2018 Kia Optima

absolutely! AUTO REVIEW | By Steve Kursar –

The 2018 Kia Optima shines bright in a galaxy of family sedans. It’s an affordable alternative to the pricier Japanese competitors and yet it yields very little in terms of styling, technology and driving.  And, Kia offers a full range of models and trims to satisfy everyone out there, from a typical gas-powered model to a plug-in one. 

The Kia brand has often played second-fiddle to its better known Korean cousin (and part owner) Hyundai. The relationship with Hyundai allows Kia to utilize shared platforms and technologies to keep costs down. It’s a strategy that benefits American car buyers. The Kia brand has been around since the early 1950s, but their cars only made it to the US market in the mid 1990s. Cars they manufactured under different brand names, like the Ford Festiva, made it to the US in the 1980s. 

The current Optima is a fourth generation model, and it has come a long way since the first Optima appeared in 2000.  Unlike the first Optimas, which scored poorly on the IIHS safety ratings, the 2018 model boasts top scores, five stars overall. This impressive safety improvement is just one of many upgrades that the engineers and designers at Kia made.

Interestingly, the base Optima, with an MSRP of $22,600, gets the largest engine in the model’s line up, a 185 hp, 2.4 liter normally-aspirated four cylinder delivering 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The optional 178 hp, 1.6 liter turbocharged four-cylinder should be a peppier alternative but it’s held back by the European-style dual-clutch transmission, which provides better fuel economy (28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway) but delivers sluggish acceleration. It’s the 245 hp, 2.0 liter turbo that transforms the Optima into a fun driving machine with still pretty decent fuel numbers (22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway).

The gasoline/electric Optima Hybrid is available with even better fuel numbers (39 mpg city/ 46 mpg highway) and the plug-in hybrid Optima PHEV never has to visit a gas station if you drive less than 30 miles before plugging it back in. Good deals from dealerships should be available on these gas-sippers while gas prices stay low.

The Optima’s exterior styling, interior fit and finish and available technology are all on par with the most popular family sedans on the market. Compare it to a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord, and you may be pleasantly surprised.