This sedan was all new for 2011 and hasn’t seen many updates for the 2012 model year. Aside from a few optional features becoming standard on some trim levels, the Optima remains unchanged. That’s not a bad thing, though. Exterior styling has not been touched, thankfully. Bold lines and sporty proportions give the Kia four-door a whole lot of curb appeal at a price that isn’t going to keep your kids from going to college someday. The Optima is based on the Hyundai Sonata, but the two cars share no exterior body panels. Using the same running gear as the Sonata, the base engine for the Optima is a 198-hp direct-injected four-cylinder. A 274-hp turbocharged in-line four and a hybrid-drive model round out the power choices. The hybrid gets excellent fuel economy, as expected, but this isn’t the most polished hybrid system in the segment. The base engine, actually, gets very good fuel economy, and the turbo adds lots of power without much of a fuel economy penalty. This latest Optima has little to do with the milquetoast Optima sedans that came before. The current version is larger and rides on a longer wheelbase that frees up an additional 2.9 inches of legroom. Available high-end features include heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and a 500-watt Infinity sound system. The 2012 Optima will be built in Kia’s plant in West Point, Georgia, alongside the Sorento. Optima hybrids, however, will still be imported from Korea.

Drive: Front-wheel
Trim levels: LX, EX, EX Turbo, SX, Hybrid
Body style: Sedan, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 274 hp, 269 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 200 hp, 186 lb-ft
2.4L I-4/electric hybrid, 206.2 net hp, 195.4 net lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, continuously variable
Passenger volume: 102.2 cu ft
Cargo space: 15.4 cu ft

Foglights, automatic light control, and heated outside mirrors become standard, and chrome accented exterior door handles replace body-color door handles for the LX. EX models get LED taillights standard. Inside, there’s a revised center fascia finish, and an eight-speaker Infinity audio system moves to the premium package for EX, EX Turbo, and SX models.

Dual front, side, and side curtain air bags; front-seat active headrests; ABS with brake assist; stability and traction control; and hill assist are standard.

All: 22-36 mpg city/34-40 mpg highway

  • Sharp-looking design
  • Good fuel economy
  • Aggressively priced
  • Big pool of rivals
  • Not particularly sporty

Power and price keep the competition on their toes.

  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Accord
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Toyota Camry

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