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Long Term Update 1: 2011 Kia Optima SX


When we first tested the new Kia Optima SX at our 2011 COTY competition last year we were a little surprised with the results, as were Kia. See, our tester was almost a full second slower than its sibling the Hyundai Sonata Turbo (6.5 seconds compared to 7.4 seconds to 60 mph) and in testing terms, that's a life time. We were all left scratching our heads as to why basically the same cars were so different in their performance.

Flash forward to March when we took delivery of our new Kia Optima SX long term vehicle. Taking a nice long road trip shortly after arrival meant our KIA OPTIMA was fully broken in before we ran our standard battery of tests all vehicles get when becoming part of our long term fleet. When we tested this vehicle it was only a few 10ths quicker than the one we tested at COTY, (7.2 seconds compared to 7.4 seconds to 60). We tested the car yet again, this time running premium fuel, but the numbers didn't change, it was a tick quicker, but rounding made it identical.

So, after three different testing sessions, were still confused. Others have tested the Kia Optima SX and they have all seen numbers significantly better than what we are getting which makes us even more confused. How are we that far off? As far as testing goes, compared to other groups, sometimes were slower, sometimes were faster, but it's usually only by 10th or two, not a full second off.

 The only thing we can do at this point is to get yet another Kia Optima SX and run numbers on that one. If those numbers jive with what we should be getting then we will take our current long term car in to the dealer to see what's up. It is quite possible that there has been a software update since we first tested the KIA OPTIMA SX last year and when our new long term car made it into our fleet. It's unlikely, but we are hoping it's something as simple as a quick reflash or update.

With all that said, the Kia Optima SX is anything but lacking in the performance department, even though currently our numbers don't necessarily support that statement. The good old buttometer tells you something completely different. When you put your foot down power comes on quick with minimal turbo lag. Manual mode is a bit disappointing as it will still auto up shift at redline but it is still fun when playing in a canyon road.

The KIA OPTIMA feels tight and surprisingly stiffly sprung, which you don't expect from Korean cars, they have always been quite soft and rolled more than you wanted. Oddly, this car is a tad too tightly sprung, making you feel every bump, crack and crevice on the road. That's great on a nice smooth stretch of pavement but on our pathetic So Cal roads; it makes for a rough ride.
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