Puns aside, the 2011 Kia Optima’s designation as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is no accident. Instead, the reshaped Optima’s latest award is a testament to the vehicle’s unparalleled commitment to safety, as well as the innovative engineering it contains.
With long lists of standard features, the entire Kia lineup exhibits an obvious dedication to passenger well-being. The 2011 Kia Optima (starting MSRP $18,995) with its exciting new redesign is no exception. Lower, leaner and more striking than ever before, and from its very construction to its amenities, the sedan has been engineered to help avoid accidents, or minimize injury should they prove unavoidable.
Optima’s path to Top Safety Pick starts with its high-strength steel body. An ultra-rigid, protective barrier against collision, the Optima’s body includes steel beams in all doors, reinforced A and B pillars, innovative, energy-absorbing front and rear crumple zones, as well as an impact-absorbing steering column.
Outside, LX and EX trims sport clear-lens projection headlamps and available foglamps while SX models upgrade to high-intensity, auto-leveling lights. Available heated side mirrors and Aero wiper blades enhance visibility further while LED taillights and side-mirror turn-signal indicators ensure that the Optima itself is more visible (though, given the modern new body style, it’s already quite eye catching).
The Optima accompanies its 200-hp four-cylinder and 274-hp turbocharged engine choices with an available six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that delivers exceptional precision and confident driver control. An independent, MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup (with stabilizer bars and coil springs) allows for an exceptionally smooth and responsive ride.
Kia’s standard Electronic Stability Control improves handling even further, actively reducing engine power and applying brake pressure to maintain control during emergency maneuvers. Standard Traction Control reduces undesired wheelspin by diverting engine power to the wheels with the most grip (a necessity on wet or slippery surfaces) while an innovative Hill-Start Assist feature maintains brake pressure for two seconds on steep inclines, giving you ample time to move from the brake pedal to the accelerator without inadvertently rolling backward. Standard four-wheel, hydraulic, power-assisted antilock disc brakes (vented in the front) feature Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, a system designed to ensure balanced braking by taking into account the vehicle’s ever-changing weight distribution. If the brakes are engaged quickly (in an emergency, for example), the Optima’s Brake Assist Feature kicks in, applying full stopping power instantly. Last, a tire-pressure monitor alerts you when air pressure in any of the Optima’s tires drops below the recommended level.
Inside, the advanced new Optima features Kia’s optional Smart Key remote system with push-button ignition, which allows you to start or stop the engine even if the remote is tucked away in a pocket or purse. All trims feature the convenience of Bluetooth® hands-free communication, an informative trip computer (with temperature and fuel information) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. SX trims get Kia’s Supervision Meter Cluster, which displays vehicle information on an LCD display and enhances the visibility of the Optima’s sleek gauges.
Front seats get height-adjustable seatbelt anchors, pretensioners, (which automatically tighten belts to brace for impact) and a pair of active headrests (designed to help mitigate whiplash). Backseats feature child safety door locks, as well as anchors and tethers for easy child safety seat installation. The entire cabin is protected by a comprehensive system of front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags (six total), all of which inflate accordingly and intelligently, depending on the location of passengers, the presence of seatbelts and the severity of the impact.
Kia is so confident in the longevity, security and quality of its newest Optima that it backs it with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, just a little additional peace of mind that comes with owning a Top Safety Pick.