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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
October 30, 2018

The 2019 Kia Optima pairs attractive looks with excellent safety gear.

It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd, but the 2019 Kia Optima makes its mark among mid-size sedans with cut-above styling and a raft of newly standard safety gear not found on many of its rivals.

The 2019 Optima’s nip-and-tuck styling update isn’t what will lure shoppers into showrooms when it hits dealers in late 2018; instead, a bevy of features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and lane-departure warnings add to an already strong safety record.

The 2019 Optima is available in LX, S, EX, SX, and SXL trim levels and a choice of three 4-cylinder engines paired to automatic transmissions.

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New front and rear bumpers and revised wheel designs highlight the changes to a bodystyle that’s beginning to gray around its temples. The current Optima debuted for the 2016 model year.

Inside, the dash has hints of flair and boasts an unusually high level of standard equipment. Kia hasn’t broken out full trim level details for the 2019 Optima, but the automaker has detailed the trio of infotainment systems available. The base system, dubbed Uvo Play, comes standard on the Optima LX and delivers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a USB input. The Uvo Link system fitted to S and EX trims adds a number of apps that work with a connected smartphone, such as vehicle diagnostics, speed alerts, and geo-fencing. Optional on the EX and standard on SX and SXL trims, the Uvo Link with Navigation setup adds baked-in maps with two free map updates included.  

We’ve not spent time in a 2019 Optima, so we can’t comment on the latest infotainment software. Kia’s outgoing system earned points for its simplicity and fast responses.

For 2019, the Optima SX can be ordered with red-and-black leather upholstery, while the range-topping Optima SXL will be available with a new two-tone bronze and black nappa leather interior.

The Optima’s interior provides good room for four adults, albeit with limited rear-seat headroom thanks to the sloping roofline. At 15.9 cubic feet, the Optima’s trunk is about par for the mid-size sedan segment.

Underhood, the 2019 Optima’s 4-cylinder engines carry over from last year. LX and S trims feature a 185-horsepower inline-4 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Optima EX swaps in a 1.6-liter turbo-4 rated at 178 hp and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, while the SX and SXL go full-tilt with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 and a 6-speed automatic.

In the past, we’ve called the base engine perfectly adequate and we’ve heaped praise on the zippy 2.0-liter. The 1.6-liter middle child provides more torque (195 pound-feet) than the base engine (178 lb-ft), but its 7-speed dual-clutch has grumbled through some shifts in our testing.

Notably, Optima SX and SXL trims feature more sound deadening than their less-powerful siblings, which has given them a more upscale feel in the past.

We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve driven the 2019 Optima, however, and we’re still waiting to hear what the EPA has to say regarding the sedan’s fuel economy.

On the safety front, the Optima makes standard for 2019 what was optional last year: automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and lane-departure warnings. EX and higher trims add adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go.

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2019 Kia Optima Pricing Insights

  • 2019 Optimas arriving; 2018s sold out
  • Bonus: Up to $2,500 customer cash
  • Finance: 0.0% for 60 months
  • Lease: From $199 for 36 months
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