2017 Kia Optima

2017 Kia Optima Review

The Kia Optima's sleek styling and great value give it the edge in the midsize sedan category.
3.5 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Spacious sedans are continually losing market share to crossovers, but family-friendly four-doors such as the 2017 Kia Optima prove the segment still has plenty of life. The list of improvements to the 2017 version is mild in light of the full redesign it received last year, but the Optima line continues to grow with several new packages that allow shoppers to mix and match to find the right car. Add that to the Optima's existing strengths — a compelling value proposition, roomy seating and a big trunk — and you've got a sedan that can stand toe to toe with all-stars such as the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion.

Like its sister car, the Hyundai Sonata, the Optima scores high marks in the value category without feeling cheap inside. And with the top-trim SXL, you won't find a more deluxe cabin without upgrading to a true luxury sedan. There are shortcomings, to be sure. Tall rear passengers will brush their heads on the sloped roof and buyers looking for excitement should look elsewhere. But we think these are relatively minor knocks that shouldn't deter you from considering the 2017 Kia Optima for your next sedan.



What's new for 2017

Changes to the 2017 Optima are few after its full redesign last year. Upgraded headlights on the SX and SXL are now LEDs rather than xenon, and there are new packages for most trims, such as the LX's Driver Convenience and the EX's Premium Plus packages.

We recommend

Although the Optima comes in many variations, three truly stand out. The LX with the Convenience Plus package is inexpensive and gets you pretty much everything you want in a modern sedan such as blind-spot monitoring and an intuitive touchscreen. The middle-ground EX is also desirable. It comes with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats but is still reasonably priced. But if you find those Optimas too bland, go with the SX with Sport Value package. It is only marginally more expensive than the EX and includes most of its features plus a powerful turbocharged engine.



Trim levels & features

Although Kia does not offer much in the way of standalone options, there are a dizzying number of Optima permutations available to buyers. The base LX is fairly light on features, but it also doesn't cost much. The LX 1.6T adds a bit more, but its unique engine-transmission combo is tough to live with. The EX sticks with the LX powertrain and comes with a substantial number of luxury features for a moderate uptick in price. The SX includes a powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter engine among its upgrades, but if you want your Optima to feel like a luxury car, the top-trim SXL does the trick.

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) matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, remote locking and unlocking, a rearview camera, cruise control, a driver information display, selectable driving modes, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats (with two-way lumbar adjustment for the driver), a 60/40-split rear seat, Bluetooth, a 5-inch central display, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB port.

Three packages are available for the Optima LX. The Driver Convenience package adds heated and power-folding mirrors, laminated (i.e. quieter) front window glass, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with four-way lumbar adjustment) and driver-seat memory settings. The Convenience Plus package requires the Driver Convenience package and adds rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a 7-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Kia's Uvo infotainment system. As an alternative, you can also just get the Convenience package, which costs slightly less and includes everything above minus the touchscreen, but we think getting the touchscreen is a good idea.

Stepping up to the LX 1.6T adds a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (178 hp, 195 lb-ft of torque) paired to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. This powertrain is unique to the LX 1.6T. Additional features include a hands-free trunk, illuminated door handles, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the laminated windows and mirrors from the Convenience package.

Two packages are available for the LX 1.6T. The Value package adds upgraded headlights, LED daytime running lights, the power driver seat, driver-seat memory settings, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and the 7-inch touchscreen. The Technology package includes the blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors plus LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, two charge-only rear USB ports, an 8-inch touchscreen and navigation.

The EX sticks with the powertrain from the LX and adds 17-inch wheels, LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, the additional USB ports, leather upholstery and the contents of the Value package.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that there are two packages for the EX. The Premium package includes all of the upgrades in the Technology package, plus a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power-adjustable passenger seat (with two-way lumbar), ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. Opt for the Premium Plus package and you'll get those and forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake, rear window sunshades and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

For a sportier Optima, Kia offers the SX. It's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (245 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque). It is equipped similarly to the EX, with upgrades that include 18-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust tips, a sport-tuned suspension, a flat-bottom steering wheel with wheel-mounted shift paddles, a larger driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear window sunshades and the 8-inch screen with navigation.

