The Optima was entirely new in 2011, and it comes back basically the same for 2012. The new model showcases a dramatic new design that's been led by Kia's new Soul and Forte small cars.
The Optima shows off the brand's new European-influenced style, with crisp but flowing lines and a chrome-tipped dual exhaust on all models. The new Optima comes in four trims: LX, EX, EX Hybrid, EX Turbo and SX. Both the LX and EX are powered by an all-new 2.4L direct-injected 4-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower. EX Turbo and SX models get a new direct-injected turbocharged 2.0L four making 274 horsepower. The base LX can be equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic, while all the other models come only with the automatic.
Fuel economy ratings with the base 2.4L 4-cylinder are very impressive, at 24 mpg city, 35 highway. The turbo models aren't that much lower, at 22 city/34 highway. All automatics come with a Sportmatic manual mode. The EX Hybrid pairs the 2.4L engine with a lithium polymer battery and an electric motor to get up to 39 mpg on the highway. It comes with a conventional 6-speed automatic.
The Optima is front-wheel drive, utilizing a 4-wheel independent suspension incorporating MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link layout in back, with anti-roll bars in front. The suspension is tuned to be rather firm compared to some other mid-size sedan models, while electric power steering manages convey some feel of the road in tight corners. Inside, there's enough comfortable space for five adults and the trunk is among the more spacious ones in its class.
Optima LX models include a 6-way adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, SmartKey keyless entry, trip computer, tilt/telescopic steering adjustment and a sound system with satellite radio capability, aux and USB inputs and Bluetooth connectivity. Optima EX models get push-button start, a HomeLink garage-door opener, auto-down front windows and supplementary lighting, while the EX Turbo gets wood trim and metal accents. The top-of-the-line SX is outfitted in the way of sporty European imports, with black and carbon-fiber interior trim, woven black leather upholstery, steering-wheel paddle-shifters and metal pedals with lighted scuff plates.
All the important safety features come standard in the 2012 Kia Optima, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, front side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags and front active headrests.