Aug 24

Test Drive: 2012 Kia Optima

Kia isn’t the first car brand I thought of when I decided to start a website where I’d hoped to do some car testing, however as I’ve said before I’ll take what I can get at this early stage of the site. The Kia Optima is not exactly high on my list of cars I’d like to own or even drive for that matter but maybe spending some time in one could change my mind. So I decided to try one out for a bit and see if my pre conceived notions of the Koreans could be changed.

After all it is not a bad looking car, dare I say it looks a bit German or even British. In fact I think the front end looks down right good, dare I say AMGish? Ok that is stretching it pretty far but there is something masculine and aggressive about it. The wheels do let the car down a bit, they look chunky and a bit too much. Every one I talked to agreed they let the car down in a way. This of course is an easy fix on the aftermarket and hopefully Kia has a few options in the future.

Moving to the interior we see more aggressive yet very stylish appointments. I could make another AMG reference here but I do not want someone named Deter in Stuttgart marking another red X by the Infinite-Garage media pass. The reality is the interior is very good with nice bright gauges and all of the switch gear has a nice upscale feel to it. Everything is right where it should be and nicely labeled. Something that has been an issue in the past with the Koreans. The steering wheel is great, nice and thick, which my arthritic hands appreciate. One gripe I have and it’s a serious one is that the gear shift lever is mighty close to the driver which means my elbow had the tendency to make contact with it. That got old pretty fast. A couple inches to the right and this would not be an issue at all.

The seats in the Optima should be in every car ever made. They are so comfortable and nice. Supportive yet soft. Interior room is adequate but not fantastic, although keep in mind I’m a large man. Normal sized humans will have plenty of room. Our EX model had all the options you would want to surround yourself with from bluetooth, to steering wheel controls, and push button start. The list is actually quite long which is where Kia is slaughtering the competition.

The Optima loses some points on the drive. The steering is a bit numb and slow, and the ride is a tad soft. This makes for a comfortable ride but the fun factor is non existent. I suppose the argument can be made that the point of this car is not to have fun but to be a cheap luxury cruiser. It does that well. Still in 2012 we really do not have to sacrifice fun for comfort or price yet the Optima does.

The 2.4L 200hp 4 banger coupled with the six speed auto trans leaves a lot to be desired, I’d love to get my hands on the 2.0 turbo model which pumps out an extra 74hp. I think that might kick up the fun factor a bit. It’s not that the 2.4 is bad, it is just that it is not good either. I will say it is quite which is a nice surprise since most cars in this class are loud as hell at full throttle and rarely do they have a pleasant noise.

All said the Kia Optima is a pretty solid car. Our tester’s base price was around $23,500 and with options we topped the $25,000 mark but for the standard equipment you get and the reasonably priced options that is a pretty good deal. The price definitely puts this car on our list that you have to drive if you are shopping in this segment.