DRIVER-ORIENTED INTERIOR DESIGN

With the 2011 Optima, Kia has made big strides forward in the use of cabin materials, while interior layout and design are also strong points. Much like how the exterior conveys a dramatic message, the cockpit has been designed with the driver in mind, with the center console angled towards driver – we could, however, do with a less monotone center stack.

The instrument cluster is simple yet elegant with a nice brightwork surround; the wood detailing on the doors actually looks like high-grade stuff and then there are small touches like moving the automatic transmission gearbox lettering to the driver’s side of the lever, making for a more driver-oriented package. Our EX test model (a mid-level trim and the only one provided at the launch event) also featured a two-tone interior – something that always gives a more high-grade look.

Standard on EX models are items like dual-zone climate control with rear vents, power windows with front auto up/down, an 8-way power drivers seat, leather interior trim (including the center arm rest and the door inserts), a bush-button ignition with Smart Key, rear view camera and the SYNC-style UVO system for hands-free use of the entertainment and communications systems. Also included is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, although judging from the feel, it would seem the folks at Kia may have skinned a plastic cow.

As mentioned, generally the use of materials is quite good with soft-touch buttons and knobs that turn smoothly. Still, some lower grade materials are bound to make their way into a sub $20,000 car – Kia hasn’t released official pricing but it’s certain to start below the 20K mark. Along with the steering wheel leather, we did notice that hard plastic is used for the center of the wheel and for much of the dash – even though our tester featured a small amount of leather dash trim.

The only other small issue we noticed with the interior are the single-size cupholders that won’t properly secure smaller drinks – Red Bull anyone?

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