2018 Optima New Car Test Drive
European-style design, topped by a coupe-like roofline, gives Kia's midsize sedan a more distinctive appearance than most family sedans. Diverse powertrain possibilities boost its appeal.
Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the Optima shows little change for 2017, other than newly standard 18-inch wheels for SX and SXL trim levels. Option-package contents have been modified a bit.
Similar to the Hyundai Sonata (from Kia's parent company), the Optima is a capable family hauler that promises good value. Five trim levels are offered: LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX, and SXL. Optimas may be powered by any of three four-cylinder engine choices: a turbocharged 1.6-liter, turbo 2.0-liter, or naturally aspirated 2.4-liter.
Available in base LX or step-up EX trim, the direct-injected 2.4-liter develops 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission.
Optional for the LX, Kia's 1.6-liter turbo produces 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet, the latter at a mere 1,500 rpm. The 1.6-liter mates with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that operates like a regular automatic.
SX and SXL versions get the stronger 2.0-liter turbo, generating 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. The 6-speed automatic transmission includes paddle shifters. In each Optima, Drive Mode Select offers Sport, Normal, and Eco modes.
Kia also offers an Optima Hybrid and the company's first Plug-in Hybrid. Both hybrids use a 154-horsepower gasoline engine, coupled to an electric motor and lithium-polymer battery pack. Each mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Optimas have scored well in crash-testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Optima five stars for each test, including frontal and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a Good rating in each category, including the small-overlap test, naming Optima a Top Safety Pick. With active-safety features installed, the Optima nabbed a Superior rating for crash mitigation and avoidance.
An impressive collection of active-safety features is standard in top SXL trim, but those items cost quite a lot when purchased in option groups for lesser trim levels. All Optimas have a rearview camera. SX and SXL editions can get a surround-view camera. No spare tire is provided in LX models, but a tire mobility kit includes sealant and an inflator.
LX 2.4 ($22,200) includes the 6-speed automatic, a rearview camera, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth, and 16-inch alloy wheels. (Prices are MSRP do not include $895 destination charge.)
LX 1.6T ($24,140) gets the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, heated power-folding mirrors with turn-signal indicators, pushbutton start, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
EX 2.4 ($25,440) has the 6-speed automatic transmission, 2.4-liter engine, leather upholstery, power driver's seat, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lamps and taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, woodgrain trim, and UVO eServices.
SX 2.0T ($29,940) gets the 2.0-liter engine, 6-speed automatic, paddle shifters, LED headlights, navigation with 8-inch touchscreen, 18-inch wheels, and metal pedals.
SXL 2.0T ($36,090) comes with Nappa leather upholstery, a sunroof, ventilated power front seats, heated rear seats, and 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio,
Active-safety/driver-assistance features standard with SXL include blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera, and rear parking assist. Most items are available as options on other trim levels.
Hybrid Premium ($25,995) uses a gasoline/electric powertrain with 6-speed automatic. Standard are a 7-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, UVO eServices, 16-inch wheels, and cloth upholstery.
Hybrid EX ($30,990) adds navigation, Harman Kardon audio, leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, and 17-inch wheels.
Plug-in Hybrid EX ($35,210) has the gasoline/electric powertrain, but can be plugged into an electrical outlet for recharging.