2018 Kia Optima Expert Review

Editor's Overview

The 2018 Kia Optima is a segment leader in many key areas, running the gamut from affordable family transport to high-performance turbo sports sedan. In addition, two hybrid models, including a plug-in, ensure excellent fuel economy, and there's always that great 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

You'll Like The 2018 Kia Optima If...

The 2018 Kia Optima offers a little something for everyone, packing value and technology at every trim level, from the base-model LX, to the sporty turbocharged SX, and the hybrid and plug-in hybrid. The competitively priced Optima also comes standard with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

You May Not Like The 2018 Kia Optima If...

While you can get driver-assist technology on the Optima, it's reserved for higher-end models, unlike the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which offer it across the board. Unlike the Subaru Impreza, the Optima isn't available with all-wheel drive either.

What's New

The 2018 Kia Optima gets a standard 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and standard blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist. A new S trim level adds a level of sportiness at a lower price, offering a sporty front bumper, rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels and more.

Interior Features

Kia bifurcates the 2018 Optima interior with a metallic band of trim, placing the gauges, infotainment touch screen and vents above, and the audio-system and climate-control buttons below. As we expect in Kias these days, the interior materials all feel high quality, and we like the soft-touch panels on the door tops, dash and pretty much everywhere else. We also like the fact that Kia still uses buttons and knobs for most functions, instead of relying on touch-sensitive sliders. The comfortable seating extends to the huge back seat, and Optima SX Limited models get Nappa leather and other high-end touches.

Exterior Features

The 2018 Optima is a good-looking and sharply styled car, one that subtly builds on the design language established by the previous-generation car. We like the long, low look, the "tiger-nose" grille treatment, and the subtly aggressive stance. Then again, we said the same things about the previous-generation Optima, and considering the significant changes under the skin, it'd be nice if that skin was different as well. Then again, that gamble didn’t pay off too well for Hyundai’s Sonata, so we’re fine with the Optima keeping a familiar look.

Driving Impressions

Kia’s 2018 Optima isn't billed as a sports sedan, but the SX model with the turbo engine doesn't seem to have gotten the memo. The 245-horsepower turbocharged engine, quick-shifting 6-speed automatic, and responsive steering all make the Optima SX turbo feel more agile and fun than many of its competitors. The SX gets singled out here thanks to its better power-steering setup and firmer suspension and 18-inch wheel-and-tire package. The LX and EX are geared more toward comfort, which is no bad thing really. The good news is that superior handling doesn't come at the expense of a harsh ride. While we love the turbo's plentiful power, we have to admit that the standard 2.4-liter engine is actually more than adequate for most drivers, and the 1.6-liter with its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is a nice intermediate step, although the transmission could use some refinement.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a base Optima LX starts at just under $23,400, including the $895 destination charge. The new S model adds $1,000, and if you want the 1.6-liter turbo engine in your LX, you'll pay just under $25,200. EX models start at about $26,500, while the SX with its turbocharged engine comes in at about $31,400. Start checking option boxes and you'll wind up at about $38,000 for a fully loaded SX Limited with all the trimmings. The Optima EX Hybrid starts at about $32,000, while the Plug-in Hybrid starts just over $36,000. Overall, the Optima's prices are in line with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and the rest of the midsize-sedan segment. Check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see how much others in your area paid for their 2018 Optimas. The Kia Optima is becoming a better long-term investment, beating half the segment in resale value.

Notable Equipment

All Optima models now come with a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to that, the base-model LX comes with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a Driver Mode Select system that switches among Normal, Sport and Eco modes. Other standard features include air conditioning, a rearview camera, and controls on the tilt-telescope steering wheel for the cruise-control and audio systems. The infotainment system includes Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth, aux and USB inputs. The front seats adjust manually, except for the driver's power lumbar.

Notable Options

You can equip the LX with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic or you can step up to the 2.0-liter turbo in the SX models. Other options include a new Convenience Package for LX models that adds a 10-way-power driver's seat and laminated front-side windows, and of course the new S model. EX and SX buyers can add active cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning, while the Limited package on SX models adds Nappa leather, an around-view monitor and more. Of course, there's also the harman/kardon audio system we can't say enough nice things about.

