Kia Optima vs Hyundai Sonata

In the world of cars, the hybrid sits there like a bowl of oatmeal. Your mother said that it was good for the environment, and it would save you money at the pump. But that steaming bowl of Prius just doesn’t look very appetizing. Stuffed French Toast from IHOP sounds better.

So how do make mom happy, without killing your taste buds? How ‘bout if that IHOP platter were made from whole wheat bread…you could be nice to the environment, without looking like a total dork.

Meet the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid and the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Two very different cars, based on the same platform. Kia Optima vs Hyundai Sonata, which one should you buy.

2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Several years ago, Hyundai-Kia invested heavily in new technology. They had decided to challenge the Japanese, by offering loaded cars, at Walmart prices. Somewhere in the last decade, Macy’s started to sell Toyota & Honda, raising their price-points significantly. The lower end of the market was then left unoccupied, making Hyundai-Kia’s decision a no-brainer.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Since Hyundai allowed Kia almost complete autonomy, when it acquired the company in 1997, the two companies don’t share a design department. They share engines, and basic chassis architecture, and that allows each to occupy a different place in the market. Hyundai is going after the luxury-minded rubes, leaving Kia with the youthful, newly-promoted set.

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is aimed at earth-conscious plebes, who want to pretend that they have a corner office. The dash is artfully sculpted, like a loft-kitchen installation in Modern living. They had the good sense to use a decent amount of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. And there’s several two-tone interior themes. Martha Stewart would be so proud.

Some of the switchgear, and hard plastic panels betray the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ‘s price point. But the interior’s visual feast will sufficiently distract you. Which is a good thing, because you can’t see the exterior from inside of the car.

The outside of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid looks like a rejected fish character from Finding Nemo. In higher trims, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid presents like an expensive car from the side. But that optimistic “humph!” quickly turns to an “Oh my God!” when you walk around the front. Hyundai’s ‘fluidic’ design language doesn’t translate well, when you festoon it with a bunch of aerodynamic garb.

Under the hood, you get Hyundai-Kia’s very adequate hybrid system, complete with a specially designed 6-speed automatic transmission. Nearly every other hybrid on the market uses a gearless CVT transmission, which makes the hybrid driving experience feel a bit, like, eating oatmeal, sans the brown sugar & cinnamon. Hyundai’s 6-speed gearbox however, lends a bit of familiarity to your high-fiber drive. Making the whole “hybrid thing” a little easier to swallow.

Power comes from a 2.4 liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine, mated to an electric motor, and a polymer gel battery pack (these batteries are 25% lighter, and 40% smaller than typical hybrid batteries). This combination creates a total of 206-hp, while returning 35 city / 40 hwy / 37 combined. It also allows the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid to travel up to 74 mph, on electricity also.

2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

Around the same time that Hyundai started to make their cars all fluid-y, Kia famously hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, to create a new corporate face for the anonymous car brand. He penned the now familiar ‘tiger nose’ front grille, and the cars that wear it, are usually quite athletic looking.

Kia Optima

And the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is no exception. Even in hybrid trim, the Optima’s sporty lines hide the fact you’re driving a high-fiber family car, capable of 35 city / 40 hwy / 37 combined. You can even get chrome trim package, and a sporty two-toned interior, making the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid a very acceptable hybrid package.

The interior’s pretty nice too. Schreyer gave it a racy cockpit-style dash, where all of the controls are canted toward the driver. The materials feel appropriately upscale, and the optional twin-pane panoramic roof makes you feel like you’re in a sport sedan, not a hybrid. Sure, the (somewhat) jerky nature of the hybrid system will remind you that the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is a card-carrying member of Greenpeace. But this car is so easy to live with, you simply won’t care.

The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid certainly isn’t like any other hybrid on the market, but it’s still got another card left to play. You see, Hyundai-Kia is so confident in their hybrid system, they’re giving them a lifetime warranty. That’s right, all of the components in the hybrid system are covered by a lifetime warranty. Even the batteries. And that same warranty applies to the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid too.

So if you want a drizzle of modernista style, with your high-fiber ride, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is for you. However, with the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid, you can get the same fiber content, in Sport Flavor.

Hurry up and make your decision, school starts in 30.