by Bill P. and Daryl Payne
The refreshed Kia Optima is the family sedan that lets the parents and the teens rip the road. Adding mod-like features like a chrome moulding, a mesh grille and a special sporty black bumper wing gives the Optima flex on the same level as its cousin the Stinger.
Its cabin is spacious and tech advanced with Euro-styled two-tone leather and satin chrome for the top trims. Advanced driver assistance features like the Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Warning are just some of the standard technology offered with every trim of the 2019 Kia Optima.
The 2019 Kia Optima is offered in four trims starting with the Optima LX (MSRP $23k), the Optima S ($MSRP $24k,) Optima EX (MSRP $26k,) and the Kia Optima SX (MSRP $31k.) The Optima LX and the EX feature a 2.4 liter DI 4 cylinder engine matched with a 6 speed automatic transmission. While the Optima EX boasts a 1.6 liter GDI 6 cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
We reviewed the new Optima SX Turbo with a thrilling 2.0 liter T-GDI 4 cylinder matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The new Optima Turbo packs a punch with a remarkable 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the sportier Stinger, the Optima is still a spacious 5-passenger family whip that can fit a family an array of ages. With a 110 inch wheelbase the Optima offers 45 inches of front legroom and 35 inches of rear legroom.
Subtle Athletic Style Perfect for Adventure
The new Optima could be seen as a typical sedan from Kia at first glance. But after taking in the 360-degree view it’s clear that the whip has a more unique style than similarly-priced sedans from Mazda and Honda.
The Kia Optima SX boasts standard 18 inch gloss black alloy wheels with a machine finish, plus LED headlights, daytime running lights and LED combination tail lights in addition to standard LED front fog lights.
Designers elevated the Optima’s design with a gloss black honeycomb grille, sport front bumper, chrome “turbo” finish garnish, gloss black B/C pillars and gloss black side sill moulding. The Optima SX also has standard dual exhaust chrome tips, red brake calipers, chrome “Turbo” fender garnish and chrome accented outside door handles.
The side profile of the 2019 Kia Optima is sexy day or night with muscle lines on the hood, a sleek character line that runs from the lower end of the front windows through to the trunk, a lower beltline crease and big plastic slats on the sides of the fascia adding more dynamism.
Inside the Optima is combination of spacious and sporty with euro chic and simple. The Optima SX offers standard black sport leather seats with red stitching on the leather shifter and D-shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel. A 12-way power drivers’ seat is standard with 4-way lumbar support, and passengers have a 10-way power seat with lumbar support. Heated and ventilated front seats are standard on the Optima SX along with optional heated rear 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
Push button start and a smart trunk are standard on the Optima SX. Nappa leather seat trim, Aubergine Nappa leather and a special black and bronze Nappa leather seating configuration are optional. The ergonomically perfect D-shaped steering wheel has an SX emblem. LED illumination is throughout the interior. And ambient lighting can be customizable to red, green, blue or white.
There are several accents offered in the Optima variants like standard satin chrome, metal and gloss black for the Optima SX and standard wood grain in the center console for the Optima EX.
Daryl loved the tight sporty seats – comfy and snug for a thrill-ride. Smooth paddle shifters, nestled behind the heated steering wheel allow for ease with manual mode. Daryl also loves the panoramic sunroof and simplistic dash with a combination of plastic and aluminum trim.
Drivers of the Optima LX, S, and EX have a 3.5 inch Mono TFT LCD display. And the SX we reviewed has a 4.3 inch color TFT display. The TFT digital display is simplistic but houses a lot of settings for comfort and convenience features and safety technology like the Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist and Lane Keep Assist.
The center stack of the 2019 Optima SX has easy to use buttons for climate and audio, plus descent storage with a drawer, cup holders and a medium sized center console. Rear passengers have LED room lamps and the overhead LED reading lamps illuminate the front very well. A cool LED pin lamp gives the interior soft illumination with all the lighting off.
Infotainment in the 2019 Optima SX is accessible via an 8 inch color TFT touchscreen. Along with Bluetooth, the Optima SX has a standard auxiliary and two rapid charge USB ports with an additional USB and power outlet in the rear.
The center touchscreen not only offers a detailed 360-degree view cam and rearview parking camera, but also has a detailed navigation display with UVO. Sirius XM Satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all standard on the Optima LX, EX and SX with the UVO telematics system that also includes vehicle diagnostics, maintenance alerts, vehicle alarm notifications, remote controls, geo-fencing and speed alerts for the teens.
A 6-speaker audio system is standard on all models and a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon Sound System is standard on the Optima EX that includes a subwoofer and external amplifier.
Thrilling Performance for the Parents – Abundant Standard Safety Tech for the Kids
Perhaps the other engine variants aren’t as sporty, but the 2.0 liter turbo 4-cylinder featured in the Optima SX has a lot of spunk. Especially matched with the 6 speed automatic transmission with H-Matic and the sport-tuned suspension, the powertrain and drivetrain offers thrilling high speeds and a tranquil cruise.
The Optima SX has an excellent pickup – smooth and aggressive. Though acceleration isn’t sports car-like, it feels clean and smooth thanks to direct injection. In fact, driving the Optima SX makes drivers want to go faster. And at every speed, the Optima SX is poised and planted.
Steering, suspension and torque can be fine-tuned to Eco, Sport, Smart and Comfort modes with the Drive Mode Selector located in the center stack. In comfort mode passengers will have well-balanced ride and not feel any bumps. Smart mode saves fuel and battery power. Eco mode controls the engine and transaxle system to enhance fuel efficiency, but still has great acceleration.
All the Optima trims have impressive fuel economy, but the EX boast the highest with a 31 mpg combined. The Optima SX offers a 24 mpg combined fuel economy (21 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway).
Also impressive is the .27 coefficient drag enhanced by aerodynamic flair and a refined powertrain.
Throwing the Optima SX in sport mode will delay upshifts and hold RPMs higher. Also, throttle response is instant in sport mode. Drivers really feel the exciting get-up. Suspension is tightened and accelerations is quick.
Sport tuned suspension is exclusive to the Optima SX but all models features high performance damper shock absorbers that give it sports car resilience. MacPherson strut front suspension and rear independent multilink suspension is lux car level. And the Optima SX also has an awesome turn ratio, so parking and cornering is a breeze even above 15 mph!
Rack and pinion column-mounted motor driven power steering is fluid and responsive. Straight-line precision is so on-point that it almost feels like the Optima SX is launching into auto pilot.
The same hydraulic vacuum power assisted disc brakes are fitted on all Optima models and when pressed feel like I’m stopping a big truck on a dime. Auto Hold is another fave.
One of the best parts of the affordable Optima is the efficiency and the abundant standard safety features on every model. Lane Keep Assist is awesome, as it gently applies corrective steering to push the Optima back in its lane, and Forward Collision Avoidance Assist will sound a warning and brake the Optima SX if approaching an impending collision.
Lane Change Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Driver Attention Warning, and Blind Spot Collision Warning are all standard on all Optima models.