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2019 Kia Optima

$22,990 - $31,990
Price Range (MSRP)
Kia Optima

2019 Kia Optima Review: More Style And More Substance

by Ian Wright

Kia's mid-size sedan has been a long-time solid offering for the Korean automaker. The Optima has always suffered from looking a little bland when put up against its competitors though, but the 2019 model year gets a drastic mid-cycle refresh that makes things more interesting. And in the SX Turbo trim we tested we appreciated the slightly understated but fresh edge of its overall look.

The Optima has always been a value proposition, and the change for 2019 is an improvement in standard driver assistance technology added to its already long feature list. This is an important refresh for Kia as the customer base for sedans is shrinking while at the same time Honda and Toyota have both been aggressively improving their mid-size offerings.

2019 Kia Optima Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 Optima?

The Kia Optima, now in its fourth generation, has been around since 2000 and has seen a number of updates during that period. For 2019, Kia has changed things up once more with a restyled exterior that now sports new wheel designs, trim pieces, restyled headlights and a new color option called Passion Red. Driver assistance technology such as blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist are now standard features, and the infotainment system has been revised and made standard to offer a more user-friendly experience.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:
  • Long list of standard features
  • Standard driver assistance technology
  • Improved infotainment system
  • Spacious and stylish interior
  • Excellent ride comfort
  • Cons:
  • Limited rear headroom
  • Rear visibility compromised by exterior styling
  • Not as dynamically talented as rivals
  • Engines are a little underwhelming
  • Low quality interior plastics

Optima Exterior

The updated Kia Optima features a plethora of exterior updates that keep it looking fresh for 2019. Standard updates for all Optima models include LED daytime running lights, a revised grille, and newly designed alloy wheels. Higher up in the range, the S model gets a set of fog lamps, a sporty dual exhaust setup, LED tail lights, gloss black exterior trimmings, and 18-inch wheels. The base model offers an impressive amount of exterior luxuries that will be difficult to match at its price point. The new additions are welcomed, seeing as the Optima, as with the rest of Kia's sedan lineup, tend to blend into the crowd due to its middle-of-the-road styling that is as forgettable as it is inoffensive.

2019 Kia Optima Front Angle View via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Side View via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Rear Angle View via Kia
See All 2019 Kia Optima Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Kia Optima slots into the midsize sedan class, and is comparable in size to class leaders such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Optima measures 191.1 inches in length, and it's 57.7 inches tall; slightly shorter and taller than the Accord, but both share the same maximum width. The Optima rolls on a 110.4-inch wheelbase which explains the long overhangs, especially in the rear. For a midsize sedan, the Optima is a relative featherweight, albeit not the lightest car in its class: the Kia Optima has a curb weight of 3,230 pounds, 99 pounds heavier than the Honda.

Exterior Colors

There are nine colors to choose from in the 2019 range, with one confirmed as a late addition to the palette. Kia has put a lot of thought into the range of colors on offer; the color palette is curated to suit the understated styling of the Optima, which will fly way below police radars, but can still look good depending on the trim you choose. Three colors are available across the range - Snow White, Ebony Black, and Horizon Blue - while Sparkling Silver, Platinum Graphite, Sangria, and the late addition of Gravity Gray are added to the palette for LX and EX models. The EX also gets Titanium Silver, while the S receives the new for 2019 Passion Red. Snow White Pearl and Passion Red both carry a premium of $495.

  • Snow White Pearl
  • Passion Red
  • Ebony Black
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Horizon Blue
  • Platinum Graphite
  • Gravity Grey, Late Availability
  • Platinum Graphite, Build Out: 12/31/2018
  • Sangria
  • Platinum Graphite, Build Out: 12/31/2018.
  • Titanium Silver, Build Out: 12/31/2018.

Optima Performance

Three different engine options offer three different personalities and will open up the Optima to a broader audience, but the 2019 Optima does not pretend to be a high-performance sedan that mingles with the likes of the BMW M cars or Merc AMGs. Instead of high outputs, the Optima offers sensible performance from a range of naturally aspirated and small capacity turbo engines. The Optima SX is the quickest of the bunch and is able to sprint from zero to sixty in 6.7 seconds, almost half a second quicker than its suit and tie sibling the Hyundai Sonata, despite the Sonata making use of a more efficient transmission. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 245hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot and turbocharged 1.6-liter four is also available. Performance can be described as brisk for the larger turbocharged unit, and adequate for the 1.6 and 2.4-liter power plants.

