Mid-size Refresh: 2019 Kia Optima

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
mid size refresh 2019 kia optima

In the midst of a market that apparently abhors the traditional four-door sedan, Kia showrooms are awash with them. The new K900 appeared in New York this week, the Cadenza occupies a sliver of segment, the Stinger is taking care of the sporty crowd, and the Optima goes head-to-head with Camcords.

For 2019, Kia has bestowed the latter with new driver assists, some infotainment tweaks, and a choice of no fewer than three different engines. If a sedan is on your shopping list, it would seem the Korean automaker has plenty of choices (and choices within those choices) from which to select. As for visual clues that you’re looking at a 2019, well, meet the new 보스, same as the old 보스.

On the decidedly non-Ace of Base SX 2.0T trim, buyers will find zooty “European-style” sport leather seats in two-tone red and black. A panoramic roof, Harman Kardon sound system, and exterior visual juju set it apart from its lower priced stablemates.

Cleaning up trim levels means the Optima will now be offered in LX, S, EX, and SX varieties. Base LX sedans earn LED daytime running lights, not unlike those found on the Stinger, plus a few other tweaks to the grille and rim design.

Three direct-injected engines are offered across the four trims — an engineering choice that cannot be cheap for the company. LX and S models have a familiar 2.4-liter inline-four which make 185 horsepower in 2018 models. A 1.6-liter turbo shows up on the EX with 178 horses, while the top-tier SX finds a 245 hp 2.0-liter turbo stuffed between its front fenders. Everything is four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cam, and regular unleaded friendly.

Bending this author’s (admittedly foggy) brain, Kia choose to pair a six-speed automatic with the 2.4 and 2.0T motors but hook a seven-speed dual-clutch unit to the 1.6T engine. I would have thought the DCT would appear on the S and SX trims, as they are sporty and most expensive flavors, respectively. This is why I am neither an engineer nor in product planning.

Kia’s UVO telematics system, whose name sounds like a bottled artisan water or overpriced vodka, shows up on all trims and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — even on the base LX. Optima owners moving beyond the entry level will find UVO Link, technology which allows for maintenance reminders, plus geofencing and speed alerts so parents can annoy new teenage drivers.

Today’s Optima lineup starts at $22,600 for an LX model equipped with the naturally aspirated four cylinder. Expect prices to move northward slightly, as they do almost every year for almost every automaker, but Kia’s rep for value will likely ensure the Monroney won’t move too far.

Last year, the Optima sold 107,493 copies, about 24,000 units fewer than its cousin Hyundai Sonata first cousin. This pair, along with the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion, trail the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord. The Toyota Camry, unsurprisingly, vanquishes all its rivals with total sales last year hitting 387,081 units.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Apr 02, 2018

    If they put that interior in the Stinger I would look at one, as long as you can turn of the artificial engine sounds.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 02, 2018

    The next gen Optima needs to recapture the magic of its predecessor sheetmetal-wise, instead of existing in bland-ville. Should also get a major upgrade in driving dynamics and eventually power (with H/K's next gen turbo-4 engines). Surprised that for this refresh, Kia didn't opt to upgrade to the 8 spd AT for the top-level motor.

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
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