drive Optima utilizes independent front and rear suspension systems. MacPherson struts are used in the front with a multi-link layout in the rear and are both joined with coil springs and front anti-roll bars to engage drivers with responsive handling and provide the utmost comfort whether the road is smooth or less than ideal.

Class-Leading Efficient and Powerful Engines

The 2011 Optima is available in three all-new and fuel-efficient Theta II powerplants, a 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder, a 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine or a 2.4-liter hybrid. The 2.4-liter GDI engine produces 200 horsepower7 and upgrading to the available 2.0-liter turbo GDI engine (SX model) delivers V6-type power with a four-cylinder engine that produces 274 horsepower7, while mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This represents Kia’s first application of GDI technology, while a 2.4-liter hybrid Optima will be introduced in 2011. All automatics feature Sportmatic™ clutchless shifting. A single six-speed manual transmission is available only with the LX four-cylinder model.


The 2011 Optima is equipped with a high level of standard safety features, as is the rest of the Kia line-up. This includes six airbags (dual advanced front and front-seat mounted side as well as full-length side curtain), front active headrests, side-impact door beams, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction Control System (TCS), a Brake Assist System (BAS) and Hill Assist Control (HAC) also are standard.

Competitive Warranty

The 2011 Optima is covered by Kia’s warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the vehicle coverage.

Kia Motors America in 2010

Kia Motors is in the midst of a dramatic, design-led transformation, which has been delivering dynamically styled vehicles in several important segments at exactly the right time, contributing to the brand’s continued gains in U.S. market share. With three new vehicle introductions and several other key initiatives planned for 2010, Kia is poised to continue its momentum and will continue to build the brand through design innovation, quality, value, safety features and with new technology such as the UVO powered by Microsoft® advanced hands-free in-car communication and entertainment system (to be available in select Kia models in the U.S. beginning in summer 2010). The launch of the all-new 2011 Sorento CUV, the official vehicle of the NBA and the first vehicle to be assembled8 at Kia’s first U.S.-based manufacturing facilities in West Point, Georgia, further enhances the lineup, and is now in dealerships.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 670 dealers throughout the United States. For 2009, KMA recorded its 15th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share and recently achieved its best quarter of sales ever. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline “The Power to Surprise.”

Kia Motors America is the “Official Automotive Partner of the NBA.” Information about Kia Motors America and its full vehicle line-up is available at its Web site – For media information, including photography, visit

1 Based on available 2010 and 2011 model year midsize sedans
2 SIRIUS, XM and all related marks and logos are trademarks of SIRIUS XM Radio Inc. and its subsidiaries. SIRIUS Radio requires a subscription, sold separately after 3-month trial subscription included with vehicle purchase. Prices and programming are provided by SIRIUS and are subject to change. Subscriptions governed by SIRIUS Terms & Conditions available at SIRIUS Radio U.S. service available only to those at least 18 years of age in the 48 contiguous United States, D.C. and Puerto Rico (with coverage limitations).
3 The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Kia is under license.
4 Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
5 HomeLink is a registered trademark of Johnson Controls, Inc.
6 Infinity is a registered trademark of Harman International Industries, Incorporated.
7 Based on preliminary test results.
8 Kia vehicles assembled at the Kia U.S. plant are assembled in the U.S. from U.S. and globally-sourced parts.


  1. [...] 2011 Optima Reviews sort of a sneek peak when they were checking out the new Sportage Sneak Peek- 2011 Kia Optima [...]

  2. CeeDragon says:

    Can definitely see the Audi influence in the lines. Great proportions to the car and looks very well balanced, unlike the Sonata. Too bad about the interior, I guess they had to cut costs somewhere. Can’t wait to see how the turbo performs.

  3. Toaster says:

    Wow. Kia/Hyundai keeps knocking ‘em outta the park. This is a great looking car (aside from the wheels which aren’t really my taste, but aren’t too bad).

    Tom, did you ever get a chance to review the new 2011 Sorento?

    • TV says:

      No. Was supposed to get it but I think another writer did something that caused it to be sent to the dealer so my slot was set back. Another couple weeks perhaps.

  4. [...] 2011 Kia Optima Interior Some very high quality video here, AND a great view of the Optima in black. [...]