2019 Kia Optima Front Bumper via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Rim via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Taillights via Kia

Engine and Transmission

Kia equips the Optima with a choice of three engines depending on your chosen trim. Base LX and S models are powered by a naturally aspirated direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. The only naturally aspirated engine in the range is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Mid-range EX cars get a taste of turbo power in the form of a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 178 hp and 195 lb-ft and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The most powerful engine in the range is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers a respectable 245 hp and 260 lb-ft in the SX. Power is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 7-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is a solid standard lump under the hood, but to get something that reacts well to inputs and has a little pep in its step, you want the mid-range 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to get your hustle on. The more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter in our SX Turbo test vehicle proved to be refined and satisfying to drive but doesn't have the snappy power some of the competition has to offer.

Out on the road, the benefit of a well thought out and tested suspension keeps everything comfortable, even over more challenging California washboard like roads. That makes the Optima a great ride for the freeway warrior as the engine matched to the ride makes it easy to chew up the miles. For the backroad warrior, things stay composed up to a point, but that point comes earlier than the competition.

Optima Gas Mileage

With three engine options, the Kia Optima's gas mileage figures are naturally going to vary. The base engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, delivers EPA rated figures of 24/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined, which is quite impressive for a large capacity naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The 1.6-liter turbo engine found in the EX model is the most fuel-efficient engine in the range, delivering EPA rated figures of 27/37/31 mpg. Its broad torque curve and small capacity go hand in hand to deliver above-average numbers. The most powerful engine in the lineup, the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, is the heaviest drinker of the bunch, managing to return 21/30/24 mpg.

While the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is indeed the heaviest drinker, its consistent and came in remarkably close through the week to the EPA estimates. We got 22.9 combined with a bias towards city driving.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 24/33 mpg
* 2019 Kia Optima LX Automatic

Optima Interior

There is no denying the fact that the Optima's interior is a nice place to be in, despite its rather straightforward design mirroring the exterior design in the way that it looks like a culmination of German and Japanese designs. One thing is for sure; the extensive list of standard interior features goes a long way to making the Kia feel worth more than its asking price. Standard features on the base model include cloth seats with anti-stain treatment, a powered six-way adjustable passenger seat and ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, and a power panoramic sunroof. Higher up in the range, features such as heated and ventilated seats, Nappa leather, heated steering wheels and push start to become available. Seating for five is generous, but not quite on the same level as the class-leading duo of the Accord and Camry.

2019 Kia Optima Steering Wheel via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Driver Seat via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Central Console via Kia
See All 2019 Kia Optima Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

One thing that's missing inside compared to the older version of the Optima is the dash being angled towards the driver, but comfort and space remain agreeably consistent in the front of the cabin. However, the new styling leaves passengers with less headroom than is ideal but it's hard to complain when it comes to legroom and room for taking a fifth passenger onboard.

Storage in the cabin is the Optima's secret weapon, and there's no excuse to have anything rolling around or left on the passenger seat.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

While the cabin is a nice place to be, it doesn't take long to start noticing the cheap black plastic across the dashboard and inside the doors. It's easy to imagine as you sit there that an upgrade in plastics would bring the interior up from being remarkably good to excellent. Our tester came with the SX Red Color Package that includes effective looking two-tone red and black seats. We liked them a lot, but the good quality of materials reminded us how nasty some of the plastic in the cabin is.

Optima Trunk and Cargo Space

Trunk space is an important factor for many when it comes to purchasing a midsize sedan, and in this regard, the Optima fairs relatively well. Total trunk space measures 15.9 cubic feet, but in reality, it seems much larger due to a low liftover height and a wide opening trunk. In comparison, the two Japanese titans of the mid-size sedan market, the Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry fall on both ends in terms of trunk space. The Toyota Camry, a poster child for practical everyday motoring only manages 14.1 cubic feet of trunk space, while the Accord beats the Optima with 16.7 cubic feet of space.

