2018 Kia Optima

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MSRP: $22,600 - 30,600

2018 Kia Optima Review

With a user-friendly infotainment system, an array of safety and technology features, and good gas mileage, the 2018 Kia Optima sits in the top third of the midsize car class. Still, its road manners are nothing special.




Critics' Rating: 8.6
Performance: 8.3
Interior: 8.6
Safety: 10.0
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Roomy, adult-friendly seats all around
  • Lots of standard tech and safety features
  • Outstanding safety rating
  • Easy-to-use infotainment system
  • Bland driving dynamics

New for 2018


  • Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 7-inch touch screen now standard
  • New standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors


Is the Kia Optima a Good Car?

The Kia Optima is an excellent choice in the midsize cars class. Terrific safety scores, a roomy cabin, and a lengthy standard features list help the Kia keep up with perennial top sellers like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Its only real drawback is lackluster driving dynamics.

Should I Buy the Kia Optima?

If you are a new-car shopper looking for a midsize car with above-average gas mileage and first-rate safety scores, the Kia Optima will meet your needs. Families will also be happy to know that it fits five people comfortably, and there's ample trunk space for everyone's belongings. The Optima’s value, however, is what really stands out. Its starting price is below the class average, and you get standout amenities – like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch touch screen, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert – in the base trim. You won't find any major performance pitfalls, but handling and power lean more toward composure than excitement.

Other alternatives with comfort-biased virtues include rivals like the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. The Camry also touts an optional V6 engine that delivers far more horsepower than the Optima's available turbo-four.

Compare the Optima, Camry, and Sonata »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Optima?

Kia made a number of changes to the Optima for 2018. Mainly, it introduced a load of new standard equipment, including a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In addition, safety technology like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors were also made standard. If you're open to driving a used car, you should consider shopping for a used 2016 or 2017 Optima to save money. The car was fully redesigned for 2016, and those two model years are nearly identical. All of the new standard features can be found in used Optimas, you may just have to hunt around for them.

To research the other models in this generation, check out our reviews of the 2016 and 2017 Kia Optima. You can also read our review of the prior-generation 2015 Kia Optima. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Kia Optima »

We Did the Research for You: 24 Reviews Analyzed

Before you get overwhelmed sifting through endless car reviews, check out our comprehensive Kia Optima review. It includes professional evaluations from 24 different sources, along with specs such as fuel economy ratings, a list of standard and available safety features, and comparisons with other midsize family sedans. This 2018 Kia Optima review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2016 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report – which has been in business since 1933 – takes pride in helping readers sort through some of life's most important decisions with rankings like the Best Hospitals and the Best Colleges. We also rank and review cars, trucks, and SUVs, and issue the annual Best Cars for the Money and Best Cars for Families awards.

How Much Does the Kia Optima Cost?

Pricing for the 2018 Optima starts at $22,500, which is about what you'll pay for most new midsize sedans. In addition to the base LX 2.4 model, there are four upgraded trim levels to choose from: S 2.4 ($23,500), EX 2.4 ($25,600), LX 1.6T ($24,300), and the top SX 2.0T ($30,500). For great savings at your local Kia dealer, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Optima Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Kia Optima or Honda Accord?

The Honda Accord has long been the gold standard for family sedans. Redesigned for 2018, the Accord has a new engine lineup, including a base engine that delivers better fuel economy estimates than the Optima and many other vehicles in the class. Its optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission combine to deliver a more exhilarating ride than the Optima. Additionally, the Optima has uninspiring driving dynamics, while the Accord's sharp steering makes it feel more responsive. The Accord also has more advanced driver assistance and safety features than the Optima, including standard lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. However, the Optima comes with a longer list of standard technology features, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both cars have spacious seats and good cargo space, but the Accord's narrow trunk opening might be problematic. Overall, the Accord is the better car.

Which Is Better: Kia Optima or Toyota Camry?

The fully redesigned Toyota Camry springs onto the scene as one of the best midsize cars you can buy. While previous generations favored comfort over performance, the new generation offers improved driving dynamics that make it feel nimbler, especially when equipped with the optional V6 engine. It also comes standard with a full suite of advanced safety features (more so than the Optima) and a user-friendly infotainment system. On the downside, the Camry doesn't offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are both standard in the Optima, and it has a smaller trunk than the Optima. That said, it's still the better choice.

Which Is Better: Kia Optima or Hyundai Sonata?

There aren't many differences between the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima sedans. Both offer all-around comfort, the same class-leading warranty, and similar standard features. Both cars are good options, but the Sonata's lower starting price gives it a slight edge.

Compare the Optima, Camry, and Sonata »

Optima Interior

How Many People Does the Optima Seat?

You can comfortably seat five adults inside an Optima. Its front seats are especially roomy, and you can get upgrades for this zone that include heated and ventilated seats and 10-way power adjustments. Test drivers note that rear-seat legroom – though dimensionally shorter than the Toyota Camry's – is still generous enough to accommodate tall travelers.

Optima and Car Seats

The Optima comes with three tether anchors – one for each rear seat. The hardware is clearly labeled and easy to locate. The outboard seats each have a set of lower anchors. These are mounted a bit deep in the seat cushions but are otherwise easy to use.

Optima Interior Quality

The cabin of the Optima feels solid and durable, with a design that feels clean and airy. Even the base model comes with plenty of soft touch points, while the premium materials used in the top trim levels impart a near-luxury feel. For some, the styling leans too much on the bland side of the spectrum. 

