2012 Kia Optima
Stylish new design; roomy interior; excellent gas mileage, even with turbo; steering and handling; extensive standard features; strong resale value; long warranty
The Optima was entirely new in 2011, and it comes back basically the same for 2012. The new model showcases a dramatic new design that's been led by Kia's new Soul and Forte small cars. The Optima shows off the brand's new European-influenced style, with crisp but flowing lines and a chrome-tipped dual exhaust on all models.
The new Optima comes in four trims: LX, EX, EX Turbo and SX. Both the LX and EX are powered by an all-new 2.4L direct-injected 4-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower. EX Turbo and SX models get a new direct-injected turbocharged 2.0L four making 274 horsepower. The base LX can be equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic, while all the other models come only with the automatic.
Fuel economy ratings with the base 2.4L 4-cylinder are very impressive, at 24 mpg city, 35 highway with the manual gearbox and 24 city, 34 highway with the automatic. The turbo models aren't that much lower, at 22 city/34 highway. All automatics come with a Sportmatic manual mode.
The Optima is front-wheel drive, utilizing a 4-wheel independent suspension incorporating MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link layout in back, with anti-roll bars in front. The suspension is tuned to be rather firm compared to some other mid-size sedan models, while electric power steering manages convey some feel of the road in tight corners. Inside, there's enough comfortable space for five adults and the trunk is among the more spacious ones in its class.
Optima LX models include a 6-way adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, SmartKey keyless entry, trip computer, tilt/telescopic steering adjustment and a sound system with satellite radio capability, aux and USB inputs and Bluetooth connectivity. Optima EX models get push-button start, a HomeLink garage-door opener, auto-down front windows and supplementary lighting, while the EX Turbo gets wood trim and metal accents. The top-of-the-line SX is outfitted in the way of sporty European imports, with black and carbon-fiber interior trim, woven black leather upholstery, steering-wheel paddle-shifters and metal pedals with lighted scuff plates.
All the important safety features come standard in the 2012 Kia Optima, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, front side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags and front active headrests.
Fog lights and SmartKey keyless entry are now standard on all Optimas. The two Communication and Entertainment system packages have been discontinued.
Altogether, the Optima is one of the sportiest-feeling mid-size sedans in its base configuration, while the Turbo model promises the acceleration and responsiveness of rival V6 models but with true 4-cylinder fuel economy-22 mpg city and 34 highway, by EPA estimates. It fits Kia's tradition of packing more features and value into their vehicles at the same price as lesser-equipped rival models while actually forging a beautiful new design direction.
Resale value for the new Optima is looking strong. ALG, which supplies residual value data to the auto industry, significantly raised its residuals for this generation Optima compared to the previous model-indicating confidence that this new Optima will be worth much more come trade-in time. Kia also still has one of the strongest warranties in the business, with ten years or 100,000 miles for powertrain and a 5-year, 60,000-mile vehicle warranty and roadside assistance.
* EPA mileage estimates and EPA fuel economy methods based on models beginning with
the indicated model year. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models
before the indicated model year. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how
you drive and maintain your vehicle.