Midsize car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,000 – $23,200*

2011 Kia Optima Front

2011 Kia Optima Rear

2011 Kia Optima Interior

2011 Kia Optima

2011 Kia Optima Front-2

  • Acceleration (Turbo)
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Steering/handling
  • Cargo-space layout
  • Noise (SX)
  • Ride (SX)

The redesigned Kia Optima aimed to deliver upscale accouterments and a sporty, driver-oriented demeanor at bargain prices, and it mostly succeeds. Optima isn’t quite as dynamically polished as midsize-sedan leaders. That’s true of the sporty SX model as well, which we believe makes too many compromises in ride quality and quietness, even though it handles better and accelerates more strongly than other Optimas. Overall, the latest Optima’s expressive styling, good fuel economy, and generous list of standard and optional equipment make the LX and EX 2.4 Best Buys (2011-12). Aggressive pricing when new is likely to translate to appealing deals for a used Optima.


Kia redesigned its Optima sedan for 2011, not only giving it freshened styling but adding a new gas/electric hybrid model. This midsize car shared elements of its basic design and powertrains with the also-redesigned 2011 Hyundai Sonata, produced by Kia’s corporate parent. Optima reprised its LX, EX, and SX trim levels, along with the new Hybrid model. LX and EX sedans had a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. That engine replaced both a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 194-horsepower, 2.7-liter V6. Standard on SX and available on EX was a 274-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. So, all Optimas now had four-cylinder power. A six-speed manual transmission was available only on the LX sedan. A six-speed automatic was optional for that model, and standard otherwise. The Hybrid used a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a battery-powered electric motor for 206 horsepower total, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Hybrid could run on one or both its power sources, to balance acceleration and fuel economy. Standard safety features included all-disc antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. Available features included heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a wireless cell-phone link, air-conditioned glovebox, panoramic sunroof, and a navigation system. Optima competitors included the midsize Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry, as well as the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Mazda 6, and Nissan Altima.

Yearly Updates

2012 Optima
Production of the 2012 Kia Optima moved from South Korea to the U.S., and the sedan added a few features. Kia’s UVO entertainment system was newly optional in EX, SX, and hybrid models (but not available in cars with a navigation system).
2013 Optima
For 2013, feature and option availability was largely unchanged, but leather upholstery was no longer standard on the sporty SX variant.
2014 Optima
The Kia Optima got a few new features for 2014. On the outside, Optima received redesigned front and rear bumpers, air diffuser detailing on the bottom of the rear bumper, a strip of LEDs mounted along the top of the headlights, LED fog lights, and LED taillights. Inside, a new, color LCD screen sat between the speedometer and tachometer in the instrument cluster. Newly available was an 8-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash that governed the audio and infotainment functions. Also new were the seats, and blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, and rear-obstacle detection were available for the first time. The Optima SX got a feature that adjusts transmission shift points and steering weight at the flick of a switch for a sportier driving feel.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

In LX and EX Optimas, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine made 200 horsepower. SX models got a 274-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which was optional for EX models. Only the LX could have a six-speed manual transmission; all others used a six-speed automatic. In Hybrid sedans, a 2.4-liter gasoline engine worked with a battery-powered electric motor, producing total output of 206 horsepower.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 186
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
dohc I4/electric
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 206
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 195
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic


Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 274
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 269
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic


Road Test

Kia’s 2.4-liter engine feels decently peppy in most driving situations. After a modest delay from a stop, the turbocharged engine accelerates much like a V6. On all models, the automatic transmission is generally smooth, alert, and reasonably quick to downshift for more power. An “Eco” button on the steering wheel alters transmission behavior and throttle response for better fuel economy.

Fuel economy is good but not stunning. In Consumer Guide testing, a 2.4-liter Optima averaged 23.7 mpg. An extended-use EX 2.4 averaged 26.3 mpg, whereas an SX averaged 20.1 mpg in mostly city driving. All Optima engines use regular-grade gasoline.

Rice quality varies by model. EX sedans are smooth and composed overall, with minor pattering over road imperfections. The SX is less composed, and occasionally crude over bumps at low speeds.

Reasonably poised and nimble in quick changes of direction, Optima is among the sportier-feeling mainstream midsize sedans. Steering feels well balanced, and brakes deliver smooth, linear stopping power. Despite their sport suspension and larger wheels/tires, SX versions feel only marginally more athletic. A tight turning radius aids close-quarters maneuvering.

Wind rush is well controlled overall, as is tire noise. The four-cylinder engine isn’t quite as refined as the best in this class, but it’s generally smooth and quiets down nicely at cruise. Blame the SX’s sport suspension and larger wheels/tires for additional road noise.

Backlit, inset gauges are easy to see in most any lighting situation. Dashboard buttons are large, clearly marked, and easy to reach. The available navigation system absorbs some audio functions, but the most basic settings are controlled with buttons on the steering wheel or at the center of the dashboard. Some road-testers have complained about too many lookalike buttons. Interior detailing is impressive for a mainstream midsize sedan, at least in fully-optioned EX or SX form. Materials appear high-quality throughout, and controls move with precision. The standard air-conditioned glovebox is a nice touch that helps keep water bottles cool.

Most adults should have adequate front-seat headroom and legroom, although the available panoramic sunroof’s housing cuts into headroom slightly for tall drivers. Seats are comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat provides a great range of fore/aft travel, making it simple for most adults to find a comfortable driving position. Visibility is good all-around.

Backseat headroom and legroom are adequate for 6-footers, though legroom grows tight when the front seats are pushed far back. The bench seat is comfortable, and door openings are shaped for easy entry and exit.

Trunk space is ample, but a fairly small opening and sickle-shaped hinges limit usefulness somewhat. The 60/40 split rear seatbacks fold forward to increase cargo room, but the pass-through opening is rather small, and the resulting load floor isn’t flat. Interior small-item storage is good. An open bin ahead of the shifter houses the auxiliary stereo and USB ports and two power outlets. Each door has a pocket and a bottle holder, and both front seatbacks have pockets.


Model Tested: 2011 Kia Optima EX 2.4

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 7


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 8
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 10

Total: 67


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
110 190.7 72.1 57.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.4 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40 37.6 45.5 34.7
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 Kia Optima 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Engine misfire
Description: Some vehicle hesitate during hard acceleration and the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) light comes on. Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) needs new software. (2012-13)
Suspension problems
Description: The rear lower control arms may need replacement because of corrosion. (2011-12)
Description: Some cars may have a dead battery due to a problem with the smart key requiring a software update to the body control module. (2011)
Description: Installing an additional (redundant) battery cable causes the battery sensor to malfunction. (2011-12)

Recall History

2011 Optima
Description: The stop lamp switch in the affected vehicles may malfunction and cause the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause the brake lights to remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. A stop lamp switch malfunction may also affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock feature so the transmission shifter would not be able to be shifted out of the park position. Dealers will replace the stop lamp switch free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

Share this: