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2012 Kia Optima Hybrid – Efficiency Without the Cramp

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid (Aaron)

The Optima Hybrid offers the fuel economy of a much smaller car without compromising interior room, attractive styling, and a comfortable, sporty ride that belies its eco-friendliness. A strong hybrid entry from the Korean upstart.

The manufacturer says

A responsive and rewarding drive is guaranteed by the Optima Hybrid’s combined powertrain output (2.4-litre gasoline engine, plus electric motor) of 208 ps, with 265 Nm of torque – while achieving a 40.7 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the standard Optima 2.4 gasoline model.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Kia
  • Year, Model: 2012 Optima Hybrid
  • Class, Type: Mid-sized sedan
  • Propulsion system: Paralell Gasoline-Electric
  • Vehicle range: 500+ miles
  • Fuel(s): Gasoline
  • Base Price: $25,700
  • MSRP as tested: $33,300
  • Availability:
  • At dealerships nationally.

Overview

The first thing you notice about the Kia Optima Hybrid is its aggressive, sporty styling – an unusual attribute in today's mid-sized market, especially for a hybrid. The mildly menacing grille and sleek fascia hint at performance and power and the lines along the sides to the integrated bump spoiler on the trunk give an impression of easy air flow and slippery speed. Once inside, the immediate impression is one of space and comfort.

The Optima offers 16-inch alloy wheels as standard, but the 17-inch option adds a level of driving refinement that improves the ride enough to justify the addition. Fog lamps, spoiler, and many other features you'd expect to be premium paid options are also standard on the base level Optima Hybrid.

The Kia Optima Hybrid sports a 2.4-liter DOHC, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine putting out 206 horsepower coupled in parallel to a 40hp electric motor and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Despite it's 40mpg highway rating and 35mpg city, the car drives very well and pulls to freeway speeds without showing much effort.

The handling, drive, and performance are much more than expected from a hybrid. Kia has also done well with this car's interior space and accoutrement. On the race track, it wasn't a muscle car, but it handled better than a much more expensive Lexus CT200h on hard corners and latent curves.

What we like

Powerful performance and great economy all in one package. The Optima Hybrid is an unusual mix of both elements and is the better for it. In a market of lackluster mid-sized hybrid performance, this car really stands out.

Beautiful styling that competes with some of the best available in this price point, hybrid or not. Definitely a looker.

What we don't

Some interior components feel cheap. While most everything in the premium package is excellent, some of the knobs and seat covers give a cheap feel – most noticeably the wobbly pull down of the glove box.

Tiny trunk on par with a subcompact at only 9.9 cubic feet, thanks to the battery's placement. Unlike others in this hybrid segment, however, the Kia's seats still fold down to extend that space somewhat.

Conclusions

With some class-leading design elements and excellent leg room and interior space, this hybrid could set a gold standard for others in the segment to follow. It's performance and value put it on the list of hybrids to watch.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Two separate test vehicles were available on separate days. The first was a full package (highest MSRP) model which was driven for a short-term, 24 hour loan on surface roads and highways. The second was a slightly lower-tier package driven on a race track in Denver, Colorado (pictured).

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