2018 Kia Optima

2018 Kia Optima Review

by Adam Lynton

The midsize sedan segment has become one of the toughest market segments to crack, especially with long-standing class leaders such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry now in their eighth and tenth generations respectively. Nevertheless, since the Kia Optima's first introduction to the market, it has been growing from strength to strength. Now, as it rides into 2018 as the third model year of the fourth Optima generation equipped with new standard safety features, advanced driver-assists, and contemporary styling, Kia has seemingly managed to catch up to those rivals as a competitive and compelling choice. Boasting three engine options, ranging from a 185 horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter in the lower-end trims, to a 245 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter in the sportier SX model, the Optima offers something for everyone. A six-speed automatic transmission directs outputs to the front-wheel-drivetrain by default for most models while a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic services the LX turbo.

2018 Kia Optima Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2017 Optima?

For 2018, all Optima models are outfitted with a seven-inch touchscreen UVO eServices system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, along with new driver-assists that include blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear parking assist system. The EX trim receives single projector headlights as standard, replacing its prior dual projector headlights, while the LX Turbo receives a small selection of new standard features. The LX receives an optional Convenience Package. A new trim option has been added to the lineup under the Optima S badge, which comes with an optional Panoramic Sunroof Package. The 2017 SX Limited trim has been dropped, with the Limited equipment available for the SX as a stand-alone options package.

Pros and Cons

  • Exceptional crash test safety ratings
  • Great selection of standard features
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Contemporary and practical cabin design
  • Great value for money
  • Unenthusiastic handling dynamics
  • Sloping roofline hinders rearward visibility
  • Optional 1.6 turbo engine lacks responsiveness

2018 Kia Optima Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
LX Turbo
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive

Optima Exterior

The Optima's typical three-box sedan design is reformed with Kia's styling elements including its signature Tiger Nose grille, courtesy of design chief Peter Schreyer. Standard projector headlights flank the grille on most trims with the top-tier SX receiving full LED exterior lighting. The sportier S and SX trims are outfitted with LED front fog lights, sport LED rear taillights, a Sport front bumper with bright chrome accent trim, and a body-color rear spoiler. While the LX and LX Turbo ride on 16-inch alloy wheels with varying finishes, the S and EX are given 17-inch alloy wheels instead. The top-tier SX gets 18-inch alloy wheels and further separates itself from the lineup with its unique side sills with gloss black accent trim, red brake calipers, dual chrome exhaust tips, chrome 'Turbo' fender garnish, and a standard-fit panoramic sunroof.

2018 Kia Optima Front View Kia
2018 Kia Optima Three Quarter Front Left Side View Kia
2018 Kia Optima Three Quarter Front Left Side View 1 Kia
See All 2018 Kia Optima Exterior Photos


The 2018 Kia Optima has a 110.4-inch wheelbase with an overall body length of 191.1 inches, which - along with its overall height of 57.7 inches and a coinciding width of 73.2 inches - give it typical proportions for the midsize sedan segment. While all trims ride with an identical ground clearance of 5.3 inches, curb weights differ based on powertrain setups, from 3,219 lbs in the LX as the lightest trim to 3,494 lbs in the SX. That makes the Optima approximately 100 lbs heavier than the Honda Accord, which comes across in the Accord's driving dynamics.

  • Length 191.1 in
  • Wheelbase 110.4 in
  • Height 57.7 in
  • Max Width 73.2 in
  • Front Width 63.5 in
  • Rear Width 63.8 in

Exterior Colors

For 2018, the exterior color palette consists of ten options with availability differing between trims. Horizon Blue, Ebony Black, and Snow White Pearl, the latter a $395 option, are available on all trims, while hues like Platinum Graphite, Titanium Silver, and Sangria are only available on the LX, EX, and SX models. Sparkling Silver is LX and EX-specific, while Remington Red is exclusive to the S and SX trims. Silky Silver and Aurora Black, the latter being a $395 option, are both only available on the LX trim. On the sportier S and SX models, Remington Red Metallic plays to the more brutish styling, while the more sedate models' sophisticated nature is better suited to more dignified options like Ebony Black Metallic.