Favorite Features


With Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard across the board on a 7-inch touch screen, the 2018 Optima feels that much more modern. And what's not to like: Both systems offer up the same interface you've grown to love on your phone, and with similar functionality, too.


Kia knows you're going to be listening to more than your own thoughts, and the harman/kardon QuantumLogic7 surround audio system in the 2018 Optima goes a step beyond its rivals with its Clari-Fi feature that helps restore even old MP3 files.

Under the Hood

The base Optima LX, S, and EX models all get a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. There's an additional low-end engine available on the LX, a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. If you want power, the Optima SX 2.0L Turbo comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 245 horsepower, also connected to a 6-speed automatic. If you're looking at hybrids, they use a 2.0-liter non-turbo engine paired to an electric motor. Fuel economy is solid across the board, with LX models getting 34 mpg on the highway, SX getting 31 mpg, and the LX 1.6T model getting 37 mpg. The 2018 Optima Hybrid promises 46-mpg highway and the plug-in 103 MPGe.

2.4-liter inline-4 (LX, EX)

185 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

178 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 (LX 1.6T)

178 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm

195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/37 mpg

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (SX, SXL)

245 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,350-4,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg

2.0-liter inline-4 + Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor (Hybrid)

154 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

140 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm

Electric Motor: 50 horsepower/151 lb-ft of torque

Net Output: 192 horsepower/271 lb-ft of torque

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 39/46 mpg

2.0-liter inline-4 + Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor (Plug-in Hybrid)

154 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

140 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm

Electric Motor: 66 horsepower/151 lb-ft of torque

Net Output: 202 horsepower/276 lb-ft of torque

EPA fuel economy: 103 MPGe/40 mpg combined

Editors' Notes

The 2018 Kia Optima sedan family receives a handful of improvements this year, building on the momentum it has earned since its introduction in 2016 when it won our Best Buy award for midsize sedans. The Optima established itself early as a leader in the midsize-sedan segment, offering excellent performance, power, fuel economy, technology and value. Against rivals like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu, the Optima holds its own, with the 2018 Optima now offering a standard 7-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and standard blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking-assist systems. The icing on the cake: the Optima's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

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Owner Reviews


127 Reviews

71% 28% 1% 1% 1 star 0%

Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

Kia is a lot nicer than you remember!

The optima ex with the premium package is an amazing vehicle. It is visually beautiful, inside and out. The level of comfort matches any luxury car. Amenities are over the top. Features include a panoramic sunroof, leather seats that are heated and cooled!! 8 inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay. Radio has 40 presets!! Both front seats are power operated. Color scheme choices are so beautiful. Mine has two gray tones, brushed metal trim and a beautiful dark woodgrain. Smart key technology is so cool. The car loves me too! When I come near it, the door handles light up and the mirrors unfold, it sings a little song when I get in and says welcome! There are 11 airbags including full curtain coverage. Stereo is fantastic!

- Sunny A

It is literally an okay car.

I am more of a sports car person, but couldn't find a sports car around my price range with great performance. So I decided to get a reliable car. It gets you from point A to B like any car. But the power is extremely underwhelming. Taking simple turns can easily throw the back end out. The engine noise can be very concerning when revs go up. Sounds like it is going to explode, but it is a 4 cylinder. It is pretty comfortable I guess. Decent features for the average person. Speakers are okay at best. Doors feel cheap at times. Lots of plastic everywhere. It is literally just an okay car.

- Kia O

Mom car that keeps us safe and gets us where we need, with just one tank of gas.

I love my Kia Optima, the seats are comfortable, there is ample space for my passengers, and best of all there is a ton of space in my trunk. I always get compliments on how smooth my car drives. There are three different drive modes, regular, eco, and sport. Eco allows me to drive over 500 miles without having to stop to fill up. Sport mode allows me to get that pick up when merging onto a highway. Overall I would recommend this car to anymore who wants a spacious reliable car.

- Karen S