2018 Optima New Car Test Drive
When it was redesigned for 2011, Kia's midsize Optima established a trend toward sedans that stand out in styling, unlike the often-dowdy four-doors of the past. Reworked again for 2016, the Eurostyled Optima enhanced that perception.
Little has changed for the 2018 model year, except for adding a sportier-looking Optima S trim level, at a particularly tempting price. In addition, several valuable active-safety features are now standard or available for more models. All Optimas now have blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus rear parking assistance. A rearview camera also is standard.
Base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with direct injection, standard in LX, EX, and new S trim levels. Developing 185-horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, it works with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Optional on the LX is a more fuel-efficient 1.6-liter turbo, rated at 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, mating with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. In Optima SX trim, a 2.0-liter turbo produces 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, driving a 6-speed automatic.
In the Optima Hybrid, a 154-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is coupled to an electric motor and 1.62-kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, achieving a combined fuel-economy estimate of 42 mpg. Total output from the Hybrid powertrain is 192 horsepower. The Hybrid can travel short distances, at low speed, on battery power alone.
The Plug-in Hybrid, which can be recharged at an electrical outlet, couples the same 2.0-liter engine to a stronger (9.8-kWh) battery and electric motor. Combined output, at 202 horsepower, is slightly higher than the regular Hybrid. Weighing about 250 pounds more than the Optima Hybrid, the Plug-in can travel up to 27 miles on battery power alone. It's EPA-rated at 103 MPGe (equivalent), or 40 mpg Combined when running on gasoline.
All Optimas have front-wheel drive. Each promises comfort and satisfying ride/handling qualities, though none qualify as sporty in nature. The new Optima S looks a bit more sporty, with its own front bumper, decklid spoiler, and 17-inch wheels.
In addition to greater availability of advanced safety features, led by automatic emergency braking, Optima has earned top crash-test ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2017 Optima a Top Safety Pick+, after it earned top Good scores on every crash test, and also for headlights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Optima a five-star rating overall, and in each crash-test conducted.
LX 2.4 ($22,500) comes with the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic, cloth upholstery, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, 16-inch wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.
LX 1.6T ($24,300) substitutes the 1.6-liter turbo engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
S 2.4 ($23,500) gets the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic, adding cloth/leather upholstery, 17-inch wheels, unique rear spoiler, and 10-way power driver's seat. Options include a panoramic sunroof.
EX 2.4 ($25,600) adds leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, pushbutton start, and woodgrain trim. Active-safety features are optional.
SX 2.0T ($30,500) moves up to the 2.0-liter turbo, 18-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, ventilated power front seats, dual chrome exhaust tips, glossy black trim, foglamps, and LED headlights.
Hybrid Premium ($25,995) includes cloth seat upholstery, remote keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
Hybrid EX ($30,990) adds 17-inch wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio, leather seat trim, power driver's seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, and power-folding mirrors.
Plug-in Hybrid EX ($35,210) is equipped similar to Hybrid EX.
Active-safety features come in an optional Technology Package.