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2012 Kia Optima: Used Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Joe Tralongo July 2015

If the average used family sedan looks more like a rental reject than a car worthy of your hard-earned dollars, take a look at a 2012 Kia Optima sedan. The Optima is every bit as roomy and fuel-efficient as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, but its sleek exterior styling makes it look more like an expensive European sport sedan. The Optima offers a range of engine choices, including a hybrid model and a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers excellent performance with decent fuel economy.

Kia equips the Optima with numerous standard features, as well as a few high-end options that you won't find from any competitor. Another advantage the Optima holds over its rivals is its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is rolled back to 5-years/60,000-miles when you buy used. However, if you purchase a certified pre-owned (CPO) Optima, the original warranty is reinstated.

The 2012 Optima differs slightly from the 2011 model, with more features bundled into the LX and EX trims, some exterior enhancements and greater availability of the UVO in-vehicle entertainment system.

What We Like

Gorgeous styling; powerful engine options; good fuel economy; roomy interior; impressive features; great warranty; good crash-test scores

What We Don't

Front passenger seat sits too low; limited rear-seat headroom; no blind spot monitoring system or parking assist

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The Optima's base engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. In the LX trim, a 6-speed manual is standard, while all other trims employ a 6-speed automatic with manual shift control. Fuel economy with either the automatic or manual is the same, rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.

EX Turbo and SX models have a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that's good for 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures are not far from the base 2.4, with an estimated 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy and 26 mpg combined.

The Optima Hybrid uses a slightly less powerful version of the 2.4-liter engine teamed to a 40-hp electric motor, and the combined engine output is 206 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 34 mpg city/39 mpg hwy and 36 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The Kia Optima is offered in five trims: LX, EX, EX Turbo, SX and Hybrid.

The Optima LX features a 6-speed manual transmission, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, keyless entry, a manual driver's seat with power lumbar, 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, manual air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD stereo with satellite radio and a USB/iPod port, Bluetooth connectivity, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, auto headlights, an air-conditioned glove box and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio controls. Cars equipped with the automatic transmission also gain cruise control. Standard safety equipment includes front side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags and electronic traction and stability control.

Optional equipment for the LX includes an 8-way power driver's seat and 16-in alloy wheels.

The EX adds a power driver's seat, a rearview camera, push-button ignition with smart key keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED taillights, rear vents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 17-in alloy wheels and leather seating.

The EX Turbo gets a more powerful engine, upgraded brakes, wood interior trim and additional chrome exterior accents.

The SX trim brings 18-in alloy wheels, a unique leather interior, steering-wheel paddle shifters, a sport suspension, a rear spoiler, additional soft-touch interior parts and Kia's Supervision instrument cluster with LCD display.

The Optima Hybrid has much of the EX trim's features but includes a unique instrument cluster with a hybrid powertrain readout, cloth seats and aerodynamic 16-in wheels.

Optional on all but the LX with the manual transmission is the Technology package, which adds an 8-speaker Infinity audio system, navigation radio, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control and, on the LX model, a power driver's seat.

The Premium package offered on the EX and SX adds a panoramic sunroof, a 4-way power passenger seat, UVO in-vehicle voice-activated infotainment system, Infinity audio, driver's seat memory, heated and cooling front seats, heated rear seats, power-folding side mirrors, a heated steering wheel and wood trim.

Pricing

The Kia Optima holds strong resale values that are almost on par with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. However, because the Optima usually costs less when new, you should be able to find a nicely equipped model with more features than most similarly priced competitors. To get a good idea of the Optima's price range, we suggest checking out the used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the Autotrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.

Recalls

At this time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued no recalls for the 2012 Kia Optima. Should a recall occur in the future, it's important to remember that recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

As for safety, the Optima performs very well in NHTSA's crash tests, scoring five out of five stars in the front, side and rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Optima its best rating of Good in all but the small-overlap front crash test, which earned it an Acceptable rating. IIHS also awarded the Optima a Top Safety Pick.

The Optima has a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty. The 10-year/100,000-mile original powertrain warranty is not transferable and applies only to the original owner. However, Kia also offers CPO cars, which are sold through Kia dealers after undergoing a 150-point inspection. Certified cars are given a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the original date the car was placed into service (basically transferring the original owner's warranty to you), plus the remainder of the original bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Other Cars to Consider

2012 Honda Accord -- The Accord isn't as stylish or feature-rich as the Optima, but it does hold slightly better resale values and reliability ratings. The Accord also offers the option of a V6 engine.

2012 Toyota Camry -- Although new for 2012, the Camry's design still leans toward the conservative side. The Camry holds better resale ratings than the Optima and has a larger rear seat and V6 engine option. However, the Camry can't match the Optima's warranty, horsepower or performance.

2012 Hyundai Sonata -- The Hyundai Sonata shares the same platform and engines as the Optima, offers equally attractive styling (but with a few less optional features) and costs a bit less.

Autotrader's Advice

The base 2.4-liter engine has all the power and fuel economy required, so we'd opt for a model with this engine over the more expensive turbo. An LX with the Technology package is a great find, but if you must have leather seats and a few more bells and whistles, the EX is the way to go.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Kia Optima: Used Car Review - Autotrader