Northwest NEWS

August 13, 2001




The 2001 Kia Optima SE is a four-door midsize sedan that has price and attractive features on its side to compete in its market.
   The base price was listed at $19,949. With the optional anti-lock brakes, the leather package and carpeted floor mats, the price rose to $22,269, still very competitive for a brand new midsize sedan.
   A 2.5-liter, 24V DOHC V6 engine with 170 horsepower and 169 foot-pounds of torque powers the Optima. The V6 engine block and cylinder heads are made from aluminum.
   My test model came with a four-speed transmission with the Tiptronic technology designed by Porsche that allows it to be shifted manually.
   I found the Optima to be a very comfortable, easy to drive and maneuver car. I think Kia is successful with introducing some lower priced choices without compromising features and drive into the US market.
   My Optima SE came with a magenta red color exterior and a gray leather interior. The body shape is attractive. There is a chrome insert on the side moldings - not seen much in the latest cars.
   Fog lamps and a power antenna are standard, as are the P205/6OR25 tires with alloy wheels.
   The interior is well-designed for the driver's use. The center console was a storage area with cupholders.
   The leather wrapped steering wheel is a nice addition.
   Air conditioning, power eight-way adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, AM/FM/Cass/CD audio and power windows, mirrors and locks are part of the standard features on the Optima.
   Safety features include dual front airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, side-door impact beams and rear child anchors. A first aid kit is included, which I think should be in every car.
   The SE V6 is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
   The Optima rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase.
   Watch for the SE-L model of the Optima for 2002 which Kia hopes will attract buyers looking for a sportier car. Unveiled this year at the auto show, the SE-L will offer a 2.7-liter DOHC 181-horsepower V6, a modified version of the 2.5-liter that is the Optima's current optional powerplant. (The base Optima has a 2.4-liter 149-horsepower four-cylinder engine).
   The new engine provides power to the front wheels via an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission, called Sportmatic, that uses technology licensed from Porsche.
   The Sportmatic shifter can be shifted manually without the use of a clutch or used as a conventional automatic transmission.
   More modern conveniences that will be found on the SE-L model include an automatic climate control system that features an integral air filtration system. The electro-luminescent instruments also give the SE-L a modern, upscale ambiance. An in-dash CD changer is part of a premium AM/FM/CD audio system with six-speaker sound. There is also a power-operated rear sunshade and timed-delay auto-off headlights.
   Buyers have choices. The manufacturers are offering a wide variety of options. Kia competes well with its warranty packages.
   The Optima SE is covered by the Kia Long Haul Warranty Program that includes a 10-year or 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year or 60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year or 100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty.
   A five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance plan is also part of the comprehensive coverage program.