With a refresh that includes a sportier, more athletic design and a healthy dose of high-tech safety features, the 2019 Kia Optima continues to be a value-packed choice that offers near-luxury touches. While it may not be as enjoyable to drive as some, the Optima is a strong contender, as it’s capable of wearing multiple hats, ranging from being a fuel-efficient car to a near-luxury rival.

Best Value

Continuing its ethos of being a value-packed option in the mid-size segment, prices for the 2019 Kia Optima start at $23,820 for an entry level LX trim and can reach $37,115 for a SX with Snow White Pearl with Aubergine Nappa leather and the SX Limited Package.

Despite its new athletic design that’s inspired by the Stinger, the trim that sticks out the most to us is the fuel-efficient EX. It’s powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired to a bespoke seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. With the powertrain, the EX trim is the most frugal option with an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 31 combined.

The EX trim comes with leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, LED daytime running lights, 17-inch wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen, and dual-zone automatic temperature control as standard.

  • Model: 2019 Kia Optima EX
  • Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 178 hp / 195 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain:Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 27 City / 37 Hwy
  • Options: EX Premium Package ($3,100, a panoramic sunroof, UVO link, voice-command navigation, a Harman/Kardon surround sound system, a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, four-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, a memory system for the driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, LED interior lighting)
  • Base Price:$27,720 (including a $920 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$30,820

Performance

Kia Optima

The Optima may not have the most powerful lineup of engines, but the mid-size sedan impresses with above average handling and a smooth ride. And it’s not like the engines are underpowered either. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and is a fine engine, producing 185 hp. While the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder is geared toward fuel economy, it’s 178 hp is nothing to sneer at. For maximum performance, the SX’s bespoke turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the best bet, generating 245 hp. Despite being the most powerful motor in the lineup, the engine doesn’t require a lot of compromise at the pumps, capable of getting up to 21/30/24 mpg (city/highway/combined).

Sure, the Optima has a more aggressive look for 2019, but don’t expect to get into the vehicle and be treated to a sporty ride. The sedan still errs toward being a comfortable daily-driver, which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just that the more athletic exterior design makes you yearn for a sportier ride. Every Optima comes with a drive select mode that lets you choose between Comfort, Eco, or Sport, but that mainly alters the powertrain and steering feel. The ride remains comfortable regardless of what mode you’re in.

Handling is better than the majority of other mid-size sedans, as the Optima, especially in the range-topping SX trim, exhibits minimal body roll and a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel. The transmissions also help the Optima’s case, as both gearboxes offer quick shifts. Opting for the EX brings the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which has some tendencies to hesitate at low speeds.

Style

With new styling that’s inspired by the racy Stinger, the Optima could fool some onlookers into believing it’s a performance vehicle. The sedan has gone from classic and safe to sporty and aggressive, which is something that’s made it even more attractive in our eyes. It’s not a complete overhaul, but new front and rear fascias have added a youthful touch to the Optima. That’s not to say that the sedan has completely ditched its clean, upscale lines from before, though. Think of the refresh as an actor slimming down and getting a nip-and-tuck to play a new role.

The Optima’s cabin remains the same from last year, which is to say high-end and handsome. If you squint hard enough, you might even make the mistake of thinking that you’re in something much more luxurious. Fit and finish is, once again, above average for the segment with upscale materials and little hard plastics. We also got to experience the Optima from the back seats with a full car of adults and were treated to a copious amount of space. While we didn’t have any issues with rear head room, consumers over six feet may have some problems because of the sloping roofline.

The Best and Worst Things

The addition of all of the latest safety features as standard is a major step up for the 2019 Optima, as last year’s model required you to move up to one of the higher trim levels and shell out some more money for an expensive package. That’s not the case for the new Optima. And when you combine that with the sedan’s upscale interior and more athletic look, you have a complete package that makes a strong case for itself in the segment – even with the mass adoption of crossovers and SUVs over sedans.

Our gripes with the Optima boil down to fuel economy and performance. Even opting for the most fuel-efficient EX trim brings fuel economy that’s not on par with some competitors. The 2019 Toyota Camry can get up 29/41/34 mpg, while the 2018 Honda Accord is rated to get up to 30/38/33 mpg. Both are better than the 2019 Optima’s ratings of up to 27/37/31 mpg.

Then there’s the matter of performance. The peppiest Optima has a 245-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. While that’s enough to get down the road in a hurry, the Accord has an available 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, while Toyota offers the Camry with 301-hp 3.5-liter V6. With the more aggressive look, some more power would be a great addition for the Optima.

Right For? Wrong For?

Kia Optima

Consumers that are looking to get into an affordable sedan with near-luxury touches. Seriously, the Optima is a comfortable, good-looking sedan that’s also not terrible around corners. The fact that it comes with a healthy list of standard features is a generous cherry on top of a generous package.

If performance or fuel economy is high up on your list, other options are better choices.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Kia Optima remains a strong option in the mid-size segment because it continues to offer excellent bang for your buck. It’s reasonably priced and comes with everything you could ever want in a car. The 2019 model year adds a distinctive design and more standard safety features to the mix, which makes the sedan more attractive than before.