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2018 Kia Optima Overview
The Kia Optima has been a player in the midsize sedan class since 2001, but only in the past few years has it become a force to be reckoned with. Kia has been working to keep the Optima fresh in light of new and updated competitors, even in the years between generational redesigns or refreshes, and this continues with the 2018 model.
In both its previous generation and its current form, the Optima is considered to be one of the best-looking midsize sedans on the market. Details like a wide tiger-nose grille, LED accent lighting, a coupe-like roofline, and wheels ranging in size from 16 to 18 inches help set the Optima apart from its competitors. New for 2018 is the S trim, which is slotted between the LX and EX. Positioned as a sporting model, the S adds a unique front bumper, a rear spoiler, LED fog lights and taillights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Optima’s interior displays significantly less flair than its exterior, with a design focused on function over form. Controls are laid out in a logical fashion within easy reach and material quality is about average, with a combination of soft-touch and hard plastics throughout. The front seats provide enough comfort for long trips, although some will be wishing there was a bit more side bolstering when the Optima goes around corners. Rear passengers will find plenty of legroom but limited headroom, leaving taller passengers feeling somewhat cramped. Trunk space is large for the class at 15.9 cubic feet.
For entertainment needs, Kia’s UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch display, a reversing camera, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/MP3/satellite audio system comes standard on all trims. An 8-inch color touchscreen with navigation and a premium Harman Kardon Surround Sound system are available upgrades for the EX and SX trims. Both the 7- and 8-inch systems come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Optima offers a good selection of powertrain options. The LX, S, and EX trims come with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the LX 1.6T receives a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 178 hp and 195 lb-ft. The SX, meanwhile, features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with an output of 245 hp and 260 lb-ft. A 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard for the 2.4-liter and the turbo 2.0, while the turbo 1.6 gets a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Fuel-economy figures for the 2018 Optima range from 22 mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined with the turbo 2.0 to 28, 37, and 31 with the turbo 1.6.
The Optima’s 2.4-liter engine will be sufficient for most drivers, as it offers decent power for daily driving and a 6-speed automatic with smooth and quick shifts. The turbo 1.6 has plenty of oomph but is somewhat hampered by the DCT, which is programmed to quickly upshift for better fuel economy. For those power-hungry folks, the turbo 2.0 will fulfill your need for speed with its robust acceleration. Separate hybrid and hybrid plug-in models are also available.
Kia has been working on improving handling for the Optima, and the 2018 model shows sharp reflexes with little body roll on twisty roads. It’s a shame the Optima is let down by the steering, which is too light on weight and feel for truly exuberant driving. Ride quality is about average for the class—small bumps and imperfections are smoothed over, while larger bumps will cause some jostling. Some road noise does enter the cabin, but wind noise is almost nonexistent.
Kia has improved the Optima’s safety credentials for 2018 by adding blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors as standard equipment. Also standard are a full complement of airbags, traction and stability control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS). Optional safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, a surround-view camera system, and automatic high beams. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2017 Optima Top Safety Pick+ status, while the 2018 model earned a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 2018 Optima starts at $22,500 for the base LX trim.
Ask William Maley how he started as an automotive writer and he would say he just fell into it. Based in Michigan, William has driven vehicles of all sizes and shapes. His work has appeared on Autobytel, CARFAX, Cheers & Gears, and U.S. News Best Cars.
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