2019 Kia Optima SX first drive: Change isn’t everything


Car reviews / Вторник, Сентябрь 25th, 2018

Kia has officially crossed over into high-end with its quick and beloved rear-wheel-drive Stinger, and the rest of the lineup is far from the 1997 Kia Sephia you might see in your local high school's parking lot. Of course, that’s not exactly news — Kia has perched atop initial quality reports for some time. With the 2019 Optima, Kia stuck with what worked and changed just enough to be considered new. It made the previously optional suite of safety features like lane keep assist and lane departure warning standard, and added a Driver Attention Warning like we saw on our long-term Genesis G90 to the lengthy list of standard safety features.

The most striking changes to the new Optima are the styling updates — a new front fascia works well at emulating the aggressive Stinger without straying too far away from the 2018 model-year sedan. The rear should look familiar to those who have seen the previous models, as Kia didn’t touch it on the refresh.

The new Driver Attention Warning system doesn’t seem that important, but it takes inputs from your driving and can detect when you need to pull over. While the beeps and repetitive coffee mug showing up in your gauge cluster might be annoying — that’s the point, by the way — it’s a good reminder that your driver skills might be dulling as the long drive goes on.

The expanded safety suite follows the trend among automakers like Honda and Subaru, trickling formerly optional safety features onto the most basic models. This top-trimmed SX model gets lane keep and departure like the rest of the Optima lineup, but also adds dynamic cruise control, forward collision warning and high beam control systems as standard parts of the package. 

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 12019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 1

1 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

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2 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

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3 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

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4 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 52019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 5

5 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 62019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 6

6 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 72019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 7

7 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 82019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 8

8 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 92019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 9

9 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

2019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 102019 Kia Optima SX interior Photo 10

10 of 11The 2019 Kia Optima SX offers a red and black leather interior, which gets replaced with a bronze and black leather interior on SXL models. &nbsp

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Next Gallery: Aston Martin to celebrate Zagato centenary with two models one old one new » 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato

11 of 11Next Gallery: Aston Martin to celebrate Zagato centenary with two models one old one new &nbsp

The Execution

Powering the ’19 Optima SX is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 as last year. The output is unchanged, which means it still churns out a respectable 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Power goes through the same six-speed automatic transmission, too. Again, why change what isn’t broken?

The turbocharged 2.0-liter gets the Optima going fine, but you definitely won’t impress your Stinger-owning neighbor. The transmission, too, isn’t lightning fast but shifts smoothly and easily. That means when you're smashing your foot to the floor to hop on the on ramp, you won’t slosh your coffee during a shift.

At highway speeds, 2019 Kia’s evolution becomes most obvious — the cabin nearly as quiet as an Audi or a ‘Benz. Road noise does creep into the cabin on toothy surfaces, but on concrete or traditional asphalt it’s quiet enough to hear the ever-present ringing in your ears.

The SX trim's new safety features (like lane keeping) work well, and keep you centered between the lines when active, even on poorly marked roads. The system will alert you if it doesn’t recognize your hands on the wheel after about ten seconds, which means on long trips you’ll have to keep at least one hand near the three or nine o’clock position to stop the system from screaming at you. The adaptive cruise is easy to trigger and foolproof to manage.

The suspension is another carryover from the ’18 model, with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension out back. It does a great job dealing with imperfections on the roadways — keeping your fillings in your teeth and your drinks safely in your cups. The suspension isn’t tuned for high-performance driving, so you can expect dips and dives under intense maneuvers, as well as a good amount of understeer when pushing into a corner.

The Takeaway

Like we said, Kia didn’t change much with this refresh — and why should it? The Optima is now representative of what Kia has become. Especially in the highly optioned and comfortable SX models, there's no need for a clean sheet. The minor updates to the styling and added safety features make a good package even better for 2019.

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $32,820

Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, six-speed automatic, FWD

Output: 245 hp at 6,000 RPM and 260 lb-ft of torque from 1,350 to 4,000 RPM

Curb Weight: 3,558 lbs

Fuel Economy: 21/30/24 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Pros: The updated styling and standardized safety features make the top trim a better bargain

Cons: A midsize sedan in an SUV world