Midsize sedan buyers face a wide choice of competent vehicles, but is there anything wrong with wanting a stronger taste of luxury and performance than mere “competent” offers? The U.S.-built 2012 Kia Optima offers a combination of striking design, engaging performance and interior comfort that matches more expensive “entry luxury” models.
The all-new Kia Optima arrived just a year ago and has already filled its trophy case with high-value awards. Most recently, Esquire magazine, a leader in design and fashion trends, named the 2011 Kia Optima the "Most Gorgeous Car Under $20K," one of only nine chosen to receive “2011 Esquire Design and Technology Awards.” That list also included the 2012 Porsche Cayman R and the 2012 McLaren MP4-12C. Esquire called the awardees “Nine ingeniously engineered and gorgeous acts of automotive guts and grace.”
The Kia Optima has made a strong impression on respected automotive media with other awards including “Editors’ Most Wanted” from Edmunds Inside Line and “Best New Model” from Kiplinger's Personal Finance. The highly respected auto industry trade magazine, Wards, included the Optima on its “10 Best Interiors” list – a list that also included the $78,000 Audi A8. Car & Driver magazine was also taken with the Optima interior design, saying, “Perhaps the most compelling element of the new Optima is its interior, a study in elegant design, excellent materials and all-day comfort.”
For ratings that matter most, the Kia Optima garnered a 2011 “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and received an overall five-star crash safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Whether you’re talking about design, value, safety, comfort or performance, the 2012 Kia Optima is the most compelling car in its segment. Available in LX, EX and SX trims, the Optima banishes bland with bold lines and a coupe-like profile, a combination more commonly found in the $50,000-and-up category. Performance lives up to sporty design thanks to a standard 200-hp Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine in LX and EX models. Most competitors’ sedans offer 170 to 185 hp from their standard engines.
The Optima LX offers one of the rare six-speed manual transmissions in the segment, a boon to driving enthusiasts who prefer a stick shift. A sophisticated six-speed automatic is optional on the LX and standard on the EX. Meanwhile, the 2012 Kia Optima delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of up to 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, among the highest in the class and on par with some smaller cars. For maximum economy, Kia offers the Optima Hybrid, which delivers 36 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.
Kia has also taken its competitors to school in terms of powertrain upgrades. The Optima offers a high-tech, turbocharged 2.0-liter GDI four that, with 274-hp, outclasses other brands’ heavier V6 engines. Remarkably, the turbo engine achieves nearly the same fuel economy – 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway – as the standard engine.
Testing the Optima SX left the editors at Car & Driver impressed. “The 274-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four with 269 lb/ft of torque is silky smooth and punches hard enough to send the 3,500-pound Optima to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and through the quarter in 15 flat,” the magazine reported. The turbo engine comes standard in the Optima SX and is available in the EX. The SX also adds 18-inch wheels, for sharper handling, plus High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, LED taillights, a sporty body styling package and exclusive interior trim.
The Kia Optima, in every trim level, delivers an exhaustive list of standard features. The Optima LX delivers even more value for 2012 with newly standard foglamps, heated outside mirrors, automatic light control and chrome accented exterior door handles. The EX model offers LED taillights for a more upscale look. Choose the Premium Package on the EX, EX Turbo or SX, and you get an Infinity® audio system with eight speakers, UVO powered by Microsoft® in-car hands-free Entertainment and Communication System Package, HD Radio™ and power-folding outside mirrors.
The best way to appreciate what this award-winning sedan offers is to come in and test-drive one.