Overview: If the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry are the perennial powerhouses in the mid-size-sedan segment, the Kia Optima is the sophisticated secret. While it can’t touch the sales numbers of that pair and remains a bit under the radar, the Optima offers a complete package with plenty to offer and the ability to cater to an array of buyers.
The range includes a choice of five powertrains and eight trim levels. The Optima LX starts things off with a 2.4-liter inline-four that makes 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque; that same engine is found in the mid-level EX, too. The LX Turbo features a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four that makes 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The SX and the range-topping SX Limited trims bring a larger turbocharged four, a 2.0-liter good for 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. The Optima also is available as a hybrid (in base or EX trim) and as a plug-in hybrid (only as an EX). All Optimas are front-wheel drive and employ a six-speed automatic transmission, save for the LX Turbo, which gets a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The $23,095 Optima LX is not as bare-bones as some other mid-size sedans’ bottom-rung offerings. It comes with a 5.0-inch touchscreen display, a 3.5-inch TFT screen in the gauge cluster, a driving-mode selector, LED turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, and steering-wheel-mounted controls. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the SX Limited, which is the model we drove most recently; it has a seemingly endless list of features but still stickers for less than $40K. For $36,985, SXL buyers enjoy a beautiful swath of quilted nappa leather akin to what you might see in an Audi or a Range Rover, along with nearly every modern driver aid, all in a rather suave-looking family car.
What’s New: The Optima was redesigned for the 2016 model year, but the debuts continued into 2017 with the arrival of the Optima hybrid and the Optima plug-in hybrid. (We’re still salty that we’re missing out on the nifty Optima Sportswagon offered in other markets.) The standard hybrid utilizes a 154-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine that works together with a 50-hp electric motor and a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It’s EPA rated at 42 mpg combined, but in our hands it achieved only 31 mpg.
The plug-in hybrid earned a much better number. Although it shares its four-cylinder engine with the regular hybrid, the plug-in uses a 67-hp AC motor that provides 151 lb-ft of torque and draws energy from a 9.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. With its six-speed automatic transmission, it reached 40 MPGe and delivered 27 miles of range on electricity alone. The hybrid has two trims, the $26,890 base and the $31,885 EX, while the plug-in comes only as the $36,105 EX.
For the rest of the lineup, 2017 has been the year of the option package. For the LX and LX Turbo trims, Kia introduced the Driver Convenience and Convenience Plus bundles. The Driver Convenience package brings a 12-way power driver’s seat, power-folding heated side mirrors, and memory for both the mirrors and seats. It’s also required for the Plus package, which adds blind-spot detection, rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen display with Kia’s UVO infotainment system and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. New for the LX Turbo is the Value package, which elevates nearly everything in the cabin with dark-red leather, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, a 12-way power driver’s seat with memory, and a heated steering wheel. It also adds black exterior trim, a rear spoiler, and dual-projector headlights with LED daytime running lights.
For the EX trim, the Premium Plus package replaces the Premium Audio package. Requiring the Premium package, the Premium Plus option brings a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, heated outboard rear seats, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking. The SX trims see the biggest changes to their equipment. Swiveling LED headlights and 18-inch aluminum wheels now are standard. A fresh Sport Value package is new and actually lowers the price by thousands of dollars by omitting equipment such as the 8.0-inch touchscreen, push-button start, LED headlights, and a power trunklid. It does include, however, gloss-black trim, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and keyless entry. The SX’s Technology package throws almost every available feature into the Optima, highlighted by Kia’s bundle of driver aids, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a 10-way power passenger seat, and automatic high-beams. Finally, a revised Launch Edition package (available only with certain exterior colors) adds red leather, satin chrome trim, and a premium headliner, as well as some features from the Technology package
What We Like: We like the Optima’s smooth and well-controlled ride, and the suspension does an effective job of mitigating body roll for a family sedan. The Kia has a simple and easy-to-use control layout, and the cabin fit and finish are good. The spacious interior feels legitimately classy, particularly in the SX Limited with its quilted nappa leather, rear-seat amenities, multitude of charging points, and premium infotainment system. The LX Turbo might be the sweet spot in the lineup, as we particularly like the 1.6-liter/dual-clutch combo.
What We Don’t Like: The sportiness that Kia is shooting for with the SX and SX Limited trims can make the cars feel somewhat underdeveloped and unrefined, with a sport suspension that imparts a slightly choppy ride, a Sport mode for the transmission that gets confused more often than it should, and Sport-mode steering that feels twitchy and unsettled. In all modes, the steering is pretty lifeless as well. Additionally, we were disappointed with the headlights, with their shallow, narrow, and not particularly bright light pattern, to the point that we found ourselves slowing down on dark back roads.
Verdict: It might not have the cachet yet, but this solid sedan offers a version for everyone.
