As I’m driving our 2011 Kia Optima EX test car around downtown Washington, D.C., a young guy in an older Chevrolet Impala honks repeatedly at me at a red light. I roll down my passenger window and he yells, “Hey, awesome car! How do you like it? How much does it cost?”

A few days later, I’m taking photos of the Optima in Georgetown and a man jogging by stops and says, “Nice car! How do you like it? Can I check it out?” I open up the passenger door for him and he feels the leather seats and looks at the room in the back seat. “Nice,” he says.

The $19,200 base 2011 Kia Optima is a good-looking car with impressive value. If Kia’s target market for the Optima is young men, they’ve done a great job. As a young woman, I think the car is a bit masculine-looking, but it’s definitely a car I’d drive.


Our as-tested Optima EX had dual-zone climate control with back seat vents, satellite radio, USB connection, Bluetooth, leather-trimmed seats, a power adjustable driver’s seat, push-button start and a cooled glove box, all of which are standard on the EX. Options on our test car included navigation, backup camera, an Infinity sound system, double panoramic moonroof, power adjustable passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel. These upgrades add $4,250 to the EX’s MSRP of $22,495, which brings the price to $27,440, including delivery.

The Optima

Most reviewers complain about the underpowered base four-cylinder engines in many affordable midsize cars. However, the 2011 Kia Optima’s four-cylinder engine has plenty of power for accelerating from a stop and passing on the highway. The Optima’s fuel-saving Eco mode didn’t appear to have any effect on fuel economy. I averaged 19.7/29 mpg city/highway driving from Arlington, Va. to the Baltimore, Md. airport, which is less than the EPA’s estimate of 24/24 mpg city/highway, but the Optima is still good on gas.

If you’re looking for an affordable midsize car with a lot of features for not a lot of money, the Kia Optima should be on your list.