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2012 Kia Optima Review - Green Or Mean By Larry Nutson +VIDEO

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Kia Optima

Kia Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Kia Buyers Guide

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Kia Optima sedan was redesigned for 2011 with a longer wheelbase, a more spacious cabin and bolder exterior styling complementing its wider and lower stance. For 2012, changes are minor and include some equipment made standard and minor exterior and interior trim details. There is no change to the mechanicals.

The base engine is a 200HP, 2.4-Liter 4-cylinder. A 274HP Turbo 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder is the performance model and there is also a Hybrid. I recently drove the Turbo and the Hybrid back-to-back over two consecutive weeks. It’s unusual yet beneficial when two versions of the same car are available to drive consecutively. Earlier this year I drove the 200HP 2011 Kia Optima and you might want to take a look at that review HERE on The Auto Channel for a good overview of the line-up.

Just imagine yourself in the Kia showroom and you are trying to decide which Optima is right for you.

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

On the mean side, my 274HP Snow White Pearl Optima SX test car had plenty of fun-to-drive character. Its 6-speed automatic…with paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, electric power steering, 18-inch alloys and combo leather and woven seat trim made for a high level of enthusiasm behind the wheel. Total price for this 2011 SX turbo was $30,840 including the optional Technology Package with nav system and back-up camera and the Premium Touring Package with sunroof, and seat heating, cooling and memory features.

The green-machine was a Satin Metallic Optima LX Hybrid with its 2.4L 4-cylinder gasoline engine plus an electric motor with a 270V lithium polymer battery. The Optima Hybrid uses a full parallel hybrid system and can be driven in zero emission, full-electric drive mode at speeds up to 62 miles per hour or in blended gas-electric mode at any speed. When the car comes to a stop and the electrical load is low, the engine shuts off to completely eliminate idle fuel consumption and emissions. EPA estimates are 35 city mpg and 40 highway mpg.

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

The Optima Hybrid excels on the highway. Various aerodynamic devices are employed to achieve a 0.26 drag coefficient…10% improvement over non-hybrid models. I did a 600 mile drive and found myself cruising around 70 mph on a relatively flat highway using only electric power…yes, Kia says up to 62 mph Tip-in the throttle just slightly and the gasoline engine comes on. I was moving “quickly” on my road trip and yet enjoyed the 37 mpg I was getting and the benefit of a big cruising range with the 17.2 gallon fuel tank (18.5 gallon tank on the non-hybrid models).

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

The 2.4L engine comes in LX and EX trim, with a 6-speed manual only in the LX. The Turbo comes in EX and SX trim and the Hybrid only in LX trim but with some added equipment.

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

Kia offers equipment and features on the Optima that are often relegated only to higher-end luxury brands. In some cases I don’t even find them on some luxury test cars I drive. I’m talking about power fold outside mirrors…almost a must in a big city, heated steering wheel, not only heated but cooled front seats and heated rear seats, rear-view back-up camera, cooling glove box and the like.

The Hybrid loses some trunk space due to the batteries. It has 9.9 cubic feet vs. 15.5 cubic feet for the 2.4L and Turbo models. Also, my Hybrid test car did not have a split-fold rear seat that will limit you on hauling an occasional large object. It does have a ski pass-thru.

Watch TACH's Kia Optima on-road promo video

The Optima Hybrid has an available Hybrid Premium and Technology Package with additional comfort and convenience features, including a panoramic sunroof, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, a four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, driver's seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, HID head lights with automatic leveling, leatherette-wrapped center fascia, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink® and compass, a navigation system with back-up camera and SiriusXM Traffic™, and an eight-speaker Infinity® audio system (these available features replace the UVO system), and power folding outside mirrors.

2012 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

Comparing fuel economy ratings both gas engines get 34 highway mpg. The 2.4L is rated at 24 city mpg and the Turbo is 22 city mpg. The Hybrid is rated at 35 city and 40 highway mpg.

Prices for 2012 start at $19,500 for the LX with 6-speed manual. LX with automatic is $21,000 and the EX is $23,200 The EX Turbo is $25,100 and the SX Turbo is $26,500. 2012 Hybrid pricing has not yet been announced.

The Optima is covered by Kia’s warranty program, which includes a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the vehicle coverage.

The Kia Optima: Green, mean or in between.

© Larry Nutson