The Kia Optima is a five-passenger midsize car. Introduced in 2001, the original model was a rebadged version of the Hyundai Sonata. More recent models offer a unique design even as platform and powertrain sharing with its Korean partner continues.
2016 to Present: Kia Optima
The fourth-generation Kia Optima was released in 2015 for the 2016 model year. The first-generation model was built from 2001 to 2005, the second-generation Optima ran from 2006 to 2010, and the third-generation model was sold from 2011 to 2015.
Beginning in 2016, the Kia Optima offers three engine choices. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque is standard, and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. This vehicle is EPA-rated at 25/37 mpg city/highway.
A turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is available with the Optima LX only. This engine makes 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque and comes paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This model is EPA-rated at 28/39 mpg city/highway.
Kia Optima SX and SXL editions are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is EPA-rated at 22/32 mpg city/highway.
The Kia Optima’s exterior offers a sleek design, inspired by Peter Schreyer, formerly with Audi. The front fascia is dominated by the brand’s recognizable tiger nose grille and is marked by wraparound headlamps with LED daytime running light accents. The lower grille opening is hemmed in by stylish embrasures housing the fog lamps.
The Optima’s profile offers a European design with a long sweeping roofline that flows into the raised rear deck. A rising beltline, distinctive upper character lines and lower body sculpting are present. Alloy wheel and chrome embellishments are also present. At the rear this model features wraparound tail lamps, and one or two exhaust tips with a diffuser added to the SX and SXL models.
Inside, the Kia Optima offers excellent room for five. It has one of the more spacious cabins in its class with interior volume measuring 104.8 cubic feet. This sedan has a 15.9 cubic foot trunk.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, a six-speaker audio system, a rearview camera, auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio and cloth seats.
Trim level upgrades bring in power-heated and folding side mirrors, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, navigation, wood grain trim, leather seat trim and lighting accents. Available safety upgrades include rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and a surround view monitor.
The midsize segment is the strongest in the industry, and dominated by front-wheel drive sedans with a few all-wheel drive models available. Among the Optima’s competitors, only the Honda Accord offers a coupe as well as a sedan. The Subaru Legacy comes with standard all-wheel drive, while the Chrysler 200 and Ford Fusion offer available all-wheel drive. Besides these models and the related Hyundai Sonata, the Kia Optima competes with the Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.
Earlier Kia Optima Models
The second-generation Kia Optima offered two engine choices. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine came paired with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. Also available was a 2.7-liter V6 engine paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. Both engines were available with the two trim levels: LX and EX.
Kia added an SX edition for the 2010 model year, which included new features like proximity key and paddle shifters.
All second-generation Optima models include full power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control and a 60-40 split-folding rear seat. Optional features found in later models include heated front seats, a power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and a navigation system.
The third-generation Kia Optima continued with the LX, EX and SX trim levels. Also new for 2011 was the brand’s first Optima Hybrid model. The gasoline-only models offer a standard a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was available on EX and standard on SX models. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The hybrid model has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired with an electric motor and a six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard third-generation Kia Optima features include cloth seats, Bluetooth, a USB port and a cooled glove box. For 2014, a UVO entertainment system by Microsoft appeared on EX and SX editions. Available upgrades include a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and navigation. Optima SX models came outfitted with a rear spoiler, illuminated scuff plates and metal pedals. Also in 2014, Kia updated its product line to feature five distinct trim levels: LX, EX, SX, SX Turbo, and SXL Turbo.