2012 Kia Optima SX
(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo 6-speed Automatic)
What our ratings include
Date Driven: 2/22/2011 (2011 SX Turbo)
Turbocharged 4-cylinder exhibits some lag off the line, but midrange punch is dynamic for the midsize class. 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly; has steering wheel shift paddles, but doesn't blip the throttle to smooth out downshifts.
Steering has a quicker ratio and more heft than regular Optima, but feel is a bit rubbery. The SX's firmer shock damping would help with handling, but the Nexen tires don't offer much grip, negating the benefit and causing understeer.
Increased damping versus regular Optima. The ride is acceptable, but the SX doesn't absorb bumps as well as expected; this would be forgiven if the SX had markedly improved handling. Overly firm front seats don't help the issue.
Wind noise is sufficiently held at bay, but there's a bit more road noise than you'd expect with all-season tires. The turbo engine is surprisingly quiet for a 4-cylinder, even at full throttle.
Instruments are easy to see despite being deeply recessed. Manual mode gear indicator is larger than average. Center stack is angled toward the driver in a sporty fashion. HVAC fan and mode buttons are oddly spaced far from each other.
Forward vision is very good, aided by small A-pillars. Rearward view is hampered by large C-pillars and a rising beltline. Rear camera helps, but there's no parking sonar. Low-beam headlights are surprisingly dim, despite being HIDs.
Seat Access & Space
Driving position gives a commanding view over the hood without feeling too high. Big, wide doors make it easy to get in/out both front and rear; driver is aided by optional automatic memory seat. Front headroom limited by optional sunroof.
Cargo & Storage
Door bins are small to the point of being nearly useless for anything other than wallets, although all four doors have cupholders. Center armrest storage is generous. Trunk has a wide opening, then narrows. Points for fold-down rear seats.
Solid-feeling car. Good mixture inside, from leather to soft-touch materials to metal trim. Most controls have a nice tactility. Did notice a few odd exterior panel gaps, and the faux carbon-fiber interior trim looks tacked-on.