The Kia Optima has always offered a strong value proposition, but the current-generation model takes it a step further with a upscale cabin and all the latest driver aids and luxury features a buyer can expect from a midsize sedan. Competitive pricing, a host of newly standard features and a robust warranty keep the Optima in the running for top-of-class honors even as Honda and Toyota are coming out with redesigned models of the Accord and Camry this year.
Navigating last year's numerous trim levels and packages required a sextant and star chart, though Kia has wisely consolidated selections for this year. Pricing on the base LX model has barely changed, but a touchscreen, rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring have all been added to the standard features list. In fact, most trims received an additional feature or two for 2018. There are even enhancements for the top-trim SX model; it now counts a panoramic sunroof and ventilated seats among the included upgrades.
As value-rich as the Optima is, there are a few drawbacks. Headroom is tight all the way around because of the car's sleekly styled roofline, and passengers will feel the pinch even more with the sunroof specified. Visibility out the back is compromised by the roof, and non-SX models aren't much fun to drive. That said, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the 2018 Kia Optima to anyone looking for an affordable, roomy family sedan with eye-catching good looks and a ton of features.
Kia has simplified the trims and features list for 2018, making it easier for buyers to find the right model. The base LX is loaded with goodies such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which were optional on last year's Optima. Even better, the price increase is negligible. The LX 1.6T adds a bit more, but its unique powertrain combination is tough to live with. The S is a sport-themed version of the LX, while the EX doubles down on luxury items. These models are all relatively close in price. The SX is more expensive, but its powerful turbocharged engine and additional features are enticing.
Under the hood of the front-wheel-drive Optima in its base LX form is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (185 horsepower, 178 pound-feet of torque) matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, remote locking and unlocking, cruise control, a driver information display, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats (with two-way power lumbar adjustment for the driver) and a 60/40-split rear seat.
Also standard for the LX are Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with a USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HD and satellite radio. Standard advanced safety equipment includes a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The optional Convenience package adds noise-reducing front window glass and a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat (with two-way power lumbar).
Stepping up to the LX 1.6T adds a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (178 hp, 195 lb-ft) paired to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. This powertrain is unique to the LX 1.6T. Additional features include unique wheels, the contents of the Convenience package, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The S combines the features of the LX 1.6T with the engine and transmission of the LX. You also get 17-inch wheels, foglights, LED taillights, a rear spoiler, and cloth and leather upholstery. The optional Panoramic Sunroof package includes a panoramic sunroof and gloss black exterior accents, with the Panoramic Sport package consisting of these features, plus 18-inch wheels and larger front brakes.
The EX does without the foglights and spoiler, but it adds LED daytime running lights, power-folding mirrors, illuminated door handles, keyless entry and ignition, a hands-free unlocking trunk, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air vents, heated front seats, four-way power lumbar for the driver, driver-seat memory settings, interior chrome accents, leather upholstery and two charge-only rear USB ports.
Two packages are available on the EX. The Premium package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 10-way passenger seat (with two-way power lumbar), ventilated front seats and the panoramic sunroof. The Technology package builds on top of the Premium pack with a sport body kit, LED foglights, larger front brakes, an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. A lane departure warning system and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are also included.
The range-topping SX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (245 hp, 260 lb-ft). It is equipped similarly to the EX with Premium package, with upgrades that include 18-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, LED foglights, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust tips, a sport-tuned suspension, a flat-bottom steering wheel with wheel-mounted shift paddles, and a larger driver information display. It also adds a temporary spare tire compared to the tire repair kit on other trims.
The SX is available with a Technology package that closely mirrors the EX's Technology package, but it also includes automatic high-beam control. Selecting this package opens the door to the Limited package, which adds chrome wheels and exterior trim, a premium headliner, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, upgraded leather upholstery, rear window sunshades and a 360-degree parking camera system.