2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

We had a chance to spend some time driving the Kia Optima Hybrid around the Florida Keys. You can read about our adventures here.

The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid – the brand’s first hybrid introduced last year – borrows the drivetrain found in the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. It combines a 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, a 30-kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to provide a total 206 horsepower.

As a full hybrid, the Optima Hybrid is capable of running on either the gas engine, the electric motor or both. The system requires no plug-in charging, the battery pack being replenished by energy generated from the gas engine and captured during regenerative braking. It also saves gas by automatically shutting off the gas engine when the car is stopped. As one would expect, the Optima Hybrid’s fuel economy rating is the same as its Hyundai cousin: 35 city /40 highway and 37 mpg combined.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

Available in one trim level and only one option package, the 2012 Optima Hybrid’s base price is $25,700, which is $800 less than the 2011 model. For the 2012 model year, there are no significant changes.

Exterior and Interior

The Kia and Hyundai hybrids use the same powertrain, are mechanically identical and are built on the same platform. But placed side-by-side, there’s little evidence of that. The two share no exterior body panels or interior parts, with each expressing a look that is distinctive from the other. Both are standout designs in the midsize hybrid class.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

Previous Optima designs were forgettable, but the current car has striking looks that are retained in hybrid guise. An expressive front blends into a long, bold hood where the profile takes on the appearance of a coupe with a sharply raked windshield and curvaceous roof that ends with a short rear deck. Muscular, yet restrained, front fenders add an assertive dynamic.

The hybrid version of the Optima features unique exterior aerodynamic refinements – the rear fascia exhaust is hidden – a unique headlight design, lower ride height, an active air flap system, lower drag 16-inch wheels, underbody aero tuning to reduce drag, and low rolling resistance tires. The Optima Hybrid’s drag coefficient is an exceptionally low at 0.26, although not quite as slippery as the Sonata.
Adding to the Optima’s hybrid-ness is what Kia calls a “Virtual Engine Sound System.” It plays a pre-recorded engine sound during electric-only operation to notify people outside the vehicle that it is approaching.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

On the inside, the fit-and-finish is first-rate, the ergonomics are solid, and the slight angle of the cockpit toward the driver is a very nice touch. White on black gauges are large and easy to read, with an LCD screen positioned between the two dominant gauges that provides hybrid information.

The sedan easily passes the test for midsize-car roominess. In front, the driver and passenger have more than 45 inches of leg space, and passengers in the back seats have 34.7 inches of legroom – more than adequate for most adults in the back, and lots of room for youngsters.

It’s pretty much a given that hybrid cars will have a small cargo area because that’s where battery packs reside. The Optima Hybrid’s trunk is quite small, just 9.89 cubic feet of space, which is less than the 10.7 cubic feet of trunk room in the Sonata Hybrid. However, the fixed rear seats have a ski pass-through, an uncommon feature with hybrid vehicles.

Feature-Rich

Kia has gone from an also ran to being a significant player in the U.S., which can be partially attributed to the generous content for the price of its vehicles, and the Optima Hybrid is no exception.

In addition to the extensive list of standard features found on the standard Optima LX A/T trim, the hybrid offers these as standard: eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, dual zone climate control with rear vents, push-button start with smart key, rearview camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, automatic up/down on front windows, glove box illumination, and rear reading lamps.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

The Optima Hybrid was the first Kia vehicle to offer the optional UVO infotainment system ($700). Similar to Ford’s Sync, indexed content from an iPod or other compatible MP3 player can be called up by saying the name.

An optional Hybrid Premium and Technology Package ($5,350) includes a hard-to-resist panoramic sunroof, leather interior, power heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, an Infinity audio system, a navigation system, HID headlights and other goodies.

On The Road

The Optima Hybrid is a capable family car that offers up a quiet and comfortable ride while delivering excellent fuel mileage. Like the Hyundai hybrid, the Kia’s steering is responsive and has a quick and precise feeling. The Optima’s suspension is tuned on the soft side and it soaks up large bumps and potholes quite well.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

While its performance on the highway is quite admirable, when driving in city or the stop-and-go commute, the car’s computer controls and hybrid system seem to be miscommunicating. From a stop, the hybrid system always rolls off in electric mode. Around 15 mph the gasoline engine starts up with a harsh jolt and the six-speed transmission’s shifts in lower gears are often hesitant, actions that are unsettling to say the least.

The Hybrid Car For You?

