Mid-size Refresh: 2019 Kia Optima

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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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.

  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?
  • Kelley It's about time! I was so discouraged to see those poor Chevy Bolts stuck at the charging station receiving level 2 speeds after 80%, it was ridiculous. It would be nice if EA would had more level 2 chargers, also, at the same locations for people to top off above 80% on the fast chargers.
  • Tane94 Carmela Harris is supportive of EV adoption, so government incentives will be continuing under her watch.