We’ve reviewed the new Kia Optima before, and I’ve been know to tweet and comment my love for the new, bold styling. As a matter of fact, I’ve mentioned on many occasions that I believe the new Optima, in any trim, is just about the best looking sedan on the market today. When I first started saying things like that, back when we reviewed the 2011 Optima, I thought I might receive a little ridicule over it and well, I did, but only a little. For the most part, most people that actually took the time to check out the car seemed to agree.
We left the last review not really yearning for more power. We couldn’t really see Kia making a much better interior, or even a better price tag. If I remember correctly, I was pretty satisfied with the overall experience minus some excess road noise.
So what could Kia do to improve from our last review? For starters, we now have the 2.0-liter turbocharged – direct injection – engine. This option boosts power from 200-horsepower up to 274-hp. It’s still matched up to the 6-speed automatic transmission and electric power steering. Like I mentioned before, the car wasn’t really lacking in pep. Sure, every car is made that much better as you add horsepower, but that’s the enthusiast in me talking, not the family man. Nonetheless, more power is what we have, so plant your right foot to the floor and you should be able to achieve a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds. This may not be blazing fast, but it’s quite quick for the class you’re buying into.
More has been changed on this car than just the engine. Even though this new body style was just introduced a year earlier, for 2012 you get cool new LED taillights. When you opt up for the turbo, you also get wheels specially designed for this car. It’s already a great looking ride, and they definitely didn’t mess it up with these few upgrades.
I guess the real question to probably the biggest target audience is, how does this budget-friendly, sporty sedan fit into the lifestyle of a 29-year-old family man?
Well, kids love anything that looks cool and has cool features, i.e. panoramic sunroof, so the kids loved this new Optima. They thought it was one of the coolest cars I’ve reviewed recently, and that says a lot for the Optima. It has ample room for two adults and three kids, and the trunk is massive. We had plenty of room in the trunk for our stroller, groceries, and some other bags. Lots of family sedans are pretty boring to drive and, as such, are very boring all around. Not the Optima. The 2012 Kia Optima turbo has a great feel and weighted steering wheel. The 74 extra ponies under the hood makes it more fun to drive whether you’re driving alone to the office or packed with family.
Kia has also seemed to find a cure for the excessive road noise. This car drove much more solid and more quiet than the last Optima we reviewed. This made cruising to work in DFW traffic and Dallas city roads a much nicer experience.
Great look, great ride, and more power. So what’s the downside? Why not jump up and go buy one today? Well there is the price. Last year when we reviewed the Optima, we drove the top of the line available at the time. That car pushed to just over a MSRP of $27,000. Even at the time, this seemed like a lot to pay for an Optima, but it was a great car. Now we have the turbo with a sticker of $31,745. So is the extra horsepower worth the jump in price? If you’re an ordinary family man or woman, I’d say probably not. Stick with the 2.4-liter engine and save some cash. If you’re an enthusiast, or just one of those people who must have the best – much like myself in both cases – you’ll have to slam down the extra cheese to make it happen, and that’s exactly what I’d do.
Driving this Kia Optima mostly reminds me of driving cars like the Acura TSX or even the new Lexus GS350 F-Sport we reviewed last month. Before you start throwing things and cussing me, just hear me out. The Optima SX turbo is calm, solid, and packed with technology, and with the turbo’s extra power, it can be quite sporty and fun as well. To me, this is the budget sports sedan of the day.
One last note before we wrap this thing up. The new Optima with its great styling has really been in a class of one, or two if you want to include its cousin – the Sonata, but now we see more manufacturers waking up to how important design can be, even in a mid-sized sedan. The biggest example of this is the new Ford Fusion. The Fusion has gone from a good all around sedan that most don’t think twice about, to a sedan that’s in the fore-front of shoppers minds with its great new design and technology. We don’t even know yet how the Fusion drives, but we’d already proclaim it’s worth waiting for. The price tag will be more, but it’s at least worth cross-shopping.