The Kia Optima, with its sleek lines and low-slung athletic stance, has always been a head-turner. Toss in the optional 18-inch rims and it is a visual standout in a segment that features some of the heavy hitters for mid-size sedans such as Toyota Camry, Mazda6, and Hyundai Sonata.
The 2019 Optima has been updated with the introduction of an impressive 2.0T SX trim package, as well as adding even more driver-assistance features to an already-stellar standard list. On the outside, thankfully, Kia only applied a light touch with a few subtle tweaks to the styling, including an updated lower front grille and several cues taken from the award-winning Kia Stinger GT.
The 2019 Optima offers four distinct trims in their lineup: LX, S, EX, and SX. The standards featured on the base LX are especially worthy of note, with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime-running lights, and a 3.5-inch TFT instrument panel display. Other standard features on the LX include a USB port, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, Bluetooth, and an 8-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I tested the new 2.0T SX trim, which showcases the best of the best Kia has to offer with all the bells and whistles you could possibly check off on your order sheet at the dealership. It’s a definitive level of comfort features, and high-quality craftsmanship and a real attention to detail.
The Optima cabin is a spacious place for driver and passengers that allows very little road and engine noise in and feels much more expensive than the price would indicate. Inside styling is a straightforward, modern aesthetic, nothing too crazy or distracting.
It continues to offer a spacious interior, as well as a trunk area that provides 16 cubic feet of space. Interior room is better than both the Camry and Accord’s front head room by more than 2 inches, and besting their front leg room by more than 3 inches.
My top-end tester featured cozy accoutrements like heated and ventilated leather seats, a huge panoramic sunroof and a more-than-capable Harman Kardon premium audio system operated through an easy-to-use 8-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Optima can be had with three different engines, which allows you to create the exact model you need to stave off any hidden desires for more power.
The base engine featured in the LX and S trims is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that pushes out 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. The EX trim offers a 1.6-L turbo 4-cylinder with 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. A top-end SX powerplant features a 2.0-L turbo inline-4, elevating power to 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
With the 2.4-L and 2.0T engines, a 6-speed automatic transmission delivers power to the front wheels, while the 1.6T engine in the EX has a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which operates as an automatic, sending power to the front wheels. I found my tester to be a bit sluggish at times when I needed to accelerate from a dead stop, but overall it performed just fine. My Optima SX tester had a City/Hwy/Combined rating of 21/30/24.
Each trim level of the Optima comes with Drive Mode Select, which optimizes steering feel, throttle response, and shift mapping for different driving conditions. It has presets for Comfort, Eco, and Sport drive modes, while the EX and SX also gain a Smart mode that senses your driving style, and changes the drive mode accordingly.
The Optima is a very safe sedan and it offers an impressive amount of technology and equipment to protect occupants. Look for standard safety features such as front- and side-impact airbags, traction control, a reversing camera, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and parking sensors. It also comes standard with a host of driver-assistance features, including forward-collision avoidance assist, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and driver-attention warning.
Optional driver-assistance systems include low-beam assist, surround-view monitors, smart cruise control, and pedestrian detection.
My Optima SX Turbo tester landed at $32,395 (not including $920 for destination). This is a value buy in anyone’s book and given the overwhelming competition it’s one for the short list.
This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication