Guide to Green Cars > The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide > Kia

2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Kia

2012 model year highlights from Kia: the Forte, Optima Hybrid, Rio and Soul. 


Compiled by Megan E. Phelps, John Rockhold,
Hannah Kincaid, Emily Glover,
Bradley Berman and Zach McDonald

See "What the Numbers Mean" in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012 for a full description of the metrics we collected for each model.

Kia Forte

Gasoline, Coupe, Compact or Hatchback 

Kia-FortePrice Range: $16,000 – $19,900
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 26/36/29
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,950
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 46/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (sedans); 4-star NHTSA rating
Space: 96.8 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: 2010, 2011

Good to Know: 

  • The Forte is available as a coupe, sedan or five-door hatchback — one of the few small and efficient cars with all of these choices. The coupe is slightly sportier, but not quite as fuel efficient.
  • The Forte comes with the option of a 2.0-liter, 156-horsepower engine, or if you’re willing to lose 3 mpg, a 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower power plant. Neither one scores high for driving fun.
  • The “Eco” trim — mostly low-resistance tires and a display on the dash — boosts fuel economy by about 1 mpg.
  • In 2009 in Korea, Kia released a hybrid version of the Forte that runs on electricity and liquefied petroleum gas (basically propane). There are currently no plans to bring that model to the United States.

What the Press Says: 

  • “Underestimate the Forte at your own peril. This scrappy Kia comes with a long list of standard amenities, a spacious cabin and trunk, and a sporty feel.” — Car and Driver 
  • “Amid the growing crowd of compacts, this affordable Kia holds its own. We consider the Forte a legitimate alternative to traditional segment leaders due to its eye-catching style, competitive feature content and good value. Should you be interested in a fun little car at a low price, the Forte is worth a look.” — 
  • “What the Forte has is personality — something generally lacking from much of its compact competition.” — Automobile 
  • “The Forte is a competitive small car but lacks refinement. Handling is responsive, but the ride is stiff.” — Consumer Reports 

Kia Optima Hybrid

Hybrid, Sedan 

Kia-Optima-HybridBase Price: $26,500
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 35/40/37
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,500
Air Pollution Score: 8
Greenhouse Gas Score: 8
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 47/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (4-door versions); 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 102.17 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4.5
Similar Used: 2011

Good to Know: 

  • In 2011, the Optima Hybrid was launched as Kia’s first hybrid in the United States.
  • For 2012, the base price of the car was lowered by $800.
  • In the first two months of 2012, the Optima Hybrid beat sales of Honda’s Insight and Civic Hybrid.
  • An optional $5,000 Hybrid Premium and Technology Package includes a panoramic sunroof, leather interior, heated and cooled front seats, and heated back seats.
  • The Kia Optima Hybrid borrows its platform and powertrain from the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Fuel economy, performance and pricing for the two vehicles are virtually identical. The choice between the two is mostly about styling.
  • The Optima’s small lithium-polymer battery pack and 30-kilowatt electric motor allow for all-electric driving up to 15 mph. In the real world, you have to apply Fred Astaire action to keep the engine off.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The Optima Hybrid earned a five-star overall crash test score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also earned a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that agency’s highest honor. Very few cars on the market currently hold both designations.” — 
  • “The Kia’s biggest trump card is arguably its pricing — the Optima Hybrid is feature-rich and wallet-light compared to the rest of the competition.” — Autoblog 

Kia Rio

Gasoline, Compact or Hatchback 

Kia-RioPrice Range: $14,200 – $18,300
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 30/40/33
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,700
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 8
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 50/Above Average
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: 88.4 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • With a $14,200 base-level trim capable of 40 mpg on the highway, the Rio is one of the least expensive fuel-efficient cars on the market.
  • The Rio was redesigned for 2012. Kia updated its look and added a more powerful, fuel-efficient, 4-cylinder engine, better materials and more standard features — however, this car is still regarded as an econobox.
  • The Rio’s new 1.6-liter, 138-horsepower engine is more powerful than its predecessor, but still not sporty.
  • The new Rio still feels a bit cheap — expected at its price — but now offers more high-tech bells and whistles.
  • Kia says city mileage increases by 1 mpg with its optional idle-stop system — one of the first idle-stop options in a non-hybrid in the United States.

What the Press Says:  

  • “The Kia Rio stands out thanks to its distinctive styling and design. The interior quality is a cut above other cars in its class, particularly in the upper trim levels. On the road, the Rio’s engine provides respectable acceleration and excellent fuel economy.” — 
  • “There are typical compact downsides here, such as engine noise, hard seats and a rough ride on choppy roads. However, the Rio has a spacious, cool-looking cabin and a roomy cargo area. It also provides a lot of value, starting at just over $14,000.” — Motor Trend 
  • “The new 2012 Rio is an impressive econobox, one that shines against its competitors. Kia, once again, gives more.” — Road & Track 

Kia Soul

Gasoline, Compact Hatchback 

Kia-SoulPrice Range: $14,700 – $20,400
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 27/35/30
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,750
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 46/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 4-star NHTSA rating
Space: 102.3 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: 2010, 2011

Good to Know: 

  • Refreshed for 2012, the Soul’s new 4-cylinder, 1.6-liter engine has significantly more power and better fuel economy than its predecessor.
  • The Soul shares its powertrain with the Kia Rio and Hyundai Elantra, but loses 10 percent of their fuel economy — mostly because of its boxy, less aerodynamic shape.
  • The efficiency trade-off makes way for a more fun, urban-oriented body style. It stacks up well against other hip, boxy designs, such as the Nissan Cube and Scion xB.
  • Winner of a Kelley Blue Book Total Cost of Ownership Award for a “real-world bottom line” that’s the best in its class.

What the Press Says: 

  • “With funky good looks and a decent driving experience to back up its appearance, the Soul is our favorite boxy economy car.” — Car and Driver 
  • “The tall Kia Soul packs a lot of room into a small, inexpensive car. It has very easy access, abundant headroom, and a surprisingly spacious rear seat.” — Consumer Reports 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “I feel safe in the Soul,” says Daneva Ane Coker of Topeka, Kan. “It is spacious, and not only do I sit up high, but the rear lights are high and easy to see. I just love everything about my Soul.”
  • Other Soul drivers told us they liked the ground clearance and storage space of their vehicles, and that the vehicle gets a lot of attention, with strangers wanting to come over to take a closer look at it.

More 2012 green cars: Find details about many more green cars from other automakers in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012.

Photos from Kia 

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