THE 2012 Kia Optima takes everything you once thought about Korean cars and throws it out the window.
In the old days, the sedan market was awash with cheap cars offering nothing but basic transportation. At the time Kia was part of that trend, using low price and stuffing cars with knock-off technology. Just standing next to the 2012 Kia shows those days are done.
This handsome sedan displays design standards above functionality with a stylish appearance that screams chiseled athleticism, especially with the Sports model's large 17-inch wheel package.
However, we drive cars on the inside, and the Optima doesn't disappoint. Its large external proportions extend inside as slipping into any seat, front or back, provides a sense of comfort. Go for the panoramic sunroof and the cabin space takes on even more size.
Kia has ditched the 'options for options sake' methodology, electing careful execution of even the smallest details such as the switchgear. No longer haphazardly placed, all buttons flip, turn and twist with the weight of proper engineering behind them. Even better, they are done with great ergonomics and activate wonderful features that make driving a breeze, like the keyless ignition.
Pressing the START/STOP button brings the Optima's 2-litre motor quietly into play. Never intrusive, it works seamlessly with the six-speed transmission moving its mass with relative ease — whether darting through gaps in the traffic, taking advantage of long smooth straights, or just cruising. Power is just a stab of the accelerator away. As powerful as the motor is, it still retains a good measure of fuel efficiency.
The suspension is stiff, but not for the wrong reasons. It soaks up bumps, causing minimal disturbance to passengers, but can still keep up with the car as it's pushed through any twisty piece of road.
Given its starting price tag of $3.4 million, the only issue at hand may be a bit of brand snobbery due to the Kia badge on the nose. For those willing to look past that, the 2012 Optima may cause those of open mind to open their wallets as well.