$18,092 - $23,249

2018 Kia Optima Performance Review


Performance: 8.3

In its standard arrangement, the 2018 Kia Optima is a polished, well-mannered sedan. Higher trim levels offer options like turbo engines, improved fuel economy, and an enhanced suspension. These raise the Optima's status even higher as a solid performer, all while staying in the realm of practicality. But keep in mind that this isn't one of the sportier entries in the class.

  • While we would never confuse this midsize family sedan with a BMW, Audi or Cadillac sports sedan, the 2017 Kia Optima delivers performance and ... handling a cut above most of its peers." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "On the road, our Optima was exceptionally quiet, though the ride was somewhat firm. If you're looking for comfort over performance, the smaller wheel/tire packages and more compliant suspension settings of the LX and EX trims might make a better choice." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "Stoplight acceleration is smooth and lag-free, while highway comfort is superb, thanks to well-controlled tire and wind noise. The effect is more pronounced due to the near-luxury surroundings Kia has conjured up for the SX-L, but they've also managed to exorcise the powertrain harshness (especially at lower engine speeds) with which we've long associated four-cylinder Korean cars. In all, it's a far more refined package than even the previous well-mannered Optima." -- Autoweek (2016)

Acceleration and Power

There are three different powertrains available in the 2018 Optima, starting with a base 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. This is a well-mannered setup for everyday driving. It gets a gas mileage rating of 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway that's slightly above average for a midsize sedan.

There are also two turbocharged options available. The turbo 1.6-liter engine cranks out 178 horsepower and features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s a zesty four-cylinder, but the transmission shifts don't always seem to match your needs, resulting in a feeling of untapped power. Its main advantage is fuel economy, with an EPA rating of 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway.  

Out of the turbo options, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is the more satisfying to drive. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 245 horsepower, though fuel economy drops to 22/31 mpg city/highway.

  • The turbocharged 1.6-liter has plenty of power available, but the shift-happy transmission makes it difficult to tap into the power at most speeds. A zero-to-60-mph sprint takes 7.7 seconds, a bit quicker than average. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbo takes 6.7 seconds." -- Edmunds
  • "We only had the opportunity to drive a model equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine at the launch event in Aspen, Colorado. Despite the thin air, the 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that the Optima packed under the hood delivered spirited performance, with a manageable, predictable level of turbo lag. Still, we found the performance every bit as satisfying as the Optima's best V6 rivals, and its fuel economy was more than acceptable." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "When you think of the 2016 Kia Optima as a mainstream midsize sedan, this car's strengths shine brighter. Take the base LX model with its newly available 1.6-liter turbo-four and dual-clutch automatic transmission that we drive later in the day, for instance. This little engine is a stout performer and feels nearly as punchy as the larger (and much more expensive) 2.0-liter unit." -- Automobile Magazine (2016)

Handling and Braking

The Optima comes standard with front-wheel drive and a drive mode select with three settings (Normal, Sport, and Eco). These modes adjust elements like throttle response and steering weight. Switching into sport mode adds a hint of athleticism, but even in this setting and with one of the available turbo engines, the Optima does not feel very sporty.

  • The Optima corners with surprising competence compared to its otherwise unimpressive driving dynamics, even though handling limits are rather low on paper. The narrow tires howl loudly, but the car remains composed and predictable." -- Edmunds
  • Three drive modes are selectable via a center-console switch (Normal, ECO and Sport), affecting the electric power steering, throttle response and transmission shift points. Steering was noticeably better in Sport mode, killing some of the numbness that cropped up on center in the other modes. Handling on the whole is better than before, regardless of mode." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • The Sport mode changes the transmission and steering response. The steering was heavier, but it wasn't a workout. I preferred how the steering felt in this mode. I wouldn't rate the Optima in the same league as a luxury performance sedan like a BMW, but it's good for the non-luxury, non-performance class." -- Cars.com (2016)

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