Storing small items inside the Optima is a pleasure; generously proportioned door pockets in the front are accessed with ease and feature bottle holders. The center armrest hides a deep storage bin that can easily hold most of your daily walk-around items. A square storage compartment in front of the cupholders is perfect for keeping your house keys or phone.

2019 Kia Optima Rear View via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Badge via Kia
2019 Kia Optima Trunk Space via Kia
  • Trunk Volume
    15.9 ft³

Optima Infotainment and Features

Features

Kia is known for offering a lot of features for not a lot of money and this strategy helped them to slowly win over brand-loyal buyers across the globe. The Optima employs this strategy with great success, as even the base model impresses with its standard forward collision warning, LED interior lighting and an extensive list of active safety technology such as blind-spot monitoring and lane change assistance. Front power seats are standard-issue across the range on all but the base model, while higher-spec models see the addition of heating and ventilation. LED daytime running lights and LED taillights can be found on every model. The S model adds rear LED lamps, smart key access, and 18-inch alloys, as well as sport black cloth seats and SiriusXM satellite radio. Higher up in the range, heated leather seats, smart cruise control, LED headlights, and a Harman Kardon sound system become standard equipment.

Infotainment

Despite not having a flashy looking screen or funky icons, Kia truly has its head in the game when it comes to an easy to use infotainment system. There's remarkably little guesswork needed if you don't read manuals as running through the menus is intuitive. That's when you do run through the menus though, as the voice command system is both quick and accurate and even when dealing with a heavy accent. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard are always welcome and help to make the infotainment system just work as you want it.

There's no wireless hotspot at any trim level though, which seems like an oversight when you reach the top-level trim. The base model's no-name sound system is fine, but the Harman Kardon sound is a worthy addition on the EX and SX trims.

Optima Problems and Reliability

According to the folks at J.D. Power, the Kia Optima displays average levels of reliability and has suffered from only two major recalls in the last four years. The latest recall was issued for the 2019 model year in which a software error could cause the front collision avoidance system to not engage its automatic braking function when a stationary vehicle is identified. Kia clearly wants to reassure new buyers that they believe in their own cars by offering a class-leading warranty: the basic warranty covers Optima owners for five years or 60,000 miles. The Optima is covered against corrosion damage for five years or 100,000 miles while the drivetrain is covered for an incredible ten years or 100,000 miles. If something might happen on the side of the road, Kia includes a five year/60,000 mile roadside assistance plan.

Optima Safety

Possibly the most significant selling point of the Kia Optima has to be its superior levels of safety. The NHTSA gave the 2019 Optima a full five out of five stars, but more important is the Top Safety Pick Plus award it received from the IIHS that places the Optima firmly at the head of its class.

Key Safety Features

Kia has gone out of their way to include as many safety features as fiscally possible. Basic safety measures across the range include ABS, driver's side knee, dual front and front seat-mounted airbags, as well as side curtain airbags along with other industry standards such as electronic stability control and hill start assist. Where the Optima truly shines is in the active driver assistance tech department. The base model gets cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assistance, rear cross-traffic assistance, lane-keeping assistance, driver attention alert, forward collision warning, and automatic forward braking. These features are usually reserved as optional extras on most other cars, even at higher price points. EX and SX models also include pedestrian detection.

Verdict: Is the 2019 Kia Optima a good car?

While Kia has cranked the styling up another notch, and we appreciate that, its bark is bigger than its bite at higher trim levels. The SX Turbo model we were loaned didn't have the extra sausage the sizzle is selling, and that's a problem. Stepping down the trims, the Optima starts to make more sense as a value proposition as commuter and family sedan. The base engine is good enough, but the mid-level's 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine is in the sweet spot of being useable and fun to get around with.

Yet, there's always going to be the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry it has to live up to, and it's in useable cargo space and safety ratings that it does so. One of the joys of driving the Optima for the week was discovering decent trunk, but accessible with a low lift-over height. When it comes to a being a family vehicle, that's where the Kia has competitors beat. For that reason, we suggest shopping around before deciding to purchase.

What's the Price of the 2019 Kia Optima?