If you want the performance of the SX but don't necessarily need the extra luxury features, you can order it with the new Sport Value package. It's priced lower, but Kia deletes the LED headlights, hands-free trunk, keyless entry and ignition, and an auto-dimming mirror. Additionally, the 7-inch touchscreen is used instead of the 8-inch system. On the other hand, if you'd like more features you can add the Launch Edition package. It adds the contents of the Premium package and the 10-speaker audio system. Then there's the Technology package for the SX that includes everything else from the Premium Plus package, alongside automatic high-beam control and adaptive cruise control.

At the top of the Optima lineup is the SX Limited. It includes everything listed above and a 360-degree parking camera, wireless smartphone charging and upgraded leather upholstery.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Kia Optima LX 1.6T (1.6L 4-cyl. turbo; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5

Driving

3.0 / 5

Acceleration3.0 / 5
Braking2.5 / 5
Steering2.5 / 5
Handling3.0 / 5
Drivability2.5 / 5

Comfort

3.0 / 5

Seat comfort3.0 / 5
Ride comfort3.0 / 5
Noise & vibration3.5 / 5
Climate control3.0 / 5

Interior

3.5 / 5

Ease of use4.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5
Driving position4.0 / 5
Roominess4.0 / 5
Visibility3.0 / 5
Quality3.0 / 5

Utility

4.5 / 5

Small-item storage5.0 / 5
Cargo space4.0 / 5

Technology

4.5 / 5

Audio & navigation4.0 / 5
Smartphone integration4.0 / 5
Driver aids5.0 / 5
Voice control4.0 / 5

Driving3.0

Unlike the 2.0 turbo, the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and its unconventional seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission suffer from a disappointing lack of responsiveness when accelerating and driving at low speeds. The brakes can be a bit touchy, but handling is decent for the class.

Acceleration3.0

The turbocharged 1.6-liter has plenty of power available, but the shift-happy transmission makes it difficult to tap into the power at most speeds. A zero-to-60-mph sprint takes 7.7 seconds, a bit quicker than average. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbo takes 6.7 seconds.

Braking2.5

The brakes are overly grabby, yet the pedal is fairly soft, which can make it difficult to slow smoothly. A simulated-panic stop from 60 mph required 124 feet, a few feet longer than average in this class. The Optima SX Turbo has wider tires and came to a stop in a very short 112 feet.

Steering2.5

Steering is predictable, but there is very little feedback or feel. The LX 1.6T's low-rolling-resistance tires are prone to causing a slight squirm on highways with rain grooves.

Handling3.0

The Optima corners with surprising competence compared to its otherwise unimpressive driving dynamics, even though handling limits are rather low on paper. The narrow tires howl loudly, but the car remains composed and predictable.

Drivability2.5

The 1.6T's transmission causes considerable hesitation when coming away from a stop, and it tries to shift into the next highest gear at all times. At low speeds the powertrain feels jumpy and awkward, too. The 2.0T, with its conventional automatic, is smoother and shifts more naturally.

Comfort3.0

In humble base LX trim, the Optima provides a good amount of comfort, and midlevel trims further benefit from features such as heated and ventilated seats. Long-distance road trips shouldn't be a problem for a variety of body types thanks to the roomy seats and smooth ride quality.

Seat comfort3.0

The front seats are decently comfortable for long drives. Some people might take issue with the lack of lateral support and the forward-canted head restraints, though. The rear seats are spacious, but the low-mounted cushion may lack support for the average-size adult.

Ride comfort3.0

Small, high-frequency bumps are absorbed well for a decent, smooth ride. Larger undulations cause some jostling, but not significantly more than what you'd experience in other cars in this class.

