In the second year of its present incarnation, the 2012 Kia Optima range is streets ahead of previous-generation Optimas. In fact, the mid-size sedan is so much improved that it is now a strong and stylish competitor to more established brands like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu.
While it is available without hybrid drive, the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is the greenest of the Optimas on sale. With the same hybrid-electric drivetrain found in the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, it can achieve an acceptable 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined. Interestingly, Kia has worked hard to tune the Optima Hybrid to give the best gas mileage on the highway, setting it apart from most other hybrids on the market today.
That, according to Kia
In fact, unlike the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, and Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Kia Optima Hybrid can travel at up to 70 mph in all-electric mode, although electric-only range at these speeds is limited.
Its greenest model, the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid, will arrive later this year. It shares a hybrid-electric system with the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and should receive the same gas-mileage ratings: 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 37 mpg. Unlike many hybrids, the Optima Hybrid is tuned to achieve slightly better mileage on the highway than around town, with the ability to run in all-electric mode at up to 70 mph. The Ford Fusion Hybrid tops out at 47 mph, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid around 30 mph. Kia says that U.S. drivers spend more time at highway speeds than in city driving, so the overall fuel savings are greater.
The styling of the 2011 Optima range is upright, crisp, and slightly European. Its 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the only option, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Unlike competitors, the Optima has no V-6 alternative, saving weight and making for a more compact powertrain. The ratings here are 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, for a combined mileage of 28 mpg.
There’s also a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that produces 274 horsepower, which you can order with a six-speed manual transmission as well as the six-speed automatic. Mileage is only a few mpg down with this combination, which evokes small, high-performing European turbo fours at a far more tolerable price point.
The Optima’s ride is firm but smooth, and the steering offers good feel—which not all mid-size sedans do—making it handle better and feel more nimble than its size would indicate. The car is quiet inside, giving an unexpectedly refined air to this up-and-coming Korean brand. The one flaw is seats that we found uncomfortable, short, and lacking in padding. Rear seat space is good, however.
Kia has made its name on value for money, and the feature list of the 2011 Optima lineup is impressive. Even heated back seats can be ordered in the middle EX and upper SX trim levels. Most models offer smart keys, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Kia Optima range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|Manual LX Specs||$19,200||$18,800||24||35|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic EX (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic EX Specs||$22,700||$21,210||24||34|