Based on a sharp design, appealing amenities, and a competitive price, hybrid shoppers looking for a fuel-efficient mid-size sedan should put the Kia Optima Hybrid in the running with the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. Of course, for the time being, the Toyota Prius still rules for overall efficiency in the five-seat conventional hybrid market. But the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is one more sign of a maturing hybrid market, with expanding choices of brand, drive feel, price and design.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.


Price quote for Kia Optima Hybrid

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid
Base MSRP: $25,700
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  • Alexander

    The new car looks great and I can hardly wait til I sell one. They are going to be fun to sell. Thank you Kia for having a line of vehicles that are great looking, fun to drive and almost sell themselves.

  • Matt Chatham

    Hyundai/Kia really keeps outdoing themselves, especially when you consider how inexpensive their lineup is. Good looks, good fuel-economy, good prices. If I were another automaker I’d be a little worried at this point.

  • Charles

    Kia, Hyundai and others are late to the hybrid game and are skipping the older tried and true Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery in favor of the lighter, stronger, less tested Lithium batteries. This should allow the new comers to leapfrog Toyota, Ford and Honda. What will be interesting is how fast the early adopters change to Li batteries and if the Li batteries hold up as well as the NiMH batteries have.

    The Ford Fusion seems to be able to match the new Kia and Hyundai hybrids. When Ford replaces the current Fusion with the world version of the Fusion/Mondeo in 2012 or so, will it be able to match the Koreans CD and highway MPG, while keeping an advantage in the city? Time will tell.

  • Eric

    Always nice to see more competition in the market. I don’t agree about the kia looking nicer than the Sonata though…also the interior looks kinda cheap in comparison. I guess that’s to be expected from the budget brand. Just the same, less expensive hybrids are great news!

  • Anonymous

    Good that there are finally good looking hybrids coming to the market. ‘Good looking’ is of course a matter of personal taste and not everybody shares the same opinion – I love my 2010 Prius, but I’m not blown away by the ‘looks’. I like the Sonata Hybrid a lot from the design – the Kia version looks in my opinion too much like the Ford Fusion (which has an ok design – but not great – but that is just my preference).

    Good for the market to have more choice of good looking hybrids. I still would opt for the Prius based on mpg numbers. I can’t wait for good looking hybrids that have better mpg than the Prius.

  • Shines

    Sure these new hybrids have styling that is much better than the originals (original Insight and Prius). I personally prefer the Kia’s styling better than the Hyundai’s – the Kia reminds me of a Saab or Acura. The CRZ looks great. I actually like the new Prius styling considering the shape of the car (for efficiency). Let’s not forget the style of the Volt. All of these are pleasent enough not to be noticed as hybrids (except the Prius which is unique).

  • Chris77

    The Kia Optima Hybrid is a great looking car! I was waiting for the Sonata Hybrid to come out to buy, but now I think I’ll wait for the Kia. Looks sharp!

  • xlthim

    I drive a 2010 Sonata, which I love. They did something funky to the Sonata Hybrid – just doesn’t look right. Optima Hybrid looks a lot better! Can’t wait to trade in the old minivan on an Optima Hybrid! The wife can have the Sonata.

  • Hyundaiowner

    I think they screwed up the look of the hybrid Sonata. The gasoline Sonata looks really good. I would buy the hybrid with the normal front grill. I think the odd look will hurt sales. I wouldn’t buy a car with NiMh battery anymore. The LiIon technology is much better.

  • KMT

    I have been checking constantly to see if I can BUY an Optima Hybrid. I have been holding off on buying a car for months now, mainly because I really, really want the Optima Hybrid. But WHEN are they going to be available?

    I have to buy a car soon. My company is moving and I will be commuting. Any news on when the Optima Hybrid will be available?

  • Nicole

    OMG, I’m excited! My household has owned 4 Kias, currently 2008 Optima, 2010 Forte Coupe, in the past a 2004 Optima and 2008 Rio. I’m the driver of the Optimas. I love Optima. I saw the new design for 2011 and was dying to get one but when I found out a Hybrid was coming, I decided to wait.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Eric,

    I thought the same about optima’s interior looks until I saw one at a car event in my hometown (conventional version not hybrid’s of course) and, trust me, it doesn’t look any cheap, it resembles, let’s say, an audi like style…which is not something to be surprised considering that Kia’s head of design department was hired from audi.

