By now the 2011 Kia Optima is everywhere and there is a shocking change in the way the car used to look to the way it looks now. Kia has really transformed the new Optima inside and out and more importantly, it now looks more expensive than it actually costs. It is starting to creep up, price-wise, into the Accord, Camry, Sonata territory but with merit. The Kia today isn’t the Kia that it used to be. With inexpensive cars, and now excellent styling coupled with a fantastic 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, what is not to love?

MSN ran an article recently where the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranked cars in terms of safety and Hyundai, its Kia affiliate, VW and Audi all scored the highest with 9 awards followed by GM, Ford and then Toyota. The IIHS is a completely legitimate organization and their ratings always stand the test of time and as noted, the Kia and Hyundai brands have been growing significantly over the years. Think about how many Sonata’s you see on a daily basis compared to the amount you would normally see 5 years ago.

The market is changing and the way Kia is designing their cars is changing as well. Below is the picture of a 2010 Kia Optima. Compare it to the 2011 Optima at the top of this post. Do you see a staggering difference? I certainly do. Kia has gone with the black grille which will be seen on quite a few other Kia models as well in some other shape or form.

One of the big highlights that I have noticed Kia incorporate is the fact that people want a car that not only looks great but also drives well. Seems like Kia has taken that to heart with its 2011 line-up and designed its cars to be visually appealing aside from being easy on the wallet as well. The Sportage and the Forte have all followed with that concept and with the Optima one can see the aggressive appearance of the car follows to the back with the dual exhaust sporty feel.

Trims & Pricing
The base LX starts at $18,995 but thats with a manual transmission as the automatic will set you back $20,495. The standard EX upgraded model is $22,495 where as the turbo-charged 4 cylinder is $24,495. The SX is $25,995. You might think that the jump from the 200hp regular EX to the turbo EX producing 274 horsepower is quite steep at $2,000 and I feel the same way. I mean a base LX automatic version starts at $20,495. For comparison sake, the Camry LE automatic version starts at $23,130, the Altima 2.5 is $19,900, Accord LX is $21,980 and the Hyundai Sonata GLSis $20,915. Now the $20,495 for the Optima doesn’t sound as high, does it?

Lets consider this as well, it is probably really well equipped for that price as well considering the Nissan 2.5 does not even come with a radio. The Kia on the other hand not only comes with a radio, it even has SIRIUS and MP3 capability on its audio system as well as it has fog lights, an active eco drive system, bluetooth and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Quick Summary
This obviously isn’t a detailed review and is mostly a quick look at the new design. I think Hyundai has done a great job with the car in terms of design, features list and even pricing. Although the new Optima is creeping slowly towards its competition, I still think it will take a lot for the loyal Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Nissan drivers to make the switch. New car buyers will most likely be inclined to including the Kia Optima in their list of possible options but only time will tell how successful the Optima will be. Personally, it seems like a great car and I will be able to provide more feedback once I get to drive it around. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear it! Below are some pictures of the interior and exterior for your viewing pleasure.

Interior Photos
              

Exterior Photos