Rutger van der Maar, CC BY 2.0, resized

Nothing exceptional, but everything is acceptable

Quick notes

– Excellent tech as standard

– Economy and performance that trails its rivals

– Top-quality safety

The 2019 Kia Optima has been making waves in the sedan market, but is it any good? Kias aren’t the most exciting cars, but they’ve been improving consistently for years, with the Ceed widely respected as one of the best compact cars available on the European market.

The Kia Optima is a mid-size car that markets itself as economical, good value for money, comfortable, and a good drive. However, is it all that it’s cracked up to be? That’s what we’re going to take a look at today.

Engines and economy

Most variants of the Kia Optima come with a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine. This motor produces 185 horsepower and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s uninspiring but perfectly fine. It’s essentially the archetypal passenger car performance: it gets you from A to B, but won’t give you many thrills.

Other engines are available that provide slightly more interesting performance. There is a smaller 1.6 liter four-cylinder that produces 178 horsepower, with 195 ft-lbs of torque. The highest performer is in the SX Turbo, which has a turbo-four two-liter engine, putting out 245 horsepower.

All of the engines trail their competitors in terms of economy, which is a disappointment. The standard engine gets 24/33 mpg in city/highway tests, the 1.6 gets 27/37, and the turbo-four gets 21/30.


The interior, as you’d expect given everything else we’ve said, is good but functional.

The Optima isn’t a bad-looking car. It has pleasant, swept-back front lines that turn into a retro-style squared off sedan at the rear. In certain lights, it’s even sportier than its competitors, such as the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. If you’re looking for a little bit of style in your sedan, you could do a lot worse than the Optima.

Drive and ride

The standard trim levels offer a relaxed ride but have the capacity for a bit of fun, now and then. The handling and braking are very good, and you never feel as though the car is about to lose its composure.

The SX is a great deal more fun. It gets low-profile tires and a stiffer sports suspension. While this stiffer suspension suffers when going over bumps, it’s balanced by the improved handling, with improved cornering and less roll to contend with than on the base models.

Interior comfort and utility

The interior, as you’d expect given everything else we’ve said, is good but functional. The large dash features the UVO infotainment system, which comes with a great deal of tech. The eight-inch screen gives the driver access to Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, Siri, and a USB port.

Optional extras available include a wi-fi hotspot, navigation, satellite radio, three more USB ports, and a Harman Kardon surround-sound set up. The soft-touch upholstery is comfortable, there’s a lot of headroom, and the passenger seat is height adjustable.

The cargo capacity on the Kia Optima is average for its class, but there’s a solid amount of cargo space in the cabin too.


Guillaume Vachey

Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2019 Kia Optima, which is awesome, as it was only available on the top trim level last year. Other features include adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and blind spot detection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded the Optima with strong crash-test ratings, while the SX’s LED headlights netted it a Top Safety Pick Plus award.


The Kia Optima is never going to be a thrilling drive. Let’s get real, though. Is it a good value car? Does it offer everything that most customers are looking for in a sedan? Yes, undoubtedly. It’s comfortable and comes with a very solid array of tech as standard.

Inside, it’s uninspiring but comfortable, which may as well be the Kia Optima’s tagline. If you’re looking to buy a car that’s under $30,000, you could do an awful lot worse than the 2019 Optima, even if it trails behind its rivals at times.

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