  • yevans

    I did all the research and have been waiting for what seems like forever for the Kia Optima Hybrid to come out. Seems they are more interested in selling their turbo model instead of getting the hybrids out and with gas going thru the roof they should fly out of the dealerships. They were suppose to come out 1st qtr this year but still in a holding pattern here with May only a few days away. Had a sales manager tell me he thought it could be Sept/Oct before they’re available. I need to purchase by Aug 1st…please hurry Kia!!!

  • Patrick K

    Ive been wresteling with this for a while, and talking with the wife, and if the price of gas/diesel keeps going up I may have to trade my truck in on a hybrid. I hate to think about it, I love my truck, but much more and I won’t be able to even afford to drive it! As far as hybrids go, the Optima is IMHO the best looking of the bunch, and if I have to, this is the one I’m going to go with. Any more word on price/availability? I’m still looking at atleast 6 months out so it’s not critical at this point, just trying to get all the info I can ahead of time.

  • Mike P.

    The front of the Sonata Hybrid looks like a Chrysler (that’s not a complement) with the large open grill. The Optima body design (hybrid or not) is cleaner and better looking than the Sonata. But it’s good to have difference designs to meet the personal preference of each consumer. One question beyond design – will Kia follow Hyundai’s lead with their new trade-in guarantee program?

  • Lucien

    Kia is currenty listing availability as June in selected markets. Typically that would include CA but not sure which other states.

    Fuel economy will be 35/37 mpg compared to Sonata’s 35/40 mpg. Not sure why it’s higher but partly probably aerodynamics. In real-world driving it’s probably closer.

    It’s compares closest to the EX model except it has no leather trim and lists read camera as standard (that could be a typo). I guess it will be around $26K (about +$3K).

    I saw interior recently and was really impressed. Never considered a Kia before so I was pleasantly suprised.

  • Anonymous

    I have had a chance to work hands on with these vehicles and I have to say I am impressed. They have a nice power train setup and the styling is top notch. Kia has done something right!!!

  • Anonymous

    The GDI engine shown under the see more photos is not of the 2.4 setup used. FYI

  • Duane

    Just took delivery today. So far, very impressed. Driving a hybrid is new to me. Trying to get used to driving to maximize efficiency instead of performance. 6 speed transmission can be operated manually if you choose, but car runs so quietly, must turn off radio/sound system in order to hear proper shift intervals. Even then, gave up and switched to automatic. It does a better job of it anyway. More later when I have some miles on it.

  • POMBA

    Just bought the Optima Hybrid, and all i can say is you get a lot of car for the money, lots of special features, but my favorite got to be the front and rear seat are heated but only the front are also cooled.
    Also don’t forget about the heated steering wheel. :)

  • Gerrie Long

    I bought a KIA Hybrid a month ago and love it. It has lots of room for my oversized husband and lots of great bells and whistles. The gas mileage reports are true. We compete to see who can get the best milage. The screens with the flowers are hoot.

  • Russ

    In White from it Looks like a tennis Shoe! (From the outside) Inside is nice however. But then again Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’m just glad there are more options now… I don’t know why We can’t lower the HP do we really need over 100HP? I mean My First car was a VW Bug with 55HP could do 60mph no problem and 30MPG with no Hybrid and 40 year old technology If we bumped cars to the 80′s HP (110HP) we could all get 40MPG without Hybrid at all!!!

  • Keyon

    Hello

    My name is Keyon and I am currently working with Kia Motors to spread the word of the sleek, stylish, eco-friendly 2011 Optima Hybrid.

    The Kia Optima Hybrid is loaded with exclusive features, and utilizes top-tier hybrid technology that can be viewed in a three-part video overview – http://bit.ly/MotorTrendTrio

    Kia has also released a neat infographic visual describing why hybrids are more efficient than non-hybrids – http://bit.ly/OptimaHybridInfographic

    Lastly, be sure to check out the Optima Hybrid Facebook page to take the Urban Myth Busters Quiz – http://on.fb.me/HybridMythBusters

    If there are any questions regarding the Kia Optima Hybrid, please feel free to ask! Thanks!

  • MikeySurfs

    I bought a 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid , I have almost 800 miles on it ,
    I drive 50% 30 mph seed zone , 30 % 40 mph speed zone , 20 %
    highway speed , I am averaging 37.6 mpg on my last fill up . I could not believe it . I like the car.

  • Bob Scott

    The Kia looks better than any of the rest. The Fusion has always beeen lacking in looks – good car, but I just can’t forgive the front end look. Kia’s grill is nothing like that crappy Fusion front end. The kia Optima is by far the best looking front end in the group. They do NOT compare!!!!

