FAST FACTS

1. The Optima makes 200-hp from a standard direct-injection 2.4L 4-cylinder, while achieving best-in-class 24/35-mpg (city/hwy) fuel economy.

2. Optional class exclusive features include a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel and heated and cooled front seats.

3. After launch, Kia will introduce a turbocharged model with even more aggressive bodywork and a 274-hp engine.

What a difference a few years can make.

As part of a bold new product rollout that began with the Kia Soul, the Korean automaker is now delivering compelling vehicles with impressive fuel economy and much improved quality, all wrapped-up in a compelling package. In fact, Kia’s new design language works so well on the Optima, if we didn’t know better, we’d expect the starting price to be double.

That’s exactly what Kia wants you to think, showing media present at the launch a short video of the target Gen X customer followed by the cleverly crafted yet arguably true statement that, “Nobody ever dreamed of driving a mid-size sedan until now.”

Based on looks alone, the Optima will draw customers into showrooms, pulling decades-long Honda and Toyota supporters away from their brands with a flashy new look.

And while the Optima is unequivocally svelte, one could easily argue that the biggest drawback to previous generations of Kia’s family sedan wasn’t aesthetics. So… apart from the superficial reasons to purchase this handsome sedan, do the more practical aspects of the 2011 Optima represent a compelling alternative to the industry benchmarks?

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