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2012 Kia Optima Platinum review – quick spin

Here at PerformanceDrive, we like to pride ourselves on giving honest, straightforward reviews. So to kick off this quick spin of the 2012 Kia Optima, let’s get one thing straight: we all know Kia hasn’t always been known for making exciting, cool cars. Well, times have certainly changed. The latest Kia Optima is as good as any of its main rivals.



  • Definitely the styling – has any car ever looked so classy/imposing for $36,990?
  • The Optima only comes in one trim level – Platinum – so no need to feel outdone by other Optimas on the road
  • Great comfort
  • You feel like a (Korean) diplomat as you drive around


  • Aggressive looks command an aggressive engine – it could really do with some V6 or turbo four-cylinder grunt, although the 2.4-litre four is okay
  • Stylish alloy wheels (now) may not age very well
  • It’s hard to think of decent ‘cons’ when you consider the price tag… seriously


From the moment we were thrown the keys to the 2012 Kia Optima (an under-the-skin-twin to the Hyundai i45), we were very eager to get behind the wheel. The $36,990 asking price is mind-blowing for how much car you get.

While it might not posses the most exciting powertrain, its 2.4-litre four cylinder engine producing 148kW and 250Nm loves to rev, even just to bring the 2012 Kia Optima up to speed.

Same eagerness goes for the six-speed automatic transmission, while it might not be a fancy dual-clutch job, it’s pretty slick at shifting on demand, and smooth, too.

Steering and braking do feel a tad anesthetised; it doesn’t feel as ‘alive’ and interactive as one might have hoped. Especially for such a visually attractive and sporty package. It never puts you into a moment of nervousness or hesitation though, and the suspension and ride is compliant and solid in most conditions. Ride comfort is luxury-car lazy, but sprightful enough through corners.


Think Honda Accord Euro meets Mercedes-Benz C-Class; comfy, classy and contoured. Inside the Optima’s cabin is a very pleasant place to be, and it’s kind on the cheeks, too… if you know what we mean.

All the gadgetry you could imagine is only your left arm away; climate control; MP3 and USB; dual sunroof; heated seat controls (the driver’s seat even has a cooling option); and the all-important ‘engine start/stop’ button.

The steering wheel holds buttons to control stereo volume, audio source, buttons for the cruise control, Bluetooth connection, and an ‘ECO’ button – a mode which helps the Optima conserve as much fuel as possible through various means, including changing up gears sooner.

While you know the wood grain trimmings on the dash are fake, you must remember you don’t need to sell four yachts to pay for an Optima. It all fits in and suits the cabin personality well, and it looks real enough anyway.

Stylish touches like the retracting centre console lid for the cup holders, and the rather-large leather arm rest makes the 2012 Kia Optima feel more Stuttgart than Seoul.

The seven-speaker stereo is thanks to Infinity Systems. While all Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group vehicles have Infinity-designed stereos, the Optima’s is extra exciting in this instance. Harmon Kardon is the parent company of Infinity, so it’s no wonder it sounds great.


The 2012 Kia Optima reminds you of a 48-month interest free deal at your local retail outlet; you have to wonder if there are any hidden catches. How can a car offer so much luxury, yet be so affordable? It does this simply by being part of a rapidly growing brand that has plenty of money to invest and build upon its huge customer base.

Inside, there’s no scratchy plastics, the leather feels soft, there’s loads of room to settle into a very comfortable driving position, and you’re treated to not one but two sunroofs, and everything is electric.

If you’re after a car with a touch of pizazz, technology-packed, a capable chassis, and room for a few adults in the back, glance past that $30-40,000 mid to top-spec hatch you were contemplating and give the 2012 Kia Optima a chance to prove its worth. It is a very noble option.


2012 Kia Optima Platinum

2.4-litre four-cylinder

Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

148kW@6300rpm, 250Nm@4250rpm


1455mm / 1830mm / 4845mm

F: 18 x 7.5 inch 225/45 R18
R: 18 x 7.5 inch 225/45 R18

70 litres

Tested average: 9.2L/100km
Official average: 7.9L/100km

0-100km/h: Not tested

$36,990 + ORC

Josh was one of the original co-founders of PerformanceDrive. His expertise is car culture and aftermarket performance. He was the editor at Hot4s Magazine for a few years, and has since worked at Fast Fours, Zoom, and as a journalist for The Project Group.

