Currently in its fourth generation, the Optima has been one of Kia Motors’ most successful offerings for years now, and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon. Also available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid variant, the 2019 Kia Optima includes updates which set it apart from the competition. Built in Georgia, the Optima is an impressive midsize sedan, preferred to many over its sibling the Hyundai Sonata, and represents a strong value proposition backed up by high-quality ratings and an excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. To help compete in a marketplace dominated by crossovers and SUVs, the new Optima has been given refreshing new features. Styling tweaks remain minor, but a significant change brings new advanced safety features across all trim levels.
Let’s run through those new safety features. Every Optima now comes standard with Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Also known as ADAS, this suite of safety features includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, which will automatically apply the brakes in the events of a forward collision. If a collision occurs, the system will attempt to minimize the severity of the impact. This particular function also works in conjunction with the Forward Collision Warning, which will alert the driver if a collision is unavoidable.
Other features within the ADAS suite include Driver Attention Warning, where the car will remind you through visual and audio cues if it senses your attention is drifting elsewhere.
Lane Keep Assist automatically makes minor corrections to steering if it senses the vehicle may be drifting out of a lane. If the vehicle does indeed leave the lane, Lane Departure Warning will beep to alert the driver.
Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning comes in very handy for crowded parking lots or backing out of tight spaces, where visibility is often limited.
You’ve Got Options
In addition to the new safety features, the Optima is available in four trim levels with standard and optional features that will suit your budget, lifestyle and driving needs.
LX: The base model is by no means basic. In addition to a standard six-speed automatic transmission and touchscreen display, the LX also includes LED daytime running lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
S: Stepping up a model adds fog lamps, dual exhaust, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, push button start, smart key, and power front windows.
EX: This next level up boosts power via a 178 hp turbocharged engine paired with an adaptive seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Additional features include heated front seats and smart cruise control.
SX and SX Limited: The upper tier trim levels keep the same turbocharged engine from the EX and add ambient interior lighting, European-styled leather seating, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, and GPS navigation.
Keeping You Informed and Entertained
The 2019 Optima is the first model in Kia’s lineup to feature a brand new UVO (short for Your Voice) system, a suite of services which allow drivers to perform tasks either hands-free or via voice command such as making calls, streaming music, navigation, or basic vehicle diagnostic functions.
UVO play is a standard feature on the LX trim level. It connects the user’s smartphone to the audio system via a USB cable. Using voice recognition, drivers or passengers can use their smartphones for navigation, making calls, streaming music, or messaging, all in a way which provides less distraction.
A standard feature on the S and EX models, UVO link offers additional security and convenience features, such as on-demand diagnostics, maintenance alerts, vehicle alarm notifications, speed alerts, remote start with HVAC control, remote locking and unlocking, and remote activation of the horn and lights.
UVO link with navigation is available on the SX and SXL and includes all the features of UVO play and UVO link, but also adds in a subscription map service.
What Hasn’t Changed
While Kia has made some significant changes to the 2019 Optima, they have also left well enough alone in regards to other aspects of the car.
As with the 2018 Optima, the LX and S stick with the 2.4L four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The upper EX, SX, and SLX keep a more powerful turbocharged 1.6L or 2.0L engine. All Optimas are front-wheel drive. The steering, brakes and general ride all remain the same, which all combine to perform admirably in day to day driving situations.
Storage, Comfort, and Convenience
If you’re looking to haul stuff with the new Optima, its carrying capacity is top of the line for this vehicle class. An expansive trunk with low load height and wide opening makes it simple to load and unload. A convenience feature of the trunk is that it opens automatically after a few seconds if you have the key in your pocket. The trunk can also expand into the interior by dropping down the rear seats.
The Optima also doesn’t skimp on small space storage. Plenty of nooks are available within the cabin, with a cup holder and small tray on each door, a concealed bin under the center console and more storage under the center armrest.
The Optima’s physical control buttons are logically placed and readable, requiring no guesswork to decipher. The standard 8-inch touchscreen display is bright with a legible font. Redundant physical buttons also make it easy to use.
Tall door openings provide easy access in or out of the vehicle, even for those of us on the tall side. The doors themselves are short enough that they work well in areas where parking is tight. Up in front, larger passengers will enjoy plenty of room, and the range of available adjustments will suit drivers and passengers of all sizes. Folks in the back will also benefit from ample legroom. Large windows make the Optima’s cabin feel big and airy, and the standard rearview camera and optional parking sensors provide additional reassurance when backing up.
Ergonomically, the Optima delivers, offering plenty of reach and height adjustment from its steering wheel. A four-way lumbar adjustment helps to keep your back comfortable on long or short trips. Child safety is added by four LATCH anchors, accessible under the seat cushions.
The new Optima comes in with very impressive fuel economy numbers all across the various trim levels and engine options. The 2.4L engine on the LX model clocks in at an efficient 35 mpg highway and 25 mpg city. For drivers looking to maximize their fuel economy, they may want to move up to the EX. The engine is smaller but more powerful, bringing the numbers up to 37 mpg highway and 27 mpg city. The turbocharged 2.0L in the SX and SXL results in reduced numbers, but still very respectable at 30 mpg highway and 21 mpg city.
For the mid-size sedan market, the 2019 Kia Optima continues to offer some of the best features around. While this year’s updates are mostly subtle, along with the new safety features across the line, they will help to differentiate it from previous years. The Optima offers great value for the price and is definitely worth a look.