2012 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.0

Reviewers say the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid provides good fuel economy, but with a few sacrifices in terms of performance. Test drivers think the Optima Hybrid’s acceleration and power are okay, but are disappointed with the transition between electric and gas power, wishing it was smoother. The Kia Optima Hybrid’s handling gets good reviews, and auto critics say it offers a sporty, yet comfortable ride. The Optima Hybrid’s brakes get dinged for having a numb pedal feel.

  • "Drive it like a normal car and the gas engine comes into play with regularity, and it doesn't thrum to life as seamlessly as we've come to expect from modern hybrids. There's also a mild yet constant surging during part-throttle acceleration." -- Edmunds
  • "If you're looking for premium fuel economy, check out the Optima Hybrid (35 city/40 highway), with its parallel hybrid gas-electric system." -- Road and Track
  • "The steering is quick, weighty, and precise, the ride taut but not brittle." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers aren’t overly impressed with the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid’s acceleration and power. They wish that the car’s hybrid powertrain had a smoother transition between gas and electric power. A few reviewers noticed a brief delay from the time they hit the gas pedal to when the engine actually delivers power, which they disliked, but this is common among hybrids.

The Optima Hybrid has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 166 horsepower and an electric motor that makes 40 horsepower, for a combined 206 horsepower. The Kia Optima Hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. The EPA estimates the 2012 Optima Hybrid will get 34/39 mpg city/highway.

  • "Electric-only operation is possible, just be incredibly gentle with the throttle. The engine and electric motor interplay does lead to some unpleasant surging, but the fuel-economy benefit may outweigh such gripes." -- Car and Driver
  • "The revisions sacrifice torque and horsepower (final output: 166 hp, 154 pound-feet) in the name of efficiency (namely, a 10-percent gain in the engine's fuel economy) but a 40-hp electric motor mounted directly between the four-cylinder and six-speed automatic supplement the oomph of this uniquely styled car." -- Motor Trend
  • "The … Kia Optima Hybrid's power delivery and transmission also get tripped up by the kind of in-and-out throttle action that's common in urban driving. The result is that despite a healthy combined output of 195 pound-feet and 206 hp, the Optima Hybrid is recalcitrant at part-throttle. Give it the spurs, though, and it moves out quite quickly." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Not many test drivers have commented on the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid’s handling and braking, but those who have are disappointed with the brakes, but say the handling is good. The Optima Hybrid’s regenerative brakes are disliked by one test driver for having a numb pedal feel. The Optima Hybrid’s handling, on the other hand, is well-liked for being composed and somewhat sporty. Reviewers note that it takes bumpy roads like a champ.

  • "Hybridization hasn't done favors for the Optima's brakes either, as they lack finesse in city driving. … Its braking force is often a half-beat behind in responding to pedal pressure, and feel is nonexistent. … You feel the extra mass, sure, but the ride remains compliant in a way that many hybrid cars aren't. The Kia soaks up even crappy roads with dignity." -- Edmunds

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