Before basketball player Blake Griffin slam-dunked over the Kia Optima during the 2011 NBA all-star festivities, there's a good chance you probably had no idea what Kia offered in the midsize passenger-car segment. Consider that your -- and the rest of the car-buying public's -- wake-up call.
Body styles: Sedan
Engines: 2.0-liter inline-4, 2.4-liter inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: LX, EX, SX
For 2012, Kia is adding more substance to the style. Chrome door handles adorn the outside on LX models, as do fog lights, heated outside mirrors, and automatic light controls. EX models now come with LED taillights as standard equipment. EX and SX models now come with an eight-speaker Infinity audio system with UVO hands-free connectivity, an HD radio, and power folding mirrors with the Premium package. Otherwise, only small interior trim packages in the interior are changed.
One of the first vehicles designed by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer when he joined Kia, the Optima has a clean, European style to help it stand out from the crowd. It's a sleek, daring design in a traditionally conservative segment, and it's one of the first Kias to feature the brand's new "tabbed" grille. It's a drastic departure from the car it replaces, much longer, and with its wheels pushed farther to the corners.
With a standard tilt/telescoping wheel, six-way adjustable driver's seat, AM/FM/CD with three months of free satellite radio, and an auxiliary jack, the Optima comes handsomely equipped from the get-go. Panoramic sunroof, leather seats, and heated/cooled leather seats are optional and add a touch of luxury. The Technology Package steps it up even more with a backup camera, navigation system, and an eight-speaker Infinity audio system. All of the features can bring a well-equipped midsizer and turn it into a near-luxury car.
Performance & Handling
Just a few years ago, the 200 horsepower provided by the 2.4-liter four-cylinder would have been class-leading for V-6 models. Now it serves as the relatively rapid base powerplant for the entry-level Optima. Stepping up the power, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine belts out 274 horsepower and supplants the need for a V-6 option in the Optima's lineup. In addition to class-leading fuel economy, both engines provide ample acceleration. While handling is greatly improved over the staid previous-generation Optima, the 2012 car's driving characteristics don't quite match its sporty looks.
The Optima has six standard airbags: dual front, front-seat-mounted side, and full-length side curtains. Four-wheel ABS, brake assist system, stability control, traction control, hill assist control, and tire-pressure monitoring are standard as well.
EPA Fuel Economy
Optima: 24 city/35 highway mpg (manual); 24 city/34 highway (automatic)
Optima Turbo: 22 city/34 highway mpg
- Great styling
- Powerful engines
- Upscale interior
- Excellent Value
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The slam-dunk standout Kia needed
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