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Vehicle Reviews

2012 Kia Optima

Quiet and refined mid-size sedan. edited by New Car Test Drive

Introduction

2012 Kia Optima

2012 Kia Optima

Kia Optima is a freshly redesigned midsize sedan that comes in three versions. The Kia Optima was redesigned for 2011. The 2011 Optima lineup included a compelling EX base model and a Turbo model that proved to be a hit.

The 2012 Optima lineup adds a Hybrid version using a 2.4-liter I4 Atkinson cycle gas engine that produces 166 horsepower with an electric motor with 40 horsepower. The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 35/40 miles per gallon City/Highway.

Optima is at the forefront of midsize design: sleek and muscular, with none of the odd feel that sometimes characterizes new Asian cars. It is a car of finesse, with distinguished aesthetics, except for that grille.

Inside, the interior appointments and materials are handsome, generous, and of high quality, overall. Beautiful leather adorns the dashboard and seating, comfortable with firm support, including the rear. The design and layout of the instrumentation reflect thought and employ the latest technology. Legible, jewel-like instruments signal that this is no bland commuter module, though the Optima does make a good commuter module. The expected conveniences are all there, plus bonuses such as a cooled glove compartment for keeping beverages cool.

Optima offers heated/cooled seating, navigation with rearview camera, paddle-shifter transmission, and an extra-large panoramic sunroof. Connectivity conveniences include satellite radio, USB audio input jacks and Bluetooth wireless, with steering wheel voice activation controls that deliver hands-free phone operation.

Optima uses front-wheel drive and a four-wheel independent suspension that is athletic and responsive. We found the ride quality compliant over rougher pavement, filtering out harshness, while the suspension accurately communicates smaller bumps and ripples. The chassis is good, and although Optima is no performance sedan, its handling has a sporty glimmer.

The Kia Optima EX, the base trim and most common model, uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower. This engine is short on excitement, but it's fine for most drivers. Quiet at highway cruising speeds, it delivers enough power to keep up with fast traffic on the freeways, while delivering an EPA-estimated 24/35 mpg City/Highway.

The 274-hp Optima Turbo sweetly carries this sedan into another world. The Optima Turbo's performance, stability and agility are first rate, and its silky smooth engine is amazing for a 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It squirts from 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds, very quick indeed, and through the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds.

The Optima Hybrid drags Optima back into a third world. Its EPA estimated mileage is 35/40 miles per gallon. However, we only got 25.5 mpg during our lead-footed stint. The 6-speed automatic transmission was rough, which we blame on its electronic programming.

Optima Hybrid uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle gas engine that produces 166 horsepower connected by a wet clutch to an Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) synchronous electric motor producing 40 horsepower. The battery that powers the electric motor is state of the art, a 270V lithium-polymer (Li-PB) battery. Compared to a nickel metal hydride system, this 95-pound Li-PB system is 20-30 percent lighter, 40 percent smaller, holds a charge 25 percent longer, is 10 percent more efficient, and offers twice the power density. The warranty is good for up to 10 years or 150,000 miles. It's a hybrid, so you don't need to plug it in. Just fill it with gas and go.

Model Lineup

The 2012 Kia Optima LX ($19,500) comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic ($21,000). Standard features include cloth seat trim, air conditioning, solar glass, outside mirror turn signals, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with Satellite radio, USB input jacks, glass antenna, dual dash power takeoffs, cooling glovebox, front/rear armrest and cupholder, sunglasses holder, front/rear in-door bottle holder, illuminated vanity mirror, tilt/telescope steering, steering-wheel controls, keyless entry, power windows with driver Auto Down, intermittent wipers, driver's power lumbar support, up/down tilt headrests, 16-inch wheels with 205/65R16 tires. A Convenience Package ($xx) upgrades to an eight-way power driver's seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and compass. The LX Technology Package ($xx) includes the Convenience Package and adds the navigation system with rearview camera, Infinity premium audio, and dual-zone climate control.

Optima EX 2.4 ($23,200) adds foglights, heated outside mirrors, exterior chrome/body-color door handles, glovebox illumination, Smart Key with push-button start, auto light control system, 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/55R17 tires. The EX Premium Package adds a panoramic sunroof, four-way front passenger seat, driver's seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, wood trim. The EX Technology Package includes the Premium Package and adds the navigation system with rearview camera, Infinity premium audio.

Optima EX 2.0T ($25,100) features the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, larger front brake discs, unique front grille. A Premium Package adds the panoramic sunroof, four-way front-passenger seat, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel. The Technology Package includes the Premium Package and adds the navigation system, rearview camera, Infinity premium audio.

Optima SX 2.0T ($26,500) upgrades further with a sport-tuned suspension, P225/45R18 tires, 18-inch black machined wheels, black front-brake calipers, HID headlights with auto leveling, LED rear lights, unique front/rear bumper design, sculpted side sills, spoiler, aero wiper blades. The Technology Package ($1400) and Premium Package ($2950) include the panoramic sunroof, four-way front-passenger seat, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats.

Optima Hybrid ($25,700) uses a 2.4-liter I4 Atkinson cycle gas engine that produces 166 horsepower and an electric motor with 40 horsepower. It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, front and rear lower bumpers and side sills, a rear spoiler, and LED taillamps. Inside, there's an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, electric dual zone automatic temperature control with rear vents, push-button start with Smart Key, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, fixed rear seats with ski pass-through. Premium Technology Package ($5350) adds 17-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires, panoramic sunroof, a four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, driver's seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, HID head lights with automatic leveling, leatherette-wrapped center fascia, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink and compass, a navigation system with back-up camera and SiriusXM Traffic, and the premium Infinity audio system.

Safety features include dual front advanced airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, impact-absorbing steering column, three-point seatbelts, front seatbelt pretensioners, adjustable front seatbelt anchors, child safety locks, child seat anchors, emergency trunk release, four-wheel power anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), brake assist, traction control (TCS), electronic stability control (ESC), hill-start assist (HAC), and the mandated tire-pressure monitor. Optional is a rearview camera.

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