  • Neville Baker

    I have just bought the KIA Optima GDI Platinum Jan 2012. I have never wanted to own a KIA,. I am glad that I took 7 months of looking at cars and reading about as much as I could on all the New Kids on the blocks. Not one car really took my fancy, until my wife said to me as a joke why not look at the New KIA. I reluctantly did and now all I can say is KIA you have done a fantastic job. The Finish inside and out is the best I havre seen in 53 years of driving. All this rot about this car needing more grunt is beyond me, for a family car for the young or older driver,there is enough grunt to push this car over the speed limit and stiil be a joy to drive. When a stylish well put together car like this comes along for the price tag with or without SatNav, this is the car to buy.

  • Ray M

    I have to agree with Neville. I traded a late model HSV Senator (300KWs +)on a new Kia Optima in March 2012. The HSV was a great handler & had enormous power. However, I can honestly say that the Kia Optima is a very impressive car. Although it cost less than half the cost of the Senator I find it handles and drives beautifully & dare I say is actually sporty to drive.With the incredible amount of standard features for the money & looks that could kill – every second person is guilty of “rubber necking” to see what brand it is.
    Not just a good car – a great car!

  • Sameer

    Hi I am looking to buy a new car and I am very confused between Kia optima platinum and Hyundai I45.

    Any suggestions .


  • Korea

    Both Kia and Hyundai have lifted their game in recent years. Both coming in around the top of reliable cars lists worldwide.

  • Neville Baker

    Hi Sameer , You could not have picked the two cars that are really twin to try and choose from. As you most likely know that the Parent Company of the two Vehicle are the Same and probably come from the same mould. Also the KIA Designer has recently come on board from a well known prestige Company so I am lead to believe . Do a search and find a comparison of the Two Vehicles, you will find both Vehicles should come out as twins. As you most likely know my choice would be the Optima as I Own one myself and I am Extremely on the KIA Optima’s Side and enjoy driving it every time . I also believe that the Optima would be Cheaper by $2000. The final choice is yours. THOUGH AS I SAID OPTIMA FOR ME.

  • Ray M

    Hi Sameer – the I45 has no bluetooth & is considerably less well equipped than the Optima -the Optima having LED running lights & a heated & cooled driver’s seat to name just a few items.But the big difference is that the Optima has been upgraded with australianised suspension so the handling of the Optima is significantly superior.It is a much better looking car than the I45 and as Neville says is $2,000 cheaper – GAME OVER!

  • Sameer

    Thank u everyone for your feedback and advise. Helped me decide, finally bought the Kia Optima platinum today. Very happy!

  • Neville Baker

    Hi Ray M and Sameer You are So correct Ray in what you pointed out and Sameer I am glad that you made your own mind up about choosing the Optima I’m sure Ray could have given a larger list of differences as would the Comparison of the two Car if you went to look at it. I am sure you will be a Very Happy Driver Like I am

  • Sameer

    Hi Everyone I got the delivery for my new Kia optima platinum today and I must say I am in love with the car. It’s just awesome. Thank you everyone for taking out the time to post your views and helped me making a choice. Kia optima you rock.

  • Sean

    I have also put a deposit down on a new Optima Platinum – delivery before the end of this month! I have been eyeing the car off for the past year and finally took one for a test drive – sealed the deal! After reading almost every review on the net, I was worried about the engine being underpowered – but those fears were put to rest once I drove it. The Optima is an extremely impressive car, built well and feels very refined. I can’t wait to take delivery of it!

  • Sameer

    You will just love the car I am sure. It is awesome to drive with all the luxury.

  • Jonny

    I have just purchased a KIA OPIMA MY12 with Sat Nav. Very happy it is a great car at a great price.

    • Ned41

      Hi John, Your words ring true to me almost a year ago I bought the same car without the Sat Nav . I’m still a very happy chap driving this car, as I’m sure you will testify in a years time . Congratulation on buy a sure fire winner .