Optima Cargo Space

The Optima's cargo space isn't quite as generous as the Hyundai Sonata's (one of the largest in the class), but it's close. With its 15.9-cubic-foot trunk, the Optima has enough room for a shopping trip at your favorite grocery store or a pair of carry-on suitcases for everyone on board.

Optima Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

New Optimas come with an infotainment system that is easy to learn and packed with features. Kia adds an extra layer of convenience to the already intuitive UVO system by including advanced smartphone integration in every model. With standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you simply connect your smartphone, and you'll be able to access many of your favorite apps using the 7-inch touch screen. Bluetooth and satellite radio also come standard, and niceties like navigation and a larger touch-screen display are available. For phenomenal sound, consider adding the 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, available in EX and SX trims.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Optima Performance

Optima Engine: A Trio of Four-Cylinders

The Optima comes standard with a 2.4-liter engine that's perfectly respectable for daily driving. If you want a little more gusto, there are also two turbocharged options. The 1.6-liter engine is a good option for commuters. It has more pep than the base engine, along with exceptional fuel economy. Spirited drivers will find the top-level engine (a turbo 2.0-liter) more satisfying to drive, due to superior power delivery from its automatic transmission. All 2.4- and 2.0-liter Optimas come with a six-speed automatic transmission, and the 1.6-liter models employ a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Optima Gas Mileage: Better Than Most

Most Optima trims, which come with a 2.4-liter engine, get better fuel economy than the majority of vehicles in our midsize sedan ranking. It's rated at 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. For even better gas mileage, look for LX 1.6T models, which get 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway.

Optima Ride and Handling: Calm and Collected

The Optima's handling strengths focus on predictability, not pizazz. It’s a composed sedan with nicely weighted steering and reasonably strong brakes, and it comes standard with three different drive modes (Normal, Sport, and Eco). This front-wheel-drive sedan is not very athletic, though.

Read more about performance »

Optima Reliability

Is the Kia Optima Reliable?

The 2018 Optima has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five from J.D. Power, which is average among all vehicles.

Kia Optima Warranty

The Optima has one of the best warranties in the segment: a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Optima Safety

Optima Crash Test Results

The 2018 Optima earns a perfect five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Optima the highest rating of Good in five crash tests and named it a Top Safety Pick+. IIHS also notes that Optimas outfitted with the available autonomous emergency braking system offer a Superior level of front crash prevention.

Optima Safety Features

The Optima comes with more standard safety features than before. For 2018, Kia now includes a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors in every Optima trim level. A number of other advanced driver assistance technologies are available in uplevel trims and through add-on packages. These include autonomous emergency braking, a forward collision warning system, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and a surround-view camera.

Read more about safety »

Which Kia Optima Model Is Right for Me?

For 2018, Kia packs even more value into the new Optima. All models now come with a 7-inch touch screen (a gain of 2 inches over last year's display), plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. New standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors. Last year, adding on extras like these would have bumped your price up about $2,000 higher, but for 2018, Kia gives you all these goodies while increasing the base price by only $300. That's why we recommend the base model for price-sensitive shoppers on the lookout for an excellent deal.     

In addition to the $22,500 base trim, you have your choice between four uplevel trims and two available turbocharged engines. We cover these in more detail below. The Kia Optima Hybrid, which we review separately, is also available. After you select the best match for you, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Optima LX 2.4

The base LX trim comes with cloth upholstery, a 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking sensors. It's powered by a 2.4-liter engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Kia Optima S 2.4

The Optima S, a new trim level for 2018, has the same powertrain as the Optima LX. It has a sportier flair – with larger wheels and a rear spoiler – as well as a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat and leather trimmings on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob. Prices start at $23,500.

Kia Optima LX 1.6T

The LX 1.6T starts at $24,300 and has most of the same features as the LX 2.4. Its signature difference is found under the hood: a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. An upgraded driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments is among the few other additions.

Kia Optima EX 2.4

Enhancements in the Optima EX ($25,600) include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED daytime running lights and taillights, power-folding mirrors, push-button start, a proximity key, and upgraded interior materials.

Kia Optima SX 2.0T

As the range-topping trim, the SX 2.0T has the highest starting price ($30,500) and the most amenities. Standout features include a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, a sport-tuned suspension, athletic interior and exterior styling elements (such as red brake calipers and dual exhaust chrome tips), a panoramic sunroof with power shade, sport seats upholstered with black leather and red stitching, ventilated front seats, and Dynamic Bending Light headlights (for improved visibility on twisty roads).

See 2018 Kia Optima specs and trims »

The Final Call

You'll find a lot to love in the Kia Optima, from its user-friendly infotainment system to its airy cabin. With superb gas mileage, top-notch safety attributes, and Kia's class-leading warranty, the Optima emerges as an excellent value. It isn't exactly thrilling to drive, but people looking for a comfortable, down-to-earth sedan will be rewarded.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Kia Optima has always offered a strong value proposition, but the current-generation model takes it a step further with a upscale cabin and all the latest driver aids and luxury features a buyer can expect from a midsize sedan. Competitive pricing, a host of newly standard features and a robust warranty keep the Optima in the running for top-of-class honors." -- Edmunds
  • "Of all the midsize family sedans on the market, we think the 2017 Kia Optima stands out for a number of reasons. … The Optima is a comfortable cruiser with a massive interior and a large trunk, and even the most inexpensive model comes equipped with features one wouldn't expect in a base car. Power is never in short supply, as the Optima offers a choice between two turbocharged engines and one normally aspirated unit, as well as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version. When placed against rivals like the Honda Accord, the Chevrolet Malibu and the Toyota Camry, the Optima shines brightly." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "However, in almost every other area of interest to buyers, the Optima is more than a match for its rivals." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
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