Noise & vibration3.5

The 1.6T is quiet while cruising but sounds coarse and loud under full throttle. Road noise is ever present but never intrusive, and wind noise is barely detectable.

Climate control3.0

When set to 75 degrees, the fans didn't blow hard enough to comfortably warm the cabin on a chilly January day. Having a heated steering wheel on a midsize sedan is appreciated, though.

Interior3.5

There isn't a lot of visual excitement inside the Optima, but it is smartly designed for function. The quality of materials and available features make you feel like you're getting just a bit more for your money. The only major drawback is the compromised rear visibility.

Ease of use4.0

The Optima gets high marks for its legible physical buttons that are logically placed. Primary controls fall right to hand as they should, and there's no guesswork with the others.

Getting in/getting out4.0

Tall door openings free from obstructions allow passengers to access their seats with no more effort than they'd expend in other sedans. The doors are adequately short in length to provide access in tight parking spots. Getting into the back requires a slight duck to clear the sloping roof.

Driving position4.0

The steering wheel offers plenty of reach travel and height adjustment. There's a good range of motion for all adjustments, but it would be nice if the front of the seat bottom angled up more. Four-way lumbar adjustment is greatly appreciated and not entirely common in this segment.

Roominess4.0

The front seats have plenty of space for larger passengers, and the range of adjustments will cover short and tall occupants. The rear seats benefit from an abundance of legroom, but headroom is merely adequate for the average adult.

Visibility3.0

The Optima's cabin feels big and airy thanks to large windows and narrow roof pillars, but the high decklid and rear-seat headrests obscure the view out the back. The standard rearview camera and optional parking sensors eliminate the guesswork.

Quality3.0

There is plenty of plastic used inside the Optima, but it's sturdy and attractively grained. Creaks and squeaks are nonexistent, and the car feels as solid as any other sedan in the class.

Utility4.5

The Optima's carrying capacity is about as good as it gets in this class. The trunk is expansive, with a low load height, tall roof and wide opening. It also opens automatically after a few seconds if you have the key in your pocket. There's ample interior storage as well.

Small-item storage5.0

Storage spaces for small items are plentiful throughout the cabin. Each door has a cupholder and a small tray under the grab handle. There's a small, concealed bin under the center stack and a good amount of space under the center armrest.

Cargo space4.0

Like most midsize sedans, the Optima offers a large, spacious trunk with unintrusive wheelwells. It is appropriately sized for the segment at 15.8 cubic feet. We give it extra points for remote seatback releases, but the trunk hinges would ideally hide in recesses so as to not crush cargo items.

Child safety seat accommodation4.0

Four LATCH anchors are accessible under plastic covers that fold down when pressure is applied. Just push aside a bit of seat cushion and you're set to hook up. Anchor access is easier than in most cars but not as good as in those with removable LATCH covers.

Technology4.5

Our tester's 8-inch touchscreen is bright and attractive, with a legible font and redundant physical buttons that make it easy to find what you need. The only exception is the smartphone interface menu, which is tough to find. The navigation system is slow and can't be programmed while traveling.

Audio & navigation4.0

The Uvo system is a cinch to use, with a logical menu structure and physical volume and tuning knobs. The standard six-speaker audio system won't win any awards, while a 10-speaker Harman Kardon system is a worthwhile addition on upper trims.

Smartphone integration4.0

Any model equipped with a touchscreen will have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. (CarPlay was added via a software update later in the 2016 model year.) There are two USB ports, one in the front and one under the armrest. Two rear charge-only ports come with the Tech package.

Driver aids5.0

We like that advanced safety features including blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert can be ordered on what is otherwise a lightly optioned sedan.

Voice control4.0

Standard voice controls work reasonably well, enough to distinguish unusual street spelling (Hyland Avenue rather than Highland Avenue, for example). One instance of address input bizarrely changed the address numbers. Siri and Google's voice assistant are available and will be more accurate.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.