The 2011 Kia Optima Turbo is one of those upstart models that the parent company might have to watch out for. Hyundai runs the show here, you see, and its intention was for the Optima Turbo—which borrows the Hyundai Sonata Turbo ’s powertrain and major hardware—to fill a sportier, edgier niche, allowing the Sonata Turbo to corral mainstream family-sedan shoppers in search of extra speed. But while Hyundai wasn’t looking, Kia went and made what could very well be a better mousetrap. The Optima Turbo isn’t just a top-notch family hauler; it’s a fairly convincing facsimile of a front-wheel-drive Audi.
Offered in EX or SX trim, the Optima Turbo cuts a rakishly modern figure, even boasting Euro-style LED taillights on SX models. The cockpit-like interior has a sophisticated look and feel, with red nighttime illumination that similarly evokes European luxury marques. The capable chassis—tighter than the Sonata Turbo’s—delivers a downright Germanic cocktail of controlled compliance and confident cornering. And the 2.0-liter, 274-horsepower turbo-four’s extraordinary combination of power and fuel economy puts not only competing V-6s to shame, but also most current turbo-four offerings from the renowned induction-forcers at Audi and Volkswagen.
The 2011 Kia Optima Turbo isn’t perfect, but its mix of efficiency, performance, style and refinement is hard to beat. The class of high-powered family sedans has another serious contender.
What's to Like
The 2011 Optima Turbo is fast yet remarkably fuel-efficient. It’s strikingly styled on the outside, yet roomy on the inside. Few if any midsize sedans can match this impressive array of virtues. Neat features abound, from the faux-leather stitched trim of the center stack to the available UVO voice-recognition system and panoramic sunroof. And the Optima Turbo comes with Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, which should assuage consumer concerns about the turbocharged motor’s long-term reliability.
What's Not to Like
The Optima Turbo rides firmly in sport-tuned SX trim—perhaps too firmly for some. The voice-recognition software isn’t always on the ball, and the navigation system’s digitized female voice is comically stilted. The sleek rear roofline limits rear headroom for taller passengers. The attractive two-tone interior treatment is offered only in EX trim. And enthusiasts may be disappointed by the lack of rev-matched downshifts in the automatic transmission’s manual mode.
The Optima Turbo comes in two trim levels, each in its own state of tune. The EX has relaxed steering and a more compliant suspension, and its balance of comfort and control is about as ...