2019 Kia Optima

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$22,990

starting MSRP

2019 Kia Optima
2019 Kia Optima

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

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

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2019 Kia Optima trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • 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

2019 Kia Optima review: Our expert's take

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 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.

Photo of Kelsey Mays
Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.8
  • Interior design 4.9
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 4.7
  • Exterior styling 4.9
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews

4.9

Couldn't have got a better car for $29000

I've got A 2&3 year old this car has exceeded my expectations. My Kia has so much room for the kids or just riding in traffic to enjoy the sun. I NEVER imagined I'd own a Kia but I'm so glad this is what I decided on. Ive always purchased vehicles solely on looks and mainly performance and the 2019 Kia Optima is on my top 3, It's great in city and on highways while also looking slick and almost like a much more expensive car. Love love the Kia, I gotta hand it to the engineers on this one. Plenty of space great gas mileage and is much more then your everyday original stock filled car options. I still feel like a kid rolling around in it. #STILLGOTIT#

5.0

Excellent Choice for Value

I have a 2006 Kia Sportage LX with 100,700 miles on it. As you can tell, I don't particularly drive much. But my Sportage has been VERY reliable. (I call it "Ole Faithful.") In 15 yrs I haven't had to put much money into it. Other than a set of tires, a battery, and regular oil changes, I've had to put in an AC condenser and a power steering pump totalling about $1200.00 which isn't bad over 15 years of car ownership! When I decided to get another car for long distance road trips I immediately added the Optima to my short list. My priority was a mid-sized car with great safety ratings and features, and comfort. The other vehicles I considered were the 2019 Accord, Camry, and Sonata. After MONTHS of research I decided on the Optima S. I LOVE. LOVE, LOVE this car, and do not regret my choice one bit! It checked ALL my boxes, plenty of interior and trunk space, technology features, and of course safety (blindspot, rear cross traffic, lane keep assist among others). And as far as value for the money, Accord and Camry couldn't touch it. The gas milage is listed as a bit less that the Honda and Toyota, but I have been getting between 37 and 39 mpg highway, and 32 to 34 around town, so I really can't complain at all. I'd highly recommend adding this car to your list, to anyone looking for a mid-sized family car.

4.9

The best car I ever owned so far

I love it!!! Very comfortable, smooth great ride. I look forward each day to drive my car. It may not be brand new, but it has 8400 miles on it and is such a pleasure!!

See all 147 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Kia
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 years or newer/less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles
Powertrain
10 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
164-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2017

Hyundai Sonata

$21,600

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2018

Kia Cadenza

$32,290

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2019

Kia Optima Hybrid

$28,090

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See all 2019 Kia Optima articles