The 2012 Kia Optima is certainly among the very best choices in the midsize sedan segment thanks to its sleek design, fun-to-drive road manners, powerful yet fuel efficient engines, attractive interior, long list of features and overall bang for the buck.
It simply possesses many of the attributes of what we'd expect from a much more expensive car. There really isn't another in its price range that can compare when it comes to both interior and exterior design as well as on the road liveliness, while still maintaining an above average overall ride quality. But even with all its "sportiness", it still can serve as a sensible family sedan as well. And not to be overlooked, it also has the highest crash test protection ratings.
Even so, it's always a good idea to check out other top picks before making a final buying decision, especially in this segment where the competition is fierce due to a number of other really good choices as well. Those worthy of consideration would include the perennial top picks of the Honda Accord and the newly updated Toyota Camry, as well as its sibling the Hyundai Sonata and the just revised Volkswagen Passat.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Kia Optima is offered in five trims: LX, EX, EX Turbo, SX and Hybrid.
Standard features on the Optima LX with a manual transmission include power mirrors, power door locks, power windows, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, foglights, automatic headlights, projector beam halogen headlights, a cooled glove compartment, an anti-theft system, 16-inch steel wheels, a chrome grille, dual chrome exhaust pipes, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar, dual reclining front bucket seats, an ionizer air filter, steering wheel mounted feature controls, a tire pressure monitor and a 6-speakerr audio system with a CD player, MP3 player satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
An automatic LX adds on cruise control, alloy wheels, keyless entry and access to the optional Convenience package, which adds an 8-way power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Moving up to the EX model adds the Convenience package as standard, plus leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood interior trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, rear air vents and LED taillights. The EX Turbo comes similarly equipped but also adds a more powerful, turbocharged engine, larger brakes and a different front grille.
The also turbocharged Optima SX goes on to add a sport-tuned suspension, steering-wheel paddle shifters, 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, an upgraded trip computer and unique front and rear bumpers.
The Optima Hybrid is outfitted similarly to an EX without the leather upholstery, but also adds a rearview camera and special 16-inch alloy wheels.
The optional Technology package is available on all but the manual LX and includes navigation, a rearview camera and dual-zone climate control as well as rear air vents on the LX. The Premium package is available for the EX and SX models and includes a 4-way power passenger seat, driver memory settings, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel on the EX and EX Turbo and an 8-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio and the Uvo voice-activated electronics interface.
For the Hybrid, the Premium Technology package includes everthing from the Technoloty and Premium packages plus leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview camera, 17-inch wheels and xenon headlights.
Incidentally, here's an infographic on the 12 automakers who've been giving the best new car deals off MSRP (includes Kia).
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
All models of the 2012 Optima are front-wheel drive. Under the hood of the LX and EX models is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 200 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. In California-emissions states, the Optima has a Super Ultra Low Emissions rating and produces 192 horsepower and 181 pound-feet. The LX comes with either the standard 6-speed manual transmission or the optional 6-speed automatic. All other models come standard with the 6-speed automatic.
The EPA-estimated gas mileage for Optima's equipped with this engine is the same for both transmissions, coming in a 24 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway.
Powering both the EX Turbo and SX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out a lively 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, capable of going from a standstill to 60 mph in a very quick 6.5 seconds. Fuel economy for the Turbos stands at 22 mpg city and 34 highway.
Powering the 6-speed automatic Optima Hybrid is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine combined with an electric motor, which together produce 206 horses and 195 pound-feet of torque. Its 0 to 60 mph time comes in at a still quite respectable 8.4 seconds, despite very good EPA-estimated gas mileage of 35 and 40, respectively.
Standard safety features across all 2012 Kia Optimas include stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes (ABS), hill start assist, side airbags and side curtain airbags. In addition, a rearview camera is available as an option.
In government crash testing, the Optima earned the top rating of five out of five stars for overall safety performance, consisting of five star ratings for frontal-impact occupant protection and five stars for side-impact protection.
The new Optima's cabin is attractive, modern and distinctive ... clearly one of the better in its class in terms of looks and quality. Actually, it makes sense given its head designer came over from Audi. While of course not as luxurious as an Audi, the Optima's interior is impressively well-made with higher grade materials and solid fit and finish. It should be noted that the Optima Hybrid has the same interior except for a special driver-efficiency gauge cluster.
The seating in the Optima is both comfortable and supportive, while overall roominess and legroom is above average for a midsize sedan. That said, however, headroom, particularly in the rear, is on the tight side due its sloping roof line. In terms of cargo capacity, the Optima's trunk provides an about average 15.4 cubic feet of storage space, while the Hybrid only provides 9.9 cubes due to the room necessary for the battery pack.
Of particular note, Kia's Uvo voice-controlled electronics interface system is now available on all but the base LX trims. Powered by Microsoft, Uvo controls cell phones, MP3 players, turn-by-turn navigation and other services.
Both regular four-cylinder engines are good ones, providing more-than-adequate power when needed (often impressively) while still being very fuel efficient. This, combined with its seamless transmissions and fairly firm steering, make for a capable and enjoyable driving experience. While not intended as a sport sedan, it has a "fun to drive" element while still being comfortable. It's overall handling is certaining above average for the class.
The performance of the Optima Hybrid, however, while adequate, is less impressive. While it accelerates smooth enough and is also quite competent cruising down the highway, it can be more challenged in lower-speed driving, although probably not to the point of being a deal breaker for most pump-conscious drivers.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.