2018 Kia Optima

2018 Kia Optima Review

We recommend the Optima to anyone looking for an affordable and feature-packed family sedan.
7.2 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

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.



What's new for 2018

The Optima's dizzying list of trims, packages and permutations has thankfully been reduced for 2018. (An unfortunate side effect is the limited number of features available for the 1.6T model.) A 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert are now standard on all 2018 Kia Optimas. A new, sport-themed S trim slots between LX and EX models. The SXL has been discontinued as a stand-alone model, but shoppers can spec the SX with Limited package to re-create the experience.

We recommend

Three of the Optima's five trims stand out for being an exceptionally good value. The LX is loaded with many features that buyers will want, including several advanced safety aids, a touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The EX doesn't cost much more and adds leather, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry, among other upgrades. The SX is our choice because of its strong turbocharged engine and modest price bump compared to the EX with Premium package.




Trim levels & 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.



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 (turbo 1.6L inline-4 | 7-speed dual-clutch automatic | FWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.2 / 10

Driving

6.0 / 10

Acceleration5.5 / 10
Braking6.0 / 10
Steering6.0 / 10
Handling7.0 / 10
Drivability6.0 / 10

Comfort

7.0 / 10

Seat comfort6.5 / 10
Ride comfort7.0 / 10
Noise & vibration7.0 / 10

Interior

8.0 / 10

Ease of use8.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out7.0 / 10
Roominess8.0 / 10
Visibility6.5 / 10
Quality7.0 / 10

Driving6.0

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.

Acceleration5.5

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.

Braking6.0

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.

Steering6.0

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.

Handling7.0

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.

Drivability6.0

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.

Comfort7.0

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 comfort6.5

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 might lack support for the average-size adult.

Ride comfort7.0

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 & vibration7.0

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 control

Overall climate control performance is adequate. The fan might not blow hard enough to heat or cool some people to their satisfaction.

Interior8.0

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 as if you're getting just a bit more for your money. The only major drawback is the compromised rear visibility.

Ease of use8.0

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 out7.0

Tall door openings free from obstructions allow passengers to access their seats with no more effort than required 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 position

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.

Roominess8.0

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.

Visibility6.5

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.

Quality7.0

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.

Utility8.0

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 storage

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 space

Like most midsize sedans, the Optima offers a large, spacious trunk with unintrusive wheelwells. It is appropriately sized for the segment at 15.9 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 accommodation

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.

Technology

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 & navigation

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, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon system is a worthwhile addition on upper trims.

Smartphone integration

Any model equipped with a touchscreen will have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. There are two USB ports, one in the front and one under the armrest. Two rear charge-only ports come with the Technology package.

Driver aids

We like that advanced safety features including blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert come standard on what is otherwise a lightly optioned sedan. Other features, including automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, are not available on the LX 1.6T.

Voice control

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.