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    2012 Kia Optima EX



    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    July 23, 2012

    Question: What is the second oldest nameplate in Kia's lineup? If you said the Sportage, you would be wrong. That happens to be the oldest nameplate. The answer is a tie between Kia's smallest and largest sedans: the Rio and Optima. For the time being we're going to focusing on the latter.

    Introduced back in 2000, the Optima was met with... well.. zero fanfare. If you told someone that you just bought a Kia Optima, they would look at quizzically and say "A What!" The only way you would know the Optima existed beside passing you're nearest Kia dealership was when you picked up one from car rental place for your vacation.

    In fact, in 2011, the 2000 - 2006 Kia Optima was the subject of a

    about a ficticious car company that tried to come up with the most nondescript, boring car they could. The result was a car called the Mediocrity, a very thinly disguised 2001 Optima. But in that same year, Kia unveiled the new Optima. The sleek styling and commercial campaign made everyone stand up and take notice. Also, it put Subaru on notice as to who they’re dealing with.

    Has this coming out work for the new Optima? And more importantly, Can the Optima vie for the title of the best midsize sedan?

    Next: The Outside Story


    Exterior

    Compared to the past two generations of the Optima, the new one is definitely a looker. The overall look carries a lot of influences from European automakers, especially Audi and BMW. This shouldn't come as a surprise when Kia's design chief, Peter Schreyer, worked at Audi before going to Kia.

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    Starting with the low-slung front end, the most prominent design piece is the large, wide grille. Flanking on either side of the grille is a set of headlights extending into the front fenders. The Optima's side profile features door panels that are scalloped along the bottom and a chrome strip running along the greenhouse. The back end is very short and features a trunk lid that is scalloped where the license plate and Optima nameplate reside. A set of chrome-tipped exhausts and seventeen-inch alloy wheels finish off the look.

    Next: Step Inside


    Interior

    The Optima's interior doesn't have the same flair as the exterior, but there is some European influences making their way inside. The driver-oriented dash is a mix of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and French-stitched material in the places you would expect. The center console is trimmed with a metal bezel and wood trim. This Optima EX came equipped with the premium package which gains you heated and cooled power-adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a load of other features. Build and material quality are very good for the class.

    For entertainment, the Optima came equipped with a five-inch touch screen for Navigation and AM/FM/SiriusXM /CD/USB/Aux/Bluetooth running through an excellent eight-speaker Infinity sound system that is part of the premium package. The screen is very responsive to input, easy to read, and is very bright. At night, the glow of the Nav screen is distracting even at the lowest brightness setting. Controls for the audio, climate control, and navigation reside underneath the screen, with the layout being very logical and easy to reach.

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    Rear seat passengers won't find much to complain about the Optima's legroom. Taller passengers will notice the sharply raked rear window as it cuts into their headroom.

    Trunk space measures out to 15.4 cubic feet, which puts the Optima in the middle of the midsize sedan class.

    Next: Under the Hood


    Powertrain

    The Optima comes in three different engine flavors: a 2.4 Gasoline-Direct-Injection inline-four, a 2.0L turbo-four, and a hybrid model.

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    Ours came equipped with the 2.4L GDI inline-four producing 200 HP and 186 lb-ft of torque sending power to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. During the Interactive Review, I described the engine as being "smooth" and "peppy” and feel it still holds true. The 2.4L provides better than expected power for a 4-cylinder. Leaving from a stop or merging on to the freeway, the 2.4 delivers its power fast and smoothly. The six-speed automatic provides smooth shifts and seems to always put you in the right gear for the situation.

    Fuel economy for the 2.4L GDI is rated at 24 City/35 Highway/28 Combined. My average for the week with Optima EX was around 27.2 MPG, the majority of driving taking place on suburban and rural roads.

    Next: Driving Around


    Ride & Drive

    The Optima's ride can be classified as sporty. The suspension is comprised of a set of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup with coil springs around back. This combination makes the Optima really fun to drive on curvy roads. The sportier setup comes with a stiffer ride, but not so much that you’ll need to see the dentist after. The Optima is well sound insulated with engine and road noise muted to a minimum.

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    As for the steering, I found it to be direct but lacking feedback. The steering feels heavier than most other family mid-sizers and took some getting used to, but by the end of our time together, I learned to appreciate it.

    Visibility is a mixed bag for the Optima: Front and side views are good but visibility towards the rear suffers from the sloping roofline and large c-pillar. Thankfully, our Optima had a back-up camera as part of the Premium package which made backing-up much easier.

    Next: And the Verdict..


    Verdict

    The Kia Optima is the automotive equivalent of a Cinderella story. Once a vehicle that no one seemed to know that existed or cared about, the Optima shines brightly in the crowded midsize sedan class.

    In fact, the Kia Optima happens to be outselling the Subaru Legacy by 3 to 1 so far this year (73,158 Optimas vs. 24,272 Legacys). So while Subaru may have the funny commercial, Kia gets the last laugh.

    The Optima does have a couple of Jeers listed below, but the Cheers more than outweigh them. And consider this: for $28,300 (the as-tested price), you're getting a quality-built sedan with a set of equipment that would embarrass cars costing twice as much while delivering a sporty ride and impressive fuel economy for its class.

    If you're seriously looking in the midsize sedan segment, don't be afraid to check out the Optima. Otherwise, you might be missing out on what could be the best midsize sedan on sale today.

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    Cheers:

    Value for money

    Sporty Ride

    Engine Performance

    Fuel Economy

    Exterior & Interior Design

    Jeers:

    Rear Visibility

    Rear Headroom for taller passengers

    Nav screen a tad bright during night driving

    Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

    Year - 2012

    Make - Kia

    Model – Optima

    Trim – EX

    Engine – 2.4L GDI inline-four

    Driveline – Front Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM - 200 @ 6300

    Torque @ RPM - 186 @ 4250

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/25/28

    Curb Weight – 3223 lbs

    Location of Manufacture – Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, West Point, GA

    Base Price - $23,200.00

    As Tested Price - $28,300.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge)

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.



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    I have to say that the grill is a knock off of the BMW, the headlamps scream Honda to me and the dash screams Subaru.

    Does Hyundai /Kia have any of their own DNA / Style trends or is it just copy bits and pieces from other car companies?

    Over all long term reliability and Resell value along with them finding their own style is their biggest challenges.

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    like the style of the writeups. Sounds like a good car, the Sonatas are nice. I think the big question is still long term durability on the Hyundai Kia recent products...

    And if the long term durability is good, they will get repeat business and positive press. They are on fire even with no track record, imagine what they will do with 10-20 years of a solid reputation. Honda and Toyota must be nervous.

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    Honda and Toyota are not on their A or B game even it seems most of the time now.

    Here is where Honda does seem to get it right yet...the new CRV as milquetoast as it is, is right on target. The new RDX is a major successful market correction. The ILX is a partial hit....a legitmately nice car that is basically a Cimarron Civic.

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