  • Snow White Pearl
  • Aurora Black
  • Granite Brown, Build Out:01/31/2018
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Ebony Black
  • Horizon Blue
  • Platinum Graphite
  • Remington Red
  • Sangria
  • Titanium Silver
  • Silky Silver

Optima Performance

Though not very impressive amongst its peers, the Optima SX is the most performance-oriented trim with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot powering the standard front-wheel-drivetrain. With 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the SX accelerates from 0-60 mph in a class-average seven-seconds. From there, the SX will push on to its electronically limited top speed of 157 mph. The Optima's front-wheel-drive only system sets it back in terms of performance, while the Nissan Altima is the only rival alternative offering the option for an all-wheel-drive setup. With three engines on offer, performance in the Optima line-up varies, but less powerful trims all manage the obligatory 0-60 sprint in around eight seconds.

2018 Kia Optima Three Quarter Front Right Side View Kia
2018 Kia Optima Side View Kia
2018 Kia Optima Engine Kia

Engine and Transmission

The Optima LX, S, and EX trims are powered by a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission for peak outputs of 185 hp and 178 lb-ft. Though heavily underpowered compared to rival engine options, the 2.4-liter is peppy enough for acceleration from a traffic light or stop, and moves the mid-size sedan effectively throughout most casual driving conditions. Although not exactly rapid, the transmission delivers appreciably smooth and precise shifts, and the powertrain as a whole feels suited to the everyday drivability of the Optima without being overwhelmingly exceptional.

Powering the LX Turbo is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with outputs of 178 hp and 195 lb-ft driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, which is exclusive to this trim. There's a substantial amount of lag from this low-displacement, turbocharged setup, which combines with the jerkiness of the dual-clutch at low speeds to prove frustrating. Break through the lag, and the engine is punchy with plenty of power at hand, with flat-out acceleration aided by the speed at which the DCT effects shifts. In general driving, the DCT doesn't feel as natural as the six-speed and isn't nearly as smooth.

The SX's 2.0-liter turbo straight-four punts out 245 hp and 260 lb-ft but reverts to the six-speed auto from the base engine. Unfortunately, although powerful, the 2.0-liter exhibits prodigious amounts of turbo-lag, which hampers the available performance. Like the 1.6T, once you get past that there's an abundance of torque to get you up to speed, with highway overtaking effected quickly if you can pre-empt the lag and work around it. The transmission is smoother than the DCT but does little to minimize the effects of turbo-lag.

  • 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

Handling and Driving Impressions

Though the exterior boasts a sportier appeal than before, the Optima ranks pretty low on the fun-to-drive scale with the Accord and Camry offering far more enjoyable drive capabilities and handling dynamics all-round. Nevertheless, the Optima handles capably, provided you don't expect sport-sedan levels of engagement. The steering is accurately responsive to inputs and easy to predict, however, it's not very communicative. That is a common thread for electronically power-assisted steering setups on non-performance vehicles, though.

Corners are met with surprising prowess in the Optima, the chassis remaining comfortably composed - but there's a fair amount of body-roll thanks to the default suspension's softer inclination. The Optima impresses more in terms of comfort than outright dynamism, even with the sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels on the SX. Most road imperfections and small undulations are handled with poise, and while larger ones do cause some jostling, the extent to which they reach the cabin is within an acceptable range. The brakes can be overly grabby at times but the pedal weight and responses are calibrated suitably for daily drivability.

Optima Gas Mileage

The combination of the 1.6T engine and quick-shifting seven-speed DCT return the most frugal EPA economy estimates for the Optima line-up, returning 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined. The base 2.4-liter and six-speed automatic fare slightly worse at 25/36/29 mpg in the LX, while the added weight of the S and EX bring those figures down slightly to 24/34/28 mpg. The turbocharged 2.0-liter is more of a gas guzzler which, paired with the six-speed auto, achieves 22/31/25 mpg on the EPA drive cycles. The Optima LX Turbo, as the most economical trim, offers a maximum cruising range of around 573-miles before requiring a refill of its 18.5-gallon gas tank.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 25/36 mpg
* 2018 Kia Optima LX Automatic

Optima Interior

The overall build quality of the Optima elicits an impression of refinement. Panel gaps are even, fixtures firmly installed, and there are no unwanted in-cabin noises when driving over rough pavement. Although made up of a mix of hard-touch plastics and soft-touch materials, the elements are sturdy and attractively dressed, giving the cabin a modern and comfortable atmosphere. The seating and general in-cabin layout are ergonomic and all controls and buttons are in easy reach of the driver. Room throughout the cabin is ample for passengers of all heights and sizes; only the headroom in the rear seats is somewhat limited because of the sloping rear roofline. The seats are otherwise suitably spacious and comfortable and can be happily occupied for hours.

