A midsize family sedan can't just be an appliance anymore. It has to be exciting, enticing. It has to offer a little bit of sex appeal along with its "Get the kids to soccer practice" can-do capabilities. Kia recognizes this, and thus instilled its bread-and-butter Optima family car with a little bit of luxury not seen too often in its segment. Kia says the Optima Limited will arrive in dealerships next month, at a price it says will be below $35,000 including the destination charge; we figure it'll come to $34,999 or so. First seen in Kia's "Drive the Dream" Super Bowl ad -- featuring model Adriana Lima, Motley Crue, a massive sandwich, and other male fantasies -- the 2012 Kia Optima Limited takes the top-line Optima SX as a jumping off point and shoves it full of luxury goodies like Nappa leather (the really high-quality stuff), wood trim, and chrome accents.
Who It's For
There's a no man's land in the midsize segment between loaded-up cars like the Kia Optima SX and Toyota Camry XLE and more luxurious cars like the much more expensive Lexus ES 350. It's an opening that is currently only inherited by a few vehicles like the Volkswagen Passat SEL V-6. But even that vehicle doesn't have real wood trim or the Nappa leather that comes as an expensive optional extra on most BMWs. It seems like a non-pretentious way to explore life's luxuries without being judged for driving a One Percenter car. Come on, has anyone ever been criticized for the decadence of driving a Kia?
The 2012 Kia Optima Limited uses the SX's 2.0-liter, 274-horsepower turbocharged engine, and it adds several more layers to the mix, including:
- LED daytime running lights, a chrome-accented rear spoiler, chrome door sills, and real wood interior inlays, including on the steering wheel.
- A richer black tricoat headliner that more closely mirrors what's found in luxury vehicles.
- Paint color availability that includes just black, white, and a shade of gray known as Titanium Metallic.
What We Think
With no all-new products coming for 2012, this is a smart move for Kia to bring its Optima Limited to market and keep interest going for its white-hot midsizer. It also allows customers who want a little more of a premium feel in their Optimas to be rewarded for plunking down some extra cash with the added benefit of keeping Kia's excellent 10-year warranty as part of the whole deal. The premium feel isn't just a catchphrase, either; for example, the leather feels wonderful, much better than the overprocessed stuff you find in competing vehicles.
Consider us fans of the more-for-less strategy, and we'll endorse this move wholeheartedly. There are few vehicles available with real wood and leather, all of the premium gizmos available in the already loaded-up Optima SX, and value pricing. In a world that will soon feature an ultra-loaded 2013 Ford Fusion, we think this will keep customers coming back to Kia dealerships. But we wonder what sort of impact this will have for the automaker when its blinged-out Kia Cadenza full-size sedan debuts next year for not much more cash.
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