2011 Kia Optima

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid

I don’t know what sort of opinion you hold or held on Kia as an automobile company but I can tell you that I was firmly agnostic until this past week.

I was pleasantly surprised as the 2011 Kia Optima is a terrific mid-sized sedan. Nice looking, solid feel, logical interior design, and just enough frills without the need for a couple of night classes to explain it all. Optima carries three passengers with ease and comfort. The ride is positive, smooth, and as quiet as it should be. Visibility is high and the seats welcoming. There’s not much more to ask of a new car.

Optima is now into its third generation and shows what refinement and experience can do. Several engine packages are available. We tested the Hybrid, which has a 40 horsepower Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor working together with a 2.4L 166hp 4-cylinder gasoline engine for a combined 206hp, ample for a car of this size.

Kia’s hybrid system could use some work. Driving around town in (by default) ECO mode creates uneven power delivery and inconsistent shifting through the 6-speed automatic transmission. While we all adjust our driving styles to suit any given vehicle, the Optima Hybrid requires too much attention. ECO mode is more transparent on the freeway, though still doesn’t deliver on advertised EPA fuel mileage.

With ECO mode switched off, Optima is a very different car. The car comes to life with better acceleration, more predictable shift points, and is a much more dynamic driving experience. Granted, the hybrid option is not aimed at the sportier set. But when we boil down to the very basics of automobile function, the game is one of getting from Point A to Point B. Saving fuel and techno gimmicks don’t figure into it.

I’ll bet that a 2011 Kia Optima in different trim (EX, SX, EX Turbo) will prove a better value than the hybrid version. It would certainly be more fun and less expensive. The new generation Kia Optima is a good car that compares favorably in its market segment.

Harold O.


2011 Kia Optima Hybrid


Base $26,500 as tested $27,250

standard features include:

Cruise Control, power seats, ABS brakes, Bluetooth, Traction Control System

Engine type:

2.4L 4-cylinder Hybrid

Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor


166 @ 6000 rpm

40.2 @ 0-1400 Electric


154 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm


0-60 mph 9.2 seconds

top speed 123 (governed)

Drive configuration:

Front engine / front wheel drive

Transmission type:

6-speed electronic automatic, w/manual shift mode


Front: Independent MacPherson Strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Rear: Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Wheels and tires:

16-inch alloy wheels



11.8-inch Front Vented Disc

11.2-inch Rear Vented Disc


Overall length/wheelbase:

190.7 inches/110.1 inches

Overall width:

72 inches

Overall height:

57.3 inches

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:


5 Year/60,000 mile Bumper to Bumper

10 Year/100,000 mile Powertrain

5 years/60,000 miles Roadside Assistance

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