  • Tony

    This car that Kia put out is one of the best hybrids on the market today.

  • nv

    What gives on the complete lack of availability of this car? it’s november and the closest certified dealer to Houston is 747 miles away.

  • David Sanchez

    When will the Kia Optima Hybrids be available in Texas? DFW?

  • Ira

    Test drove a 2011 kia Optima hybrid. Very impressed. Some reviews showed much lower mpg (see edmunds.com). Heard 2012 will get out the mpg kinks. When will 2012 models be released in the NY/NJ area?

  • PNY

    CAN I GET ONE OPTIMA PLS

    hybrid LOVE .,…………
    MErry xmas and happy new year in ADVANCE

    A.O ADEWOLE

  • PNY

    CAN I GET ONE OPTIMA PLS

    hybrid LOVE .,…………
    MErry xmas and happy new year in ADVANCE

    A.O ADEWOLE

  • Vancouver Car Sales

    I’ve driven one now too finally, and it is not only a stylishly elegant looking car, but really a Fun Drive!

  • 1solarguy

    I recently purchased the Kia Optima 2012 and love it! Great performance for a hybrid, awesome styling, and plenty of acceleration power when you need it.

    I was really surprised by the amount of interior space especially in the rear seat. We have taken short trips with 5 people–and no complaints about being cramped.

    As expected, the mileage is not quite as good as a Prius but driving a car that looks and feels more like a higher end sports model more than makes up for any disappointments in MPG.

    Still the mileage is great. I do a lot of freeway driving and by maintaining a constant speed of 65 mph on cruise control I am getting around 43MPG. My guess is that will be affected by the terrain you drive over–hills, etc..

    I lam even considering getting a second one. Kia outdid itself on this car.

  • big jer

    i had a Hyundat 2011 hybrid for 8 months now the Sonata absolutely love it the gas millage is great 45 to 50 mpg , the ride is so smooth thank you Hyundai. If I had a nickle every time a head turned to look at my Car I would be a Billionaire. when this car wears out I can’t wait to buy another Hyunda.

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  • ttyng

    I was driving my new Optima Hybrid (2011, 8K miles) one day on my commute to work and the engine completely died on me. I had to cut across three lanes while cars were passing me at 70mph. Here is the evidence (visit the following links)
    http://imgur.com/5DqEx
    http://imgur.com/M77GE

    My car was in the shop for 7 days and I requested they terminate my lease with no penalty. They said “no” and offered a years worth of free oil changes. Umm, THANKS!. I am going through a very expensive process of lease termination now. Do not believe that the cars are any better quality just because they look better. The engines are not safe and I would not trust my life in it ever again!

  • Anonymous

    5 year

  • Joe

    Purchased the 2012 optima hybrid, love it, head turner, amazing vehicle. Never thought I would be driving a Kia, today I have one and looking for any excuse to drive it.

  • jag

    35/40 MPG!!! Not good enough :( Keep trying and stop holding back. The technology is there, for a more efficient vehicle on the road. wake up and stop trying to convince the consumer that this is the best they can get for their hard earned $$$$$ We are to smart, and never under stimate our purchasing power!!!

  • jag

    35/40 MPG!!! Not good enough :( Keep trying and stop holding back. The technology is there, for a more efficient vehicle on the road. wake up and stop trying to convince the consumer that this is the best they can get for their hard earned $$$$$ We are to smart, and never under stimate our purchasing power!!!

  • jag

    35/40 MPG!!! Not good enough :( Keep trying and stop holding back. The technology is there, for a more efficient vehicle on the road. wake up and stop trying to convince the consumer that this is the best they can get for their hard earned $$$$$ We are to smart, and never under stimate our purchasing power!!!

  • db

    Love this car! Good driving begets 42 MPG on a regular basis. Keyless entry, Sirius radio and full Bluetooth. Excellent Value!

    Feel lucky to have one.

  • Kia optima hybrid owner

    Bought the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid TODAY and I am in love!!! This car is so fun to drive and for a 4 cylinder, the horse power is amazing!! Best decision ever!

  • suliasalgado

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  • Alex Aguilar

    I am really considering purchasing this new Kia Optima. It’s probably the best looking Hybrid I have seen so far. I love the exterior and the interior looks amazing. It’s hard to think that this is a Kia.

  • Alex Evans

    The other thing I wanted to mention is for anyone looking to purchase a KIA in San Diego I have been a little disappointed with the Kearny Mesa KIA dealership. The chrome is chipping away on my KIA and the car is under warranty but they won’t cover it. Other then that this new Optima really looks like an awesome car.

