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2019 Kia Optima

2019 Kia Optima

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$11,432 — $33,404 NEW and USED
10
Photos
Sedan
5 Seats
24-31 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 4 trims

Overview

Is this the car for you?

The Good

  • Value pricing
  • Many standard safety, drivet assist features
  • Class-leading warranty
  • Spacious interior
  • Intuitive controls
  • Crash-test ratings

The Bad

  • Unremarkable engines
  • So-so handling
  • Uninspired interior design
  • Firm ride with sport suspension (SX)
  • Top trim levels can get pricey
  • Middling gas mileage
2019 Kia Optima exterior side view

What to Know

about the 2019 Kia Optima
  • Five-seat mid-size sedan
  • Updated styling for 2019
  • Newly standard automatic emergency braking
  • Standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder
  • Available turbocharged 1.6-liter, 2.0-liter engines
  • Available Nappa leather seats

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2019 Kia Optima Review

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

People aren’t really buying mid-size family sedans anymore. However, Kia doesn’t seem to care. Will this midcycle refresh of the Optima for 2020 be enough to attract what remains of the mid-size-sedan-buying crowd? Watch this video to find out.

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict: The Kia Optima overcomes a hit-and-miss driving experience with value galore, especially now that Kia has added much-needed standard safety features for 2019.

Versus the competition: Even in a dwindling crowd of mid-size sedans, the Optima faces stiff competition in the form of redesigns from its Japanese rivals, none of which it beats for overall refinement. Still, it’s hard to beat Kia’s value proposition.

As we explain in our Optima video, mid-size sedan popularity has collapsed in recent years, even as major competitors like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry sport fresh redesigns (compare them here). For 2019, the Optima is midway through its fourth generation, but Kia has issued a raft of updates (read more about them here), including some much-needed additions on the safety and driver assist front. We evaluated the highest of four trim levels, the SX Turbo. Stack up the trims for the 2019 Optima here, or compare the 2019 and 2018 Optimas here.

One last bit of housekeeping: We cover the related Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid separately in our Research section. Compare them with the non-hybrid Optima here.

Got it? Onward.

Middling Powertrains

The SX Turbo is powered by the Optima’s top available engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (245 horsepower, 260 pounds-feet of torque). That’s become a common size in this class — six other mid-size sedans also offer a turbo 2.0-liter — but not all examples are equal, and Kia’s underwhelm...

The verdict: The Kia Optima overcomes a hit-and-miss driving experience with value galore, especially now that Kia has added much-needed standard safety features for 2019.

Versus the competition: Even in a dwindling crowd of mid-size sedans, the Optima faces stiff competition in the form of redesigns from its Japanese rivals, none of which it beats for overall refinement. Still, it’s hard to beat Kia’s value proposition.

As we explain in our Optima video, mid-size sedan popularity has collapsed in recent years, even as major competitors like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry sport fresh redesigns (compare them here). For 2019, the Optima is midway through its fourth generation, but Kia has issued a raft of updates (read more about them here), including some much-needed additions on the safety and driver assist front. We evaluated the highest of four trim levels, the SX Turbo. Stack up the trims for the 2019 Optima here, or compare the 2019 and 2018 Optimas here.

One last bit of housekeeping: We cover the related Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid separately in our Research section. Compare them with the non-hybrid Optima here.

Got it? Onward.

Middling Powertrains

The SX Turbo is powered by the Optima’s top available engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (245 horsepower, 260 pounds-feet of torque). That’s become a common size in this class — six other mid-size sedans also offer a turbo 2.0-liter — but not all examples are equal, and Kia’s underwhelms. Step on the gas from a stop and the Optima SX has a bit of old-school turbo lag: Power can take a few moments to show up, and it’s comparatively modest even at full bore versus competitors like the quick-revving Accord 2.0T and the potent Camry V-6.

A six-speed automatic transmission (standard on the Optima SX) downshifts with respectable haste when you need passing power, but a couple of more gears and the faster revving they would bring could make the most of this engine. I don’t call for that lightly — more gears often introduces hunting and kickdown delay — but the Optima’s platform sibling, the Hyundai Sonata, successfully upgraded to a responsive new eight-speed automatic one model year ago. (Hyundai and Kia are affiliated automakers.) It’s unfortunate the Optima did not.

Most variants get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder (185 hp, 178 pounds-feet of torque), which also pairs with a six-speed automatic. Though we haven’t evaluated it recently, the same drivetrain in the Sonata is adequate but uninspiring, which stands in contrast to the improbably good base drivetrains of the Accord and Camry.

Higher up the Optima’s trim ladder, there’s an available turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder (178 hp but just 195 pounds-feet of torque) that teams with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It fared well in our earlier evaluations of the current-generation Optima and makes for the best Optima in terms of gas mileage (excluding the hybrid): 31 mpg combined in EPA estimates versus ratings in the mid- to high-20s for other drivetrains. Still, if mileage is paramount, even the 1.6-liter Optima narrowly trails its most efficient competitors.

