2012 Kia Optima SX new car reviews

Better than: you'd expect
But not as good as: Kia Optima in World Challenge guise
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 92.47

The third-generation Kia Optima is one of our favorite automotive surprises from the past couple of years. After a decade of me-too family sedan boredom, Kia revitalized the Optima with a visually striking exterior, good build quality and a killer 274-horsepower, 2-liter turbo that's capable of 34 miles per gallon on the highway.

There are still some inexpensive components inside, but the majority of the interior is targeting VW or even BMW customers and leaving behind the lackluster interiors of more recent Honda and Toyota products. Plus, you still get the 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, a nice confidence boost considering the car's no-joke turbo boost. Unfortunately, a manual transmission isn't available with the turbocharged engine.

Our SX test example came with the $1400 Technology Package (including nav) plus the $2950 SX Premium Package with a sunroof, power folding mirrors, Kia's UVO Infotainment System, a backup camera, heated and cooled front seats, and heated outboard rear seats.

If you're shopping for a family sedan, or if you've got friends who come to you for advice on all things automotive, make sure they test drive the turbocharged Optima. It really is an exciting family hauler.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Call me a Kia fanboi, but I dug this one.

Size: Not too big, not too small. In my book, this is about the right size for a family sedan. I think it looks good, too.

Engine: Remember when we went ape when the original U.S.-spec WRX made 227 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbo engine? The Optima SX makes 274 from a similar setup. Someone at Kia needs to find a way to put this engine in the Forte Koup stat.

Transmission: I know, I know, no stick shift is available. Know what? On a mid-sized family car, I think I'm cool with the automatic. I'm not thinking I'm going to be tracking or autocrossing this car. The auto does what I want: shift gears smoothly.

Interior: There was nothing weird to report here. The materials are nice, and the controls made sense. The seats were comfortable.

Complaints: Our car had a touch of wind noise from the side windows, and the steering was a bit numb on-center. I'm wondering if both could be dialed out with a bit of tweaking.

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