2018 Kia Optima Infotainment System Kia
2018 Kia Optima Steering Wheel Kia
2018 Kia Optima Infotainment System 1 Kia
See All 2018 Kia Optima Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The four-door Kia Optima sedan seats up to five occupants in relative comfort. The front seats in all trims are comfortable, spacious, and supportive. Levels of seating adjustability increase with each trim line along with comfort and convenience features, such as heating in the EX which is then coupled with ventilation in the SX. While the majority of the trims feature mid-quality sport cloth upholstery, high-quality leather upholstery comes standard in the EX and SX as well. While head and legroom is ample upfront, only the legroom is appreciable in the rear as the sloping roofline marginally cuts into the headspace. The Optima's tall-narrow doors make ingress and egress effortless, which is especially noteworthy in tight parking spots. The steering column and driver's seat offer a good range of adjustability and the four-way lumbar support is an appealing addition. Other than limited rearward visibility, sight-lines throughout the rest of the cabin are clear.

  • Seating capacity
  • Front Leg Room 45.5 in
  • Front Head Room 39.8 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.6 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.8 in

Interior Colors and Materials

A premium exterior design is paired with premium-feel upholstery across the Optima range. Although cloth seating is standard on the LX with beige and black color options, the S gets black cloth with leatherette accents to add a sporty flavor. The EX receives perforated leather upholstery in either beige, gray, or black, while the SX gets standard black leather with red contrast stitching. The SX also gets the option of Nappa leather in either ivory, black, or aubergine via the SX Limited Package. While the LX, S, and LX Turbo receive silver metallic cabin cues, the EX and SX feature satin chrome interior accents along with wood grain center console and window switch panel trim in the EX and gloss black center console trim with a hairline metallic window switch panel in the SX. All but the LX feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Optima Trunk and Cargo Space

Trunk and cargo capacity in the Optima is about standard for the segment with 15.9 cubic feet of usable space. The wheel wells are minimally intrusive, allowing for two large suitcases to be easily accommodated on your way to the airport. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split for the storage of larger cargo items.

There is a wide array of storage solutions found throughout the Optima's cabin, including wide door pockets with bottle holders on all four doors, along with a small tray below each door handle. In the front, you will find an overhead sunglasses holder, a decently sized glovebox, and a center console with dual cupholders, a small storage box, and a moderately sized concealed front tray. The center rear seat folds down to reveal dual cupholders.

2018 Kia Optima Seat Padding Closeup Kia
2018 Kia Optima Three Quarter Rear Left Side View Kia
2018 Kia Optima Right Side View Kia
  • Trunk Volume
    15.9 ft³

Optima Infotainment and Features


All trims are outfitted with a tilt/telescoping steering column and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. While the LX has six-way manually-adjustable front seats, the S, LX Turbo, and SX get a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, which upgrades to twelve-ways for the EX. The EX also features heated front seats as standard, while the SX adds ventilation. All but the base LX trim feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-shift knob. The LX, S, and LX Turbo are accorded standard air conditioning which upgrades to dual-zone automatic climate control with the EX and SX, both of which also receive a keyless entry and ignition system, as well as a hands-free unlocking trunk as standard. The SX can be further upgraded with a heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seat cushions. Standard active driver aids across the lineup include a rear park assist system, rearview camera, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, hill-start assist, and cruise control. The EX Turbo and SX trims can be equipped further with the optional autonomous emergency braking system, front collision warning system, lane departure warning system, and advanced smart cruise control.