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  • Fred Oyang

    One of the issues that I saw online both for the Kia and Hyundai hybrids was the fact that the cars start off in electric mode and then go to gas at about 15 mph with an obvious changeover. I haven’t seen that mentioned in this string – is that an issue for some of you hybrid owners?

  • Kaushal

    There are some attention-grabbing points in time on this article but I don?t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There may be some validity however I will take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as properly.
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  • PreacherMan Karl

    My wife and I had been looking at new cars, she wanted a Hybrid and I was kinda against that. We had been all over and found nothing that we really liked. Our last stop was a KIA dealership. Looked at the NEW 2012 Optima Hybrid in the NEW color Light Graphite. Liked the way it looked inside and out and all the features that it offered.
    I had her take it for a test drive by herself. I knew if she liked it< that I would also. Myself, just not to picky as long as has a good ride.

    Well long story short, we bought it. This car has done nothing but impress from the time I drove it off the lot. It says 35/40 MPG. Well, I am not getting that. I am getting 41MPG in the city and 48MPG on the highway. Get into the mountains and HWY MPG drops back to about 45MPG. I know, you didn’t expect to hear that kinda mileage.
    OH, and I am no Sunday driver either ( I also own a 1983 Hurst/Olds ). The power is not lacking in this car. If you need to go it goes without hesitation. I have put it to the test just to see.

    So far no issues and would recommend this car highly. It has comfort and all kinds of features. Too much to list about this car. The list just goes on and on.

    KIA, you have outdone yourself this time on this one. Keep up the good work !!!!

  • Snazalca

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Kia Optima Hybrid!! Its a “sexy” car (as my teenage daughter puts it). I love it because of the gas mileage and all the standard features it comes with. (ok, ok, I can’t lie, it is sexy too). I have been asked several times about my car and I am so pleased to tell anyone I can about it, and all it offers! I haven’t had to fill it up once yet; and I drive alot! I can’t say enough about this car! I am a proud owner and I recommend this car to anyone who wants a good looking Hybrid that can hold it’s own!

  • Ron Jones

    Just bought the Kia Optima Hybrid today. VERY IMPRESSED! Bought the base model but was very happy with the standard features. It does have a lot of get up and go when getting on the freeway. Have to drive about 40 miles one way to drop off daughter at school and go to work so wanted something with great gas mileage. Will save me $150+ on gas from my old SUV easy.
    Very nice looking and great room. I’m 6’2″ and have plenty of head room and leg room. We’ll see as time goes on, but for now, I am very pleased with the car.

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  • Skye

    I wasn’t actually interested in a Hybrid at all but the Kia is the reason I will probably purchase one. The Hyundai is a little to large and bulbous but the Kia is sexy, I’ll just switch out the wheels. Looking good while helping the planet and my pocket book. Can’t believe I’m looking at a Kia, they’ve come a long way!

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, thanks!

  • Armtek

    Just purchased a ‘loaded’ Optima Hybrid. Love it! Even here at Colorado altitude and hilly roads, it is exceeding the combined EPA ratings. We estimate that it will save about $160/month in gas just for my commute. In our mountain trips, the car performs admirably, but does meet its match when approaching the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel through the continental divide. It still maintains highway speeds but clearly you don’t have any power headroom. Still got 38 MPG round trip in the mountains (a tad bit more aggressive than the EPA ‘Combined’ spec, I would think). Occasionally you notice the internal combustion engine kicking on, but I can live with that (and I presume this can be a software update at a later time).

    This is our THIRD Kia and overall we appreciate the quality and bang-for-the-buck that Kia provides. The Optima Hybrid is no exception. It is extremely well appointed and comfortable. Fit and finish are excellent. Would highly recommend

  • Situs Penjaga Warnet

    A great car from KIA. Nice white.. because i like white.
    but my blog, Situs Penjaga Warnet still need a carlower than $15.000 in price.

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  • lomiapatle

    The two share no exterior body panels or interior parts, with each expressing a look that is distinctive from the other. Both are standout designs in the midsize hybrid class. cell phone listening

  • Richard Carpenter

    Hello, I have a question. Can you run the KIA with just electric
    power, and if so, how far can you travel? If not, that will be some
    what of a drawback.

  • James Walker

    Available in one trim level and only one option package, the 2012 Optima Hybrid’s base price is $25,700, which is $800 less than the 2011 model. For the 2012 model year, there are no significant changes.
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