So you want to save on gas, but you don't want a car that looks and drives like a bland transportation pod? Take a look at the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid. Based on the dashing Optima family sedan, the Optima Hybrid packs plenty of conventional-car virtues, but it also boasts the kind of fuel economy that only a hybrid can provide. Here are five reasons why the Optima Hybrid should hit the sweet spot for hybrid shoppers.

1: Killer Fuel Economy

You wouldn't be shopping for a hybrid if you didn't care about fuel economy, right? The Optima Hybrid doesn't disappoint. It gets a whopping 40 mpg on the highway, and that's not even the most impressive part. Thanks to a big assist from its electric motor, the Optima Hybrid returns an amazing 35 mpg in the city. Not even the tiny Smart Fortwo can say that.

2: No Performance Compromise

If you're thinking "It's a hybrid, so it must be slow," think again. The Optima Hybrid is a little heavier than the regular Optima, but it's also a little stronger. Combined output from the four-cylinder gasoline engine and the electric motor is a healthy 206 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. In a drag race that you'll likely never see on YouTube, the Optima Hybrid would beat the regular Optima by a nose.

3: Reasonable Pricing

One reason hybrids haven't caught on more is that they tend to be pricey. But the Optima Hybrid starts at an attainable $25,700, and that includes standard features like push-button ignition and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. So the Optima Hybrid is really about what fits your lifestyle, not how much money you're bringing to the table.

4: Hot Looks for a Hybrid 

Like all Optimas, the Hybrid has some of the sharpest styling of any mid-size sedan. Long, low and sleek, the Optima Hybrid easily outshines its rivals in curb appeal. It also has unique alloy wheels and subtly different front and rear fascias for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. If you want to drive the future without having to turn in your "cool" card, the Optima Hybrid is one of the only games in town.

5: True Dual-Mode Hybrid Technology

There are different kinds of hybrids out there, and some are more sophisticated than others, but the Optima Hybrid is at the top of the food chain. Employing a dual-mode system similar to Toyota's, the Optima Hybrid can run solely on electric power at low speeds and under light load, just like the Prius. So don't be leery of Kia's in-house hybrid technology-this is cutting-edge stuff. If you're looking to get greener with your next new car, the Optima Hybrid deserves your attention.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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