Delivering infotainment as standard in all trims is a UVO3 seven-inch touchscreen with AM/FM/MP3/Satellite Radio capability tethered to a six-speaker audio system. Standard functionality includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth wireless technology. All trims feature steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. The media hub comprises an auxiliary and USB audio input jack while the EX and SX receive a rear 12V power outlet and two rapid-charge USB ports. An eight-inch color touchscreen navigation system with real-time SiriusXM Traffic and HD Radio, as well as a ten-speaker Harman Kardon QuantumLogic premium surround-sound audio system with subwoofer and amplifier, are optional for the EX and SX trims.

Optima Problems and Reliability

So far there have been no major recalls announced for the 2018 year model of the Kia Optima sedan. There have, however, been numerous driver complaints pertaining to a number of issues varying in severity from early failing transmissions, to failing brake calipers. J.D. Power gave the 2018 Kia Optima an average predicted reliability rating of three out of five stars. The Optima comes with an industry-leading, five-year/60,000-mile basic limited warranty and new vehicle ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty program.


  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Optima Safety

From the NHTSA, the 2018 Kia Optima received a top-notch overall crash test safety rating of five out of five stars. The IIHS went so far as to name the Optima a 2018 Top Safety Pick + and accorded the optional crash prevention technology a perfect rating of Superior.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

It's clear that for the 2018 Optima, Kia had prioritized safety by including blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear parking assist system as standard across the lineup. Along with those new driver-assist features, the Optima comes standard with a tire pressure monitoring system, traction control system, vehicle stability management, electronic stability control, and hill-start assist. An advanced airbag system of seven standard airbags including a driver's knee airbag is equipped in the Optima as standard. An autonomous emergency braking system, front collision warning system, lane departure warning system, and advanced smart cruise control are all optionally available for the EX Turbo and SX trims. Exclusive to the SX trim is the optional addition of a surround-view monitor and high beam assist.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2018 Kia Optima a good car?

The 2018 Kia Optima is a quintessential family commuter offering ideal passenger comfort and convenience, along with frugality, appreciable practicality, and plenty of tech. The lineup also offers two satisfactory, but bland, turbocharged engines alongside the standard naturally aspirated motor featured in the base trims. It might not be the most enjoyable and involving sedan to drive, but the Optima offers an exceptionally comfortable ride which is augmented by its plush seating and high-quality interior elements that are shared across the lineup. In terms of its position within the segment, the Optima stands out in its tech functionality with Android Auto and Apple Carplay included as standard on an easy-to-use touchscreen system; an upgraded eight-inch infotainment system inclusive of navigation, and a premium Harman Kardon audio system is optional for the higher-tier trims, adding to the already impressive suite. Although the exceptional safety ratings primarily relate to higher trims with optional equipment, there's a fair amount of safety equipment and driver assistance systems across the range. From the inside out, the Optima gives off the impression that you've received just a little more than your money's worth. It may not be the driver's sedan you want on the weekend, but it's the luxury sedan you crave on your daily commute.

🚘What's the Price of the 2018 Kia Optima?

For the base Optima LX model, buyers can expect an MSRP of $22,600, while for the sportier Optima S, the price increases to $23,600. The turbocharged LX is priced at $24,400, and the naturally aspirated EX at $25,700. Moving onto the top-tier Optima SX will see a sticker price of $30,600. Those prices are excluding Kia's destination charge of $895 as well as any tax, registration, and licensing fees.

2018 Kia Optima Models

Kia offers the Optima in five available trims; the LX, S, EX, LX Turbo, and SX. The LX, S, and EX are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox, the LX Turbo with a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and the SX with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and six-speed auto.

The LX model, as the base option, is outfitted with cloth seat trim, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, and standard air conditioning. It rides on 16-inch wheels and features a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a seven-inch infotainment system.

The S trim features sportier exterior and interior styling cues, riding on 17-inch wheels, and upholstered in cloth and leatherette seat trim. A ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are also standard for this model.

The LX Turbo is similarly outfitted to the S but does without the exterior enhancements in favor of a punchy turbocharged engine.

The EX gets leather upholstery, a twelve-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-position memory system, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an additional 12V power outlet in the rear cabin, two rapid-charging USB ports, and a push-button start system with Smart key and Smart trunk, while riding on 17-inch wheels.

