2019 Kia Optima Review

2019 Kia Optima - The 2019 Kia Optima SX Turbo is fast, rakish and practical.


Price: $31,900

Pros-Sleek. Roomy. Fast. Supple ride. Good handling. Advanced Safety features.

Cons-So-so city fuel economy. Rather long brake pedal travel. Limited rear visibility.

Bottom Line-Nearly an affordable sports sedan.

Don't tell neighbors that your new car isn't a costly German sports sedan. Some may initially be fooled until they see it's a 2019 Kia Optima SX Turbo. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of.

This $31,900 front-drive mid-size sedan has the looks of some expensive German sedans. Moreover, it costs less than its more popular worthy Japanese rivals, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, when you compare its performance and all its features.

Of course, Kia must be very price-competitive when going up against better-known Toyota and Honda. But things are changing fast, with the old Kia so-so economy car image fading fast. Some well-received Kia models, such as its wild Stinger hatchback sedan, can be considered serious threats to models from established rivals.

There are a variety of Optima models, including several hybrids, that cost from approximately $22,600 to $36,315. But the SX Turbo, which is the model I tested, is the bargain of the lot-at least for those who want the most driving fun with it.

The SX Turbo certainly is the best-looking Optima. It has 45-series tires on redesigned 18-inch wheels, new LED fog lights, sport steering wheel, very supportive European-styled red-and-black two-tone sport leather-trimmed seats, panoramic roof, Harman Kardon premium audio system with UVO link with navigation, heated steering wheel and nifty looking dual exhaust outlets.

There also are gloss black door pillars and side moldings and a sport bumper with LED fog lamps. Not to mention "turbo" fender badges.

A smooth  turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder delivers 245 horsepower and and 260 pound/feet of torque. The engine never seems to work hard when moving the car from 65-80 m.p.h. in quick time, with a 0-60 m.p.h. time of 6.8 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on highways.

The engine is hooked to a somewhat old 6-speed automatic transmission, but the "trans" works smoothly and efficiently and can be manually shifted via paddle shifters.

Several drive modes can be easily selected with a console button, but I'd leave the "Sport" model to twisting roads and stick with the "Comfort" mode for most motoring. The sport mode tightens up the steering and provides a firmer ride, although it never gets uncomfortable. You just feels the bumps more.

The precise steering is actually a bit firm in Comfort mode and could transmit more road feel, and the generally smooth ride is also a little stiff. Still, this is a good long-distance car. Handling in the normal driving mode is good on sweeping curves, and the brakes work well. Helping handling are a modified suspension and traction, stability control and vehicle stability systems. The rather long brake pedal travel takes some getting used to, but the anti-lock brakes work with authority.

Safety systems include blind-spot collision warning, forward collision avoidance assist, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, parking distance warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning and smart cruise control with a stop-and-go feature. There's also a bunch of air bags, including full-length side curtain air bags.

The SX Turbo's quiet interior is a pleasant place to be, although the coupe-style roofline causes one to use the power outside power mirrors for the best rear visibility. The D-shaped steering wheel can make it easier to slide in and out, and the heated and ventilated front seats are powered. There's a push-button start, and the backlit gauges can be quickly read. A good number of clearly marked control buttons are in the dashboard and console areas, making it easy to adjust things without taking eyes off the road. Kudos to Kia for them. All cupholders are within easy reach.

Other standard features include a panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade. Keeping one entertained is a Harman Kardon premium audio system.  A UVO link includes a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen and rear camera, There's also Android Auto and Apple CarPay. Thank goodness that the infotainment system is user-friendly, which often isn't the case these days. The interior is roomy, and there are plenty of storage areas.

The trunk is spacious, and rear seat backs easily flip forward and fold flat to enlarge the cargo area.

The new Optima SX Turbo shows that desirable midsize sedans are far from dead. And the powertrain warranty is good for 100,000 miles.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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