2017 Kia Optima
front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
LX Turbo, $25,035;
Hybrid Base, $26,890;
Hybrid EX, $31,885;
SX Limited, $36,985;
Plug-In Hybrid EX, $36,105
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 1.6-liter inline-4, 178 horsepower, 195 lb-ft of torque; DOHC 16-valve 2.4-liter inline-4, 185 horsepower, 178 lb-ft of torque; DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter inline-4, 154 hp, 140 lb-ft + permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, 50 hp, 151 lb-ft (combined output, 192 hp, 271 lb-ft; 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack); DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter inline-4, 154 hp, 140 lb-ft + permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, 67 hp, 151 lb-ft (combined output, 202 hp, 276 lb-ft; 9.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack); turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 245 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque
6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 110.4 in
Length: 191.1 in
Width: 73.2 in
Height: 57.5-57.7 in
Passenger volume: 105 ft3
Trunk volume: 10-16 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 3250-3900 lb
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 25-31/22-28/31-37 mpg
Combined/city/highway: 42/39/46 (hybrid)
Gasoline+electricity combined driving: 103 MPGe (PHEV)
C/D TEST RESULTS FOR:
2016 Kia Optima 2.4L
Zero to 60 mph: 7.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 20.4 sec
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 7.7 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 5.1 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.9 sec @ 90 mph
Top speed (C/D est): 135 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 179 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.83 g
Curb weight: 3399 lb
C/D observed fuel economy: 25 mpg
c/d testing explained
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Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit.
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Clean Retail Price
The MT clean retail price reflects a reasonable asking price by a dealership for a fully reconditioned vehicle (clean title history, no defects, minimal wear) with average mileage.
|5-Year Cost to Own / Rating|
|$22,200||$17,161||$28,553 / Good|
|$22,200||$17,161||$28,553 / Good|
|$24,140||$17,911||$29,033 / Excellent|
|$25,440||$19,811||$30,309 / Good|
|$29,940||$21,536||$35,198 / Poor|
|$36,090||$24,386||$38,377 / Mediocre|
5-Year Cost to Own
- High safety scores
- Many powertrain options (including a hybrid and plug-in)
- Impressive interior features
- Poor driving dynamics
- Ride can be harsh
- Turbocharged engines only offer adequate acceleration
Kia Optima Expert Review
New for 2017
For the 2017 model year, Kia widens the availability of many Optima packages, adds features to some packages, and includes more features as standard for the two top trims, SX and SXL.
The midsize Optima slots right in the middle of Kia's sedan lineup, above the smaller Rio and Forte but below the larger and more expensive Cadenza, upcoming Stinger four-door hatchback, and K900. The Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle join the Niro and the Soul EV as Kia models with electrified powertrains.
The 2017 Kia Optima sedan is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter I-4 that produces 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque and paired to a six-speed automatic that delivers an EPA-rated 25/36 mpg city/highway for the base LX trim and 24/34 for the EX trim. The optional and fuel efficient 178-hp, 195 lb-ft of torque 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and delivers 28/37 mpg, but can only be equipped in the EX trim. The most powerful engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 that produces 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque (also mated to a six-speed automatic), manages to deliver 22/31 mpg and is available in the SX and SXL trims. The Optima does not offer all-wheel drive like the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy.
Beyond those three gas engines, the 2017 Kia Optima is available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid. The 2017 Optima Hybrid manages to deliver an impressive 39/42 mpg while the Optima plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can run up to 29 miles on all-electric energy and has a combined fuel economy rating of 40 mpg.
If you decide to purchase the mid-level EX trim, the EX Premium package becomes available and includes a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, an 8-inch touchscreen with Uvo Eservices and navigation, 10-way power adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, LED interior lighting, blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and an auto dimming rear-view mirror. The SX trim's Launch Edition package includes everything above but adds Merlot color sport leather seating, a Harman/Kardon premium surround-sound system, satin chrome accents, and heated rear seats.
The 2017 Kia Optima was awarded the highest overall rating of five stars by the NHTSA, the sedan received five stars in three crash tests conducted so far: front, side, and rollover. The Kia Optima is a 2017 Top Safety Pick for achieving the institution's highest rating of Good in all crash tests conducted including the difficult small overlap front crash test. The Optima also received the IIHS' highest rating of Superior for front crash prevention by avoiding a low-speed 12 mph collision and a high-speed 25 mph collision using automatic braking. To take advantage of this, you must opt for the Autonomous Emergency Braking feature in the SX Technology package or find that feature standard in the SXL trim. Because of a Poor rating for its headlights, the Optima didn't qualify for Top Safety Pick+ status. Additional safety features include rear parking sensors, Blind-Spot Detection system, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and a lane departure warning system.
What We Think
In a 2016 First Test review of the Kia Optima SXL 2.0T, we praised the new interior but felt the car had very poor driving dynamics, "It's a fine-looking (but less adventurous) family sedan with a great interior and utterly unremarkable steering, braking feel, ride quality, and overall response. The car is begging for a strong identity to go with the eye-catching aesthetics."
When we reviewed a 2016 Kia Optima 1.6T in a First Test, we noted that although "there's nothing outright wrong with it, I've come to expect big things from Kia after home runs such as the Soul and Sedona. The new Optima is less distinctive than the old one, doesn't really drive much better, and doesn't offer buyers any compelling reasons to buy a new one over a certified pre-owned used one."
The Kia Optima plug-in hybrid is more than 500 pounds heavier than the base SX model. However, the sedan still delivers a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 40 mpg versus the SX's 29 mpg and can run on all-electric power thanks to its hybrid powertrain.
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Optima reviews kia 2017
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