One Sentence Review: The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

Ten years ago, if you had asked me what I thought of Hyundai or Kia, I probably would have shuddered, chortled, and gone off on a rant regarding the wretched cheapness of this Korean car brand. My oh my, how things have changed, and no car showcases that better than the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid. Read on to find out why.

Performance: As Kia’s freshmen hybrid effort, the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid feels surprisingly refined in most regards. There is always plenty of power to be had, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fast. For most passing maneuvers and general driving though, the Optima Hybrid always has.

However, I do have a few qualms with the hybrid system. My biggest issue was in regard to hills. I live on a hilly street, and when running in hybrid mode, the system sometimes took a second to switch over, leaving me feeling a serious lack of power. As far as fuel economy goes though, I managed to average just over 30 mpg over a week of driving. While the official EPA ratings are 34 city and 39 highway, I didn’t exactly drive the Optima Hybrid gently. Keeping in mind this is also a roomy mid-size sedan, overall I found the fuel economy good, if not spectacular.

All that said, two Americans did manage to set a world record for mpgs in the Kia Optima Hybrid , averaging more than 64 mpg. So it really depends on how heavy your foot is.

One Sentence Review: The Kia Optima Hybrid delivers ample power and good fuel economy, especially for a mid-size sedan, but is hardly stellar in either regard.

Exterior: While this is arguably the most subjective criteria for any car review, I can say in all honesty that having the Kia Optima Hybrid in my driveway made me feel like a baller. It was the nicest car on my street by a wide margin, and I caught at least one passerby stopping in front of my driveway to get a closer look. This is a handsome car, and in my humble opinion, one of the best looking sedans on the market today.

Granted, the beige-ish color, called “Satin Metal”, isn’t my favorite shade, (though I admit it looks a lot better in these pictures than in person) but it certainly didn’t detract from the looks. The LED taillights are an especially nice feature, giving the Optima the kind of booty this writer could stare at all day.

One Sentence Review: Easily one of the most stylish, best looking cars on the road; there really isn’t anything like it.

Interior: I’m a pretty big guy, and so I was pretty surprised to find how well I fit into the Kia Optima. Granted my test car came loaded with every option, including heated/cooling leather seats, the UVO infotainment system, and a panoramic sunroof that makes the Optima feel very spacious and open. I also continue to love the rear backup camera setup I first experienced on the Kia Rio.

Yet I was still rather impressed with the fit, finish, and lack of cheap materials. Everything had a feeling of quality to it, and the engineers put a lot of thought into passenger comfort. Even the back seats were impressively spacious, allowing for more than enough room to stretch out and relax on long rides. At no point during the several hour-plus drives I took in the Optima did I feel like I absolutely had to get out of this car, like, now.

I do however have one issue, and that has to do with the excessive amount of information available to drivers. There are at least a dozen different layouts and displays for everything from fuel economy to how “green” your driving is…and frankly, most of these displays seemed rather useless. I generally switched between the instant fuel economy, and average fuel economy screens, and that’s it. Everything else just felt like fluff.

One Sentence Review: From the high-quality materials to exceptional driver comfort, the Kia Optima Hybrid has an incredible interior that you’d be hard pressed to find fault with, though the engineers may have gone overboard with the info displays.

Value: Of course, all of these features come at a premium price. While the base price of $25,700 makes it one of the more affordable hybrid sedans on the market, the price adds up quickly. The UVO infotainment center adds $700, while the Premium Technology Package (which includes the heated/cooled leather seats, the Infinity sound system, and panoramic sunroof) adds a staggering $5,350 to the base price. As tested, the Kia Optima Hybrid sells for $32,620…about the same price as a Chevy Volt after applying the $7,500 tax credit.

But is it worth it? That depends on the driver. This is easily one of the best looking hybrid cars on the market, and all those nifty features really add to the driving experience. I was legitimately sad to see this car go.

One Sentence Conclusion: For a hybrid, the fuel economy was only so-so, but taken as a whole, the Kia Optima Hybrid offers a high-quality, comfortable ride in a stylish package unlike anything else on the road.

A note about the pictures: I am still without a decent DSLR camera, and my girlfriend’s camera eats batteries like they’re going out of style. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy this in the future. 


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.