$6,845 - $8,809

2011 Kia Optima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Kia Optima was new.


Performance: 8.3

While only the base engine was made available for testing, reviewers say it’s adequate, but they advise that drivers with lead feet consider the turbocharged engine. Eco-minded drivers should look at the Optima Hybrid.

  • “Here, the chassis felt plenty capable of more than we were pushing, and allowed us to imagine the possibilities with the impending turbocharged, direct-injected, and perfectly square 2.0-liter inline-four with 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque." -- Motor Trend
  • "There, the car showed all the attributes of a first-rate mass-market midsize sedan, but perhaps not as much handling athleticism when pushed as the styling would suggest." -- Road and Track
  • "As good as all this packaging is, it would be for naught if the Optima didn’t or couldn’t step up to the plate. In this regard, it did not disappoint." -- Left Lane News

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Kia Optima has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 274 horsepower and a hybrid model.

Reviewers have only driven the 2.4-liter engine, and they say it’s powerful enough. Though many also say that they’re excited to try the turbocharged engine – especially because it’ll have V6 power but relatively good fuel economy. The EPA says that the 2.4-liter engine will get 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is rated at 22/34 city/highway when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission.

  • "Though the 200-hp four-cylinder provided adequate power, we were disappointed that while in manual mode, the automatic transmission voluntarily upshifted at the top of the rpm range. This annoying detail made us yearn for the SX option: With the manual transmission and more horsepower at just a minimal fuel-economy penalty, we'll have a hard time passing it up." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Fitted with a 6-speed automatic, the 3223-lb. sedan has good poke and has earned respectable EPA ratings of 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, but the car isn’t exactly neck-snapping off idle." -- Road and Track
  • "I didn't drive the turbo, just the normally aspirated EX models equipped with the Optima's staple transmission, a six-speed automatic. It's a capable pairing: The engine lacks the low-end oomph to come out of a corner in a high gear and accelerate uphill, but the transmission kicks down soon enough to get you back up to speed. On the highway, the car moves competently: Squeeze the accelerator two-thirds of the way down, give the automatic a beat to fetch 4th gear, and the Optima turns 60 mph into 80 mph with surprising vigor." -- Cars.com
  • "With a light-for-the-class weight of around 3,200 pounds, the 2.4 imbues the Optima with both reasonable scoot and refinement, though performance-minded drivers will doubtlessly want to hold out for the turbocharged engine.” -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

Reviews are mixed on the 2011 Kia Optima’s handling. While most reviewers agree that it is competent on the road, they disagree on how sporty it is and how far drivers can push it. If performance is your priority, several reviewers say the Optima is a good choice, but several others say it isn’t. Make sure you take it on an extended test drive to make sure it’s up to your standards. Or, check out the Mazda6, which reviewers agree brings sporty handling to the family sedan market.

  • "The Optima's electric-assisted steering is light and easy, but could use more feedback. The firm brakes offer plenty of clamping power and encouraged later braking as the laps wore on. . . . . Off the driving line, the stock Nexen touring tires didn't enjoy steering corrections at speed, and predictably squealed in protest. That choice of rubber is much better suited for school and grocery store runs than hustling around Road Atlanta." -- Motor Trend
  • "Hitting the right notes with the mid-sized-sedan buyer is also evident in the way the Optima rides and handles. Contrary to what the auto enthusiast press would have you believe, the mid-size sedan driver is more concerned about quiet and a comfortable ride than about crisp handling, and we discovered that Kia engineers tuned the Optima's suspension with that bias in mind." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Optima offered a good balance between a soft ride on straight runs and fairly buttoned-down cornering control." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Find some back roads, and the car holds its own. The nose pushes a bit, and on curvy roads the steering reveals a degree of slop that doesn't plague the Mazda6 or Suzuki Kizashi. The Optima corners pretty flat for what it is, though; it refuses to pitch off-kilter into hard corners and throw its nose wide, tires squealing, like the Sonata and Camry do. The brakes are marvelous, too, with a strong, linear pedal sensation and little suspension dive on hard stops." -- Cars.com
  • "We found the steering accuracy from the electric power-assist system to be quite good, and although the rack-and-pinion setup didn't provide much road feel, the 17-inch Nexen tires on our EX provided appropriate warnings of their limits when approached. As with every other front-driver in this segment, understeer remains the Optima's marching orders, but if anything, handling feels a bit keener than the Sonata, which itself has heretofore had a claim on the best-handling car in its class." -- Autoblog

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