The Optima LX delivers 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway ratings, and the Camry offers the same highway rating and one mpg higher in the city. The Optima LX, however, scores those high ratings while also beating the Camry in four-cylinder horsepower (200 hp versus 178 hp for Camry) and torque (186 lb/ft versus 170 for Camry). So, the Optima gives you better performance than Camry without making you pay for it at the pump. The Optima also has a larger fuel tank than the Camry (18.5 gallons versus 17), so you get a longer driving range between fill-ups.
You’ll find the latest safety technology in both of these cars. However, in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) frontal crash and rollover tests, the Optima earned five stars (the top rating), while the Camry frontal crash test earned four. Also, the Optima includes standard Hill Assist Control, which helps prevent the car from rolling backward when you start off from a stop on an incline. The Camry does not offer this feature.
Inside, the 2012 Kia Optima LX bests the Toyota Camry in front-seat legroom (45.5 inches compared to 41.6 inches), front head room (40.0 inches versus 38.8 inches) and has slightly more front hip room. Major Optima advantages show up when you start comparing standard features and amenities. It’s here where renowned Kia value really comes to the fore.
Outside, the 2012 Kia Optima LX comes with standard alloy wheels, which cost extra on the Camry LE. Foglamps are also standard on the Optima, but not available on the Camry LE. Heated, power-adjustable exterior mirrors are also standard on the Optima LX and not available on the Camry LE. A feature Kia hopes you’ll never need, integral tow hooks, come standard on the Optima and are also not offered on the Camry.
An interior comparison is even more revealing. Standard Satellite Radio in the Optima LX can be wonderful for discovering new music, but you have to pay extra to get it in the Camry LE.
A navigation system with rear camera display has become a must for many midsize sedan buyers, but you cannot get it in the Camry without stepping up to a higher-line model. The Kia Optima LX offers a Technology Package that not only includes navigation with rear camera, but also dual-zone automatic climate control and an Infinity® audio system with eight speakers.
The Optima LX offers an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink universal remote, either by itself or in a Convenience Package that also includes an eight-way power driver’s seat. The Camry LE doesn’t offer the auto-dimming mirror. Anyone who’s ever been annoyed by the headlights of a following truck might consider that a “glaring” omission.
Finally, in choosing the 2012 Kia Optima LX, you leave the dealership with the peace of mind that comes with a five-year/60,000-mile Limited Basic Warranty versus the three-year/36,000-mile warranty for the Camry. The Limited Powertrain warranty on the Optima is nearly double that of the Camry, 10 years/100,000 miles versus five years/60,000 miles.
Comparing higher-line versions of both these sedans, you’ll find similar advantages for the Optima. For the most convincing reason to choose the 2012 Kia Optima over the Toyota Camry, though, come in for a test-drive.