After already being named Autobytel's 2012 Sedan of the Year, and then kicking off 2012 with a massive 131 percent sales jump in January, it's clear that the Kia Optima is striking ye olde chord with U.S. customers. And now there's more evidence that the song remains the same this year: The Kia Optima recently garnered segment honors for its high value from Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and introduced a premium SX Limited model at the Chicago Auto Show.
Even as the U.S. economy continues to recover, auto buyers are still looking to maximize value in their vehicle purchases, and they often come to resources like Kiplinger's Personal Finance for insight. This year, the publication's experts answered that call by picking their top value choices in 12 different segments, based on factors like performance, ownership costs, safety and driving impressions. Taking the top prize in the sweet spot of the marketplace: The 2012 Optima Turbo, which was named Best New Car Value priced from $25,000-$30,000.
According to Kiplinger's editors, "The Optima’s redesign last year shook off the bland styling, adding sharp creases and an aggressive front end complete with fog lights and wraparound headlamps; it also won Kiplinger’s Best New Car award for its category. The turbo-boosted four-cylinder engine puts out more horsepower (274) than most in its class, a difference you’ll feel on the road. Add value pricing and a five-year warranty and you’ve got serious swagger."
Remember, too, that even with all that power on tap, including a robust 269 lb.-ft. of torque, the Optima Turbo is capable of EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway/26 mpg combined; as compared to the V6-powered Toyota Camry, the Turbo provides more horsepower, more torque and better fuel economy, all for a starting price that's more than $2,000 lower. In fact, the Kia also is more powerful, more fuel-efficient and less expensive than the V6 models of the Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu and Honda Accord.
Further, it's worth pointing out that the Optima's warranty coverage is even more extensive than it seems at first glance. The car's protection package includes:
• 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain coverage
• 5-year/60,000-mile limited basic vehicle coverage
• 5-year/100,000-mile limited anti-perforation coverage
• 5-year/60,000-mile 24/7 roadside assistance
Yet the Optima doesn't stint when it comes to features, either. It's exceedingly well-equipped even as a base model, with standard Bluetooth functionality, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/XM/MP3 sound system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a cooled glovebox, a six-way adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, and, on the Optima Turbo, Kia's UVO voice-activated connectivity/infotainment system, powered by Microsoft technology.
That same Optima Turbo—in its SX trim—also serves as the basis for the new top-of-the-line Optima SX Limited. First shown in Chicago and during Kia's Super Bowl advertising, this new model "delivers upscale features and premium materials that discerning midsize sedan customers are not able to find in many of our competitors," according to Michael Sprague, vice president of Marketing and Communications for Kia Motor America. "The Optima has been earning design, performance and value awards since arriving in showrooms in early 2011, and the Limited is the latest example of the brand's compelling package of style, fuel economy, technology—and now opulence—to appeal to an even wider consumer base."
Exterior upgrades include LED daytme running lamps, a chrome-accented rear spoiler and model-specific 18-inch chrome wheels, which also put the car's red front-brake calipers on display. Drivers will be able to choose from three sophisticated exterior colors: Ebony Black, Snow White Pearl or Titanium Metallic.
Complementing those shades in the cabin is plenty of Nappa leather, offered in black or white and used to cover the seats, door panels, center console armrest and center fascia trim; premium black tricot fabric is used in the headliner, sun visor and interior pillars for an added upscale touch. There's even a first-aid kit on board.
Also in the mix from the Optima SX are standard features like:
• Uniquely designed front and rear lower bumpers
• A sport-tuned suspension
• High-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights
• Kia's Supervision meter cluster with an LCD display
• Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters
• Heated/cooled front seats and heated rear seating
• A nav system with integrated backup camera
• An eight-speaker Infinity audio system with door-mounted tweeters
• Metal pedals
• Lighted door scuff plates
Pricing has yet to be released, but Kia has confirmed that the Optima SX Limited is slated to start production later this month at the company's manufacturing facility in West Point, Ga. Stay tuned to Autobytel for more information.