DETROIT — It was nose heavy, that’s the first thing I noticed when I started my week long test drive of the 2011 Kia Optima EX GDI. As I got deeper into the week that heaviness seemed to disappear; I think that’s because I got used to the Optima’s feel.
But early on I had to make sense of that heaviness. Two weeks prior to test driving the Kia Optima, I had test driven two other vehicles. Both were rear-wheel-drive and each had better weight distribution than my Optima. That may have been part of the reason.
Later, as I looked at the Kia Optima’s specs, I saw that 59 percent of my test vehicle’s 3,223 pounds was in the front while the rest of that weight was in the back. The bottom line was that the Optima had front-wheel-drive and I think Kia could do a bit better at moving some of that weight rearward.
Still, around these parts during snow-filled winters that weight up front would come in handy getting through streets covered with snow and slush.
I found the midsize sedan to be comfortable. Handling was good, it was easy to steer, acceleration wasn’t eye popping but I never found myself lacking enough oomph. Braking was great, wind noise was not disturbing and there was no road noise especially from the 17-inch wheels and rubber.
The Optima had a three pod instrument set up. The odometer was on the left, the speedometer was in the middle and the gas and temperature gauges as well as the gear select indicator was housed in the right pod.
Gone was the center stack. Kia is in front of the interior design curve by using a horizontal layout. Controls for the car’s various functions like audio and the navigation system were clustered beneath the navigation screen. The climate controls were clustered beneath that. It was a very clean layout.
Although the 2011 Kia Optima is billed as a five passenger sedan, it really can tote four people comfortably. I had plenty of head and leg room when I tried out the back seats. And I noticed that doors fore and aft opened wide and allowed for easy access.
The Optima’s build quality was top notch and as always with a Kia, I was impressed with the amount of equipment my Optima had and its price.
For openers, my test vehicle had a panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled front power seats, a backup camera, heated side view mirrors, satellite radio, auxiliary, iPod and USB jacks. The car came with a cord that combined those functions and let me operate my iPod from the audio system.
Of course, it had Bluetooth, a CD player with MP3 capability as well as a push button lock and unlock and push button start and stop. And surprise, surprise, the 2011 Kia Optima EX GDI even had a cooling glove box.
For my well equipped midsize sedan test vehicle, Kia was asking $27,440. For the equipment, versus the price, the Optima demands at least a look from serious midsize car buyers.
Frank S. Washington is managing partner/editor of AboutThatCar.com