The 2018 Kia Optima, last re-designed in 2016, is one of the better-looking offerings in the highly-competitive midsize sedan class. In addition to a list of standard features that continue to make it a solid value, the 2018 model gets a sportier-looking new S trim level.

Best Value

Although it sits near the top of the lineup, the best Kia Optima value is the EX model that features a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The starting price of $31,395 includes leather seats (heated in front), dual-zone automatic climate control, LED daytime running lights and taillights, and 17-inch wheels.

Moving up to the EX also offers buyers the choice of two option packages that offer everything from a panoramic sunroof to a slew of advanced active safety features

  • Model: 2018 Kia Optima EX
  • Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 185 hp / 178 lb-ft
  • MPG: 24 City / 34 Hwy
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Exterior color: Titanium Silver
  • Interior color: Black Leather
  • Options:Premium Package ($2,300, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, power front passenger seat, LED front and rear reading lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror), Technology Package ($3,000, navigation, Harmon/Kardon surround sound, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams)
  • Base Price: $26,495 (including $895 destination charge)
  • As Tested:$31,795

Performance Pros

  • The Optima's balanced ride and crisp handling are above average for the midsize sedan class
  • All models feature three selectable drive modes – eco, normal, and sport.
  • A new steering system for 2018 offers better feedback – especially when cornering.

Performance Cons

  • The 1.6-liter turbo's seven-speed dual clutch automatic hesitates between gears and shifts roughly.
  • Softer ride translates into more body lean in corners than previous versions.
  • With a minimum EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon combined the Optima, though hardly thirsty, isn't as fuel efficient as a number of its competitors.

Interior Pros

  • Interior fit and finish – even in base models – is above average for the midsize class.
  • The infotainment system, with a number of redundant knobs and buttons, is easy to operate, even for novice users.
  • The front seats offer good side support, plenty of leg room and, on some models, diamond-pattern leather that's typically found only on high-end luxury vehicles.

Interior Cons

  • All trims are quiet, but you have to opt for the most expensive SX model to get the best sound insulation.
  • Due to the sloping roofline, there's barely enough head room in back to accommodate six-footers.
  • The current dashboard layout isn't as driver-oriented as it once was, and reaching for the infotainment touchscreen might be a stretch for some drivers.

Our Favorite Thing

Even as newer models come to market, the Optima's interior fit and finish remains well above average in the midsize class.

Our Least Favorite Thing

Although a rear view camera, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assistance are all standard, advanced features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning are only available as part of expensive option packages on the top two trim levels.

Right For

Families – In an era when families are flocking to crossover SUVs, the Optima's comfortable ride, wide variety of engines, quality interior, and budget-friendly fuel economy make it a compelling alternative choice for a family hauler.

Wrong For

Safety Focused – It's hard to justify paying for a top trim Optima, then an extra $3,000 or $5,000 just to get the same advanced active safety features that are now standard equipment on the Toyota Camry.

The Bottom Line

Slick styling, class-above interior quality, great value, and a smooth, quiet ride make the 2018 Kia Optima a solid offering in the midsize class.