In base trim, the 2019 Kia goes for an MSRP of $22,990. Compared to the competition, the Optima offers excellent value for money while still managing to undercut cars like the Camry and Accord on price. The Kia Optima costs over $700 less than the base Accord, and over $1,000 less than the Toyota Camry. The next trim level in the Optima range, the Optima S goes for $24,990, the EX retails for $26,890, and the headlining SX will set you back $31,990. The SX, which offers more standard features than the Camry and Accord manages to undercut them by $3,000 and $4,000 respectively.

2019 Kia Optima Models

Buyers will be able to choose between four different trim levels: LX, S, EX, and SX. Except for the base model, each trim level builds on the one below it and culminates with the top-of-the-range SX. The base model goes by the name LX, after which you get the S and EX.

Outclassing the competition in terms of standard features, the Kia Optima LX offers true value for money with standard features such as forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and an eight-inch infotainment system, and is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.

The S adds fog lights, LED tail lights, a dual exhaust, push-button start, and sporty black cloth seats.

Stepping up to the EX means you get heated leather seats, smart cruise control and a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The range-topping SX features navigation, a premium Harman Kardon sound system, pedestrian detection, leather sport seats, and extra adjustability for the driver's seat and features the most powerful engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter producing 245 hp.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,990
S
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,990
EX
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$26,890
SX
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$31,990
See All 2019 Kia Optima Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With the usual range of accessories available for the Optima, Kia also sells several packages available for certain trims.

Starting with the base model, Kia offers a $2,000 LX Premium package which adds a panoramic sunroof, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED interior lighting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. For $3,100 the EX can be upgraded with an improved infotainment system, Harman Kardon sound, added seat adjustability, ventilation, and memory functionality as well as a heated steering wheel and LED interior lighting. The SX Limited package includes some truly premium features such as Nappa leather seat trim, Power-folding wing mirrors, tricot headliner and 18-inch dark satin wheels.

What Kia Optima Model Should I Buy?

For those wanting something sporty and practical, there are better cars available than the top trimmed Optima. Conversely, the bottom end is a little too basic and sparse in the cabin despite the driver assistance features. We have no problem recommending anyone looking around for a mid-size sedan looking closely at the S EX and the balance of features, comfort, and peppy engine.

Saying that, we would go ahead with the EX for the better engine and clench our teeth to get the EX Premium Package that includes the sound system upgrade along with vented seats and heated steering wheel.

Check out other Kia Optima Styles?

2019 Kia Optima Comparisons

2019 Kia Optima
2019 Kia Optima

2019 Kia Optima vs Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry has been the king of middle management car ownership for as long as anyone cares to remember, and for a good reason; it's a capable, comfortable and affordable midsize sedan that is easy to live with and will never break down. The 2019 Camry is powered by a 2.5-liter four-pot producing 205 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque in base form, but a 301 hp 3.5-liter V6 is also available. The Camry returns a respectable 26 to 34 mpg combined, depending on engine choice; the Kia's fuel tank, however, can store an extra four gallons of fuel. The Camry is a physically larger car, but the Kia offers more front legroom and a larger trunk but fails to beat the Camry's impressive 38 inches of rear-seat legroom. Both cars won the prestigious Top Safety Pick Plus award from the IIHS. Both do more or less the same thing, but the Kia does it for less money.

See Toyota Camry Review

2019 Kia Optima vs Honda Accord

Going from strength to strength has been the running theme of Honda's midsize sedan, and the 2019 Accord is better than ever: its range of turbo-only engines and sporty handling will appeal to younger executives and adults who need to cart the family around town but still enjoy a fun car. The 1.5-liter turbo engine in the LX, EX and Sport models kicks out a healthy 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque while the 2.0-liter engine manages 252 hp and 273 lb-ft. The Honda is available with a six-speed manual transmission, which underpins an exciting driving experience. Fuel consumption ranges between 33 and 26 mpg. The Accord and Optima are similarly sized from the outside, but the Accord boasts more internal space, particularly for the back-seat passengers. The trunk of the Accord is significantly larger, too. In terms of safety, the Optima provides higher levels of crash protection, although the Accord still managed to snag a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, missing out on the 'Plus' designation accorded to the Optima. If it's a mix of fun and practicality you're looking for, the Honda is the best option, despite its higher asking price.

See Honda Accord Review

Kia Optima Popular Comparisons

2019 Kia Optima Video Reviews