Ride and Handling

SX models pair low-profile tires and the Optima’s largest available wheels (18-inchers, versus 16s or 17s elsewhere) with a sport-tuned suspension. The results are, I suspect, too firm for most shoppers in this class: High-speed isolation is OK, but the suspension jostles the cabin over rapid elevation changes and responds harshly to highway expansion joints. The overall experience evokes the Altima, another firm-riding car.

In exchange for that, the SX changes direction reasonably quickly, with limited body roll, and the Kumho Solus tires on our test car provided fairly good grip in sweeping corners before the nose eventually pushed. It’s fun enough, but it doesn’t distinguish itself in a field of rivals — the Accord and Camry in particular — that strike a better ride/handling balance.

Fortunately, the Optima’s three other trim levels have normal suspension tuning, and two of them pair that with smaller wheels and higher-profile tires. Those differences should improve ride comfort, so compare a few of them on your test drives. It’s worth noting that a few years back, a 1.6-liter Optima with smaller wheels drew praise from Cars.com editors for its ride comfort.

The Inside

Changed minimally since the current generation debuted in late 2015, the Optima’s interior features a towering monolith of a dashboard and lots of simple, trim-free expanses. Most cabin materials are soft-touch where they need to be, but the design lacks much inspiration — and it doesn’t live up to the prior generation’s eye-catching dashboard, which helped it earn our highest award at the time.

Still, the 2019 Optima boasts comfortable seats with good adjustment range up front, plus decent front and rear headroom even with our test car’s panoramic moonroof. All trims get a standard height-adjustable passenger seat — something no Accord or Altima offers. The center console houses two sizable cubbies ahead of the cupholders, which is one more than what most competitors give you. The standard 8-inch touchscreen has straightforward menus and all the essential physical controls, including volume and tuning knobs. You’d be surprised how many cars botch such basics.

Features and Value

Automatic emergency braking, a critical safety feature that’s widely standard among competitors, was only an option on top trim levels of the Optima last year. Kia wisely made it standard for 2019, along with an array of driver assist features, including stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, blind spot detection and, above 40 mph or so, lane-centering steering. (Like Hyundai, Kia won’t call it lane centering, but in our experience it can do just that when programmed for maximum intervention.) For around $24,000 including destination — about $1,000 less than a 2019 Accord, Altima or Camry — the Optima comes standard with all of that, plus Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Kia’s class-leading warranty.

Check all the boxes and you can get Nappa leather upholstery, power-adjustable seats with heating and cooling up front, heated rear seats, keyless access, Harman Kardon premium audio and the panoramic roof. Loaded up thus, the Optima will set you back some $37,000.

Strong crash-test ratings bolster the Optima’s case: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the halogen headlights on most trims poorly, but the well-rated LED headlights on the SX earn it a Top Safety Pick Plus designation. All trims get strong scores in the agency’s new passenger-side small overlap test.

Fresher rivals are all-around better cars, to be sure, but the Optima’s value proposition should land it enough shoppers to keep it relevant. The relative deficits mount as you climb the trim levels, and any mid-$30,000s Optima begs spending your money elsewhere. But most Optima shoppers aren’t buying such cars: As of this writing, 90 percent of Optima inventory on Cars.com is listed below $30,000. That’s where Kia makes a sound case.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.9
132 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.8)
Interior Design
(5.0)
Comfort
(4.9)
Reliability
(5.0)
Value For The Money
(4.9)

Read reviews that mention:

(5.0)

Very Reliable Car

by Voncharsa from West Point, Ms on September 23, 2020

THIS CAR IS EVERYTHING TO ME. I WOULD RECOMMEND YOU STOP BY THIS DEALER AND PURCHASE YOU A VEHICLE. YOU WANT BE DISAPPOINTED!! STOP BY TODAY DON'T HESITATE. Read full review

(5.0)

I Love my car

by Donnalea from Seersport maine on September 12, 2020

Best car we have owned yet.. I feel safe in it..it has room to stretch and the truck is large enough for my shopping sprees..lol Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2019 Kia Optima currently has 1 recall


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2019 Kia Optima LX

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
acceptable

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Front Crash Prevention
superior

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Headlights

Overall Rating
poor

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
acceptable
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
acceptable

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side

Overall Evaluation
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side - Driver Injury Measures

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side - Passenger Injury Measures

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Kia

New Car Program Benefits

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    120 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 60,000 miles

Latest 2019 Optima Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Optima received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Latch or Latch system

B

Infant seat

C

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

B

Rear-facing convertible

B

Booster

(second row)

B
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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*MSRP and Invoice prices displayed are for educational purposes only, do not reflect the actual selling price of a particular vehicle, and do not include applicable gas taxes or destination charges.