The SX is similarly equipped to the EX but is outfitted with the sportier styling and elements on the S trim; it is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels and also gets a D-shaped steering wheel with red stitching and SX emblem, sport leather seating with red stitching, a ten-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and dynamic bending lights with automatic leveling.

See All 2018 Kia Optima Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

For $700 the Optima LX can be optioned with the LX Convenience Package, which comprises a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support, power front windows with auto up/down, and laminated front door windows.

Available for the Optima S is a $1,000 Panoramic Sunroof Package which includes a Panoramic sunroof, overhead LED front and rear reading lamps, and a gloss black door pillar and frame cover. Also available is a $1,300 Panoramic Sport Package which fits the Optima S with 18-inch alloy wheels, larger front disc brakes, sport side sills with gloss black accent trim, a panoramic sunroof, and overhead LED front and rear reading lamps.

Optional for the EX is a $2,300 EX Premium Package which adds to the EX with a sunroof, smart power tailgate, chrome detailing, glove box cooling, a 115V power socket, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat including four-way lumbar support, driver's seat memory, adaptive cruise control, driver attention warning, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. With this package installed, the EX can further be equipped with the EX Technology Package which - for $3,000 - adds an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a Harman/Kardon ten-speaker sound system, an autonomous emergency braking system, electronic parking brake, forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, larger front brakes, and a Sport front bumper with satin chrome accent trim.

The SX Technology Package is also $3,000, and mostly identical, but with the addition of high beam assist and the exclusion of larger front disc brakes, LED front fog lights, and the sporty front bumper. With this package optioned, you can further equip the $2,100 SX Limited Package which includes 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, chrome detailing, heated rear seats, a heated D-shaped steering wheel, Nappa leather seats, rear side window sunshades, and a surround-view monitor.

🚗What Kia Optima Model Should I Buy?

With the Optima EX slotting just below the line-topping SX trim, it's offered as one of the more comprehensively outfitted options while its pricing remains relatively reasonable at only $2,500 more than the base trim - which is considerably less equipped. Above the lower-end trims, the EX offers dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and heated front seats with a twelve-way power-adjustable driver's seat. It also gets the availability of advanced assistance features that give the Optima the Superior front crash prevention rating from the IIHS. We recommend adding the EX Technology Package, which equips the larger eight-inch infotainment system, larger front brakes, as well as autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.

Check out other Kia Optima Styles

2018 Kia Optima Comparisons

Hyundai Sonata Hyundai
Honda Accord Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Optima185 hp24/32 mpg$23,390
Hyundai Sonata 191 hp28/38 mpg$23,600
Honda Accord 192 hp30/38 mpg$24,270

2018 Kia Optima vs Hyundai Sonata

The Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata share a lot, being corporate siblings and riding on the same platform with much of the same hardware common to both; this includes all three available engine options. With so much mechanical similarity, both are similarly priced and equipped, and both drive in much the same manner, favoring comfort over outright dynamism; but the Kia is marginally sportier in higher trims. The Hyundai is a little more practical, offering up 16.3 cubic feet of trunk space to the Optima's 15.9. Buyers will be happy with either option, but we marginally prefer the Optima for the slightly sportier handling balance it offers.

See Hyundai Sonata Review

2018 Kia Optima vs Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has held this segment's center podium as the class-leader for generations, marking itself as the Optima's greatest opposition. Not only are the two powertrain options of the Accord more powerful than all three of the Optimas, but they're a lot more frugal as well. The Accord is a more enjoyable car to drive too, with its engaging chassis and refined automatic and manual gearbox options catering to the enthusiasts. There are more features in the Accord, with dual-zone automatic climate control as standard across the lineup, which is only found in the upper-level trims of the Optima. But, the Optima claws back with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, only found on higher Accord trims, and on an infotainment system not nearly as intuitive as Kia's. Despite minor faults, the 2018 redesign of the Accord has firmly cemented its status as the best in the segment, with a higher quality interior, more interior space, greater trunk volume, impressive safety standards, and an engaging chassis. The Optima simply isn't as good an all-rounder, nor is it truly exceptional in any one aspect.

See Honda Accord Review

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2018 Kia Optima Video Review

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