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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2019 Kia Optima SX

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Trying to stay relevant in a class where various automakers have come out swinging is a difficult task. They boast more modern designs, improved performance, and more features. But in the case of the 2019 Kia Optima, this midsize still has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep it in contention.

  • The Optima still makes its presence known thanks to an updated front end and the sloping roofline. One item that may cause some issues are the 18-inch wheels. The dual-spoke design and black painted inserts didn’t quite work the Optima’s design to my eyes. But others who saw the vehicle thought it made the sedan look sporty.
  • Not much has changed inside since our last look back in 2017. It may lack the excitement and wow in terms of design that you’ll find in competitors, but Optima nails the ease of use with many of the controls laid out logically. Front seats provide excellent support and space for any trip length. Those in the back will find plenty of legroom, but headroom is at a premium due to the sloping roofline.
  • Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic. Lesser models get either a 2.4L four-cylinder (185 horsepower) or a 1.6L turbo-four (178 horsepower).
  • The turbo 2.0L is still a fantastic engine thanks in part to its flat torque curve - 1,350 to 4,000 rpm. This not only minimizes turbo-lag but makes the sedan feel more spritely than what the figures suggest. The automatic may lack the extra gears found in competitors, but it still provides smooth and rapid shifts.
  • Fuel economy is where the 2.0L comes up short. EPA figures are 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined, trailing the Honda Accord with its turbo 2.0L - 22/32/26. My average for the week landed at 25 mpg.
  • Handling has been one of the Optima’s strong traits, especially in SX and SXL guises. It shows off minimal body roll and quick reflexes. The Mazda6 does hold a slight edge over the Optima as it provides more heft when turning.
  • The sport-tuned suspension under the SX does mean the ride isn’t as comfortable as you’ll find in competitors, but it will not cause you or your passengers to cry uncle when driving on a bumpy road. Wind and road noise are kept to very acceptable levels.
  • Pricing is the Optima’s big draw with a base of $22,990 for the LX and that includes several active safety features such as blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, and lane keep assist. The SX begins at $31,990 and comes loaded with items such as ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and navigation.
  • Despite its age and new competition, the Optima is very much a contender. For the price, the sedan offers an abundance of features and surprising performance. The design hasn’t aged either which could make anyone think it just came from an auto show. But the Optima does falter in terms of fuel economy and rear headroom.

Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Optima, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2019
Make: Kia
Model: Optima
Trim: SX
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,350-4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24
Curb Weight: 3,558 lbs
Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia
Base Price: $31,900
As Tested Price: $33,315 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)

Snow White Pearl Paint - $495.00

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Looks like a solid commuter basic auto.

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Nice to see ventilated seats and heated steering wheels become more common on 30k cars.  I don't think I would get black leather without ventilation at this point.



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Exterior style has aged decently. The interior I preferred in the 2011-and first few years after vintage but there’s nothing egregious in this current one.  Agree about the ventilated seats.  A nice option to have in a budget friendly car.  

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