No matter what it is, I just hate to seem like I’m following the trend.

Maybe it’s the artist in me or the fact that I’ve always like turning people on to the next big thing. Whether it’s a hot new underground band or a cool restaurant that just opened, I get a rush out of trying to identify the “what’s hot” before everybody else gets wind of it.

And considering so much of my life is consumed with automobiles, there’s nothing better than turning people on to next cool thing in the world of cars.

No such luck with the new 2011 Kia Optima. With the momentum Kia’s been gaining over the past few months, a lot of people had already started taking notice of the Optima before I started hammering out my ideas for this review.

So much so that a friend in Chicago who tends to lean more toward higher-end luxury rides inquired about the car before Ieven started writing my review. Yep, the news is already out on this one — and with good reason when considering all the improvements Kia’s made to the sedan.


Most striking about the all-new Optima is the exterior styling, which is a drastic departure from the previous model.

Designed at Kia’s studios in Frankfurt and Irvine, Calif., the new Optima is longer, wider and lower than the previous model and features some of Kia’s new styling cues that start taking shape on the Kia Soul.

Key exterior design elements include Kia’s signature bold tabbed grille surrounded by projector headlamps, a swooping roofline and flared wheel arches. If it weren’t for the Kia badge you’d easily mistaken the new Optima for a pricier luxury vehicle.

Even the side portals, which I’ve grown to hate on new vehicles when they aren’t functional, don’t bother me on the Optima. On most new rides they stick out like a pink hat with a power blue suit (if you can picture that), but they seem to work with the Optima because of how well they’ve been integrated into the overall design of the car.

The 2011 Optima is available in three trims — LX, EX and SX — with each featuring some unique design elements.

The LX comes with dual exhaust with chrome tips, solar glass (love that open view), outside mirror turn signal indicators and 16-inch steel wheels. Stepping up to the EX ads standard fog lights, heated outside mirrors, exterior chrome/body-color door handles along with 17-inch alloy wheels, while the EX Turbo adds a unique front grille design.

The SX, the more sportier of the three models, adds HID headlights with auto leveling, LED rear combination lights, unique front grille design, rear lip spoiler, sculpted side sills, aero wiper blades, black front brake calipers and 18-inch black machined finish alloy wheels.

Personally, I’d opt for the 17-inch wheels over the18-inch machined finished alloys for a much cleaner look on the car. But the 18-inch wheels definitely highlights how Kia has focused on those extra details when redesigning the car.

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