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Release Date: 05/10/2011

Redesigned Kia Optima Now Ranks in Top-Ten of Four-Cylinder Family Sedans

Optima beat Honda Accord in face-off between the two family sedans; Toyota Highlander Hybrid now most fuel-efficient Consumer Reports’ Recommended SUV

CR June '11 CoverYONKERS, NY — The redesigned Kia Optima outpointed the high-selling Honda Accord in a face-off between the two family sedans conducted by Consumer Reports. The Optima now ranks among the top 10 of all four-cylinder family sedans tested by the organization.

The Optima now ranks sixth among the four-cylinder family sedans tested by Consumer Reports, ahead of the Honda Accord and behind the Suzuki Kizashi. The Optima edged out the Accord by just one point in CR’s testing. Both vehicles achieved “Very Good” overall scores.

Top-scoring four-cylinder family sedans include the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, in that order.

Kia’s Optima drew praise from Consumer Reports’ engineers for its handling, transmission, controls, fuel economy (25 mpg overall in CR’s own tests) and its crash-test results. Its lows included road noise, low rear-seat height, and limited rear visibility.

Consumer Reports also released its evaluations of three midsized SUVs, the redesigned Ford Explorer, the gas/electric Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg TDI. The Highlander Hybrid outpointed the others and posted an “Excellent” overall road test score. The Touareg came in close behind the Highlander and now ranks fourth overall in CR’s ratings of midsized SUVs. The Explorer fell short in this competitive market segment and now ranks 17th out of 19 vehicles in the category.

The June issue, which goes on sale May 10, also features results of a survey of subscribers on independent repair shops vs. car dealers, with independents getting higher marks in satisfaction and a special look at a reader’s 2004 Toyota Prius, which traveled some 214,000 miles—yet still delivers similar fuel economy and performance to when it was brand new.

All the reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information.

Consumer Reports has current ratings on dozens of makes and models of both sedans and SUVs. All five newly-rated vehicles were either redesigned or freshened for 2011.

The Highlander Hybrid gets a newer V6 engine that helps boost its gas mileage to 27 mpg overall, up from its previous 24. That makes it the most fuel-efficient SUV in CR’s ratings with gas mileage far better than any conventional SUV and comparable to a small sedan’s. The Highlander Hybrid is also a quiet and comfortable vehicle, with a roomy second-row seat and a handy third row.

The Highlander Hybrid and the Accord are the only vehicles tested this month that are Recommended. The Touareg, Explorer, and Optima are too new for Consumer Reports to have adequate reliability data to Recommend. Consumer Reports only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The Optima has benefitted from a major redesign. Handling is more nimble than the Accord with quick steering. The Kia Optima LX ($21,885 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested,) is powered by a 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers strong performance and 25 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The interior is well-finished. There is plenty of trunk space.

The Accord has improved fuel economy since the last time it was tested. It has a compliant ride, excellent visibility and a roomy cabin. The Accord handles responsively, with good steering, but when it was pushed at CR’s test track, it was sloppy with notable body lean. The Honda Accord LX-P ($23,730 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 177-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that provides strong performance and gets 25 mpg overall. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The interior is well-finished. Trunk space is generous.

The Highlander Hybrid is quicker than the conventional V6 model and offers a compliant and smooth ride. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited ($47,255 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with three electric motors that is responsive and gets 27 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The continuously variable transmission operates smoothly. Braking is very good. While the interior is well-finished, it falls short of luxurious. The 50/50-split third row folds flat and the cargo room is large when the rear seats are folded.

The Touareg is an agile, solid, luxurious SUV with comfortable seats and a plush interior. The highway ride is steady and well-controlled. The Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport ($49,505 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 225-hp 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V6 engine that is responsive and gets 24 mpg overall. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. Interior quality is first-rate. A third row is not available, unlike the Highlander Hybrid and the Explorer. Cargo room is just modest for a midsized SUV, but towing capacity is impressive.

The redesigned Explorer is much improved over the previous model, but it still doesn’t compete with the best in this class. The Explorer has a steady and compliant ride and decent fuel economy, but the engine is noisy and handling is not agile, even for this class. The Ford Explorer XLT ($39,275 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that provides lively performance and 18 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission is sometimes slow to downshift. Braking is very good.  The optional MyFord Touch dashboard design is overcomplicated and distracting to use. The interior is mostly well-finished. The cargo area is generous.

Like the Explorer, the redesigned-for-2011 Dodge Durango three-row SUV moved off of a truck-based platform to a unibody design. CR is testing the Durango for a later issue.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, the world’s largest independent, not-for-profit, product-testing organization. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

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