As crossovers and SUVs eat into the sales of the traditional family car, manufacturers like Kia depend on adding new features to their vehicles in order to entice customers to buy their mid-size sedan. We had the opportunity to drive two different trims of the 2018 Kia Optima, the grey is the LX+ which Kia expects to account for 26% of the Optima sales for 2018. The white is the fully loaded option, the SXL with Kia's 2.0L turbocharged inline 4 engine, which is reported to be the second most popular option for buyers.
The Optima in general is a great mid-size sedan in either trim. The LX+ as tested has an MSRP of $26,595.00 and offers a 2.4L straight 4 engine matted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. You get heated front seats, heated steering wheel, SiriusXM Radio, a backup camera, and rear parking sensors, along with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. It does seem to be a well equipped model for the majority of buyers who're looking for a functional sedan at an affordable price.
The LX+ also has cloth seatings with a power and memory option for the driver, which again is a nice feature not found on some of the competition. The mirrors are also automatic power folding, and truly automatic, folding when the car is locked, and opening when the key approaches the vehicle or the doors are unlocked. For the price, you definitely get quite a lot of car to get you back and forth to work, school, or errands with the creature comforts we'd like to have up here in Canada.
SXL Turbo Trim
The range-topping SXL Turbo really shows where Kia is going with their vehicles though. Now in it's third year of production for this generation, the SXL has a smaller 2.0L turbo engine that produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The same 6-speed automatic transmission is included but features flappy paddles and an electronic parking brake. Additionally the front headlights are fully adaptive and sport LED technology, a 360º camera system enhances the visual aids for the vehicle. To compliment the sport feel of this trim the bumpers are given a sportier design, along with 18" alloy rims, a sport-tuned suspension, and red brake callipers.
The interior is also quite a nice treat for those looking for comfort and amenities. The seats are upgraded to quilted nappa leather for the front and back, and the passenger seat has power adjustment. Ventilation is added to the front seats, along with heat for the outboard rears. The back passengers also enjoy the view from the panoramic sunroof and can block out the glare with side window shades. The infotainment system is also upgraded to an 8" display with Navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The Navigation on the Kia Optima is actually one of the best systems we've used so far, especially at it's $38,945.00 MSRP.
We also found the seats to be incredibly comfortable on long or short distances, and the ventilation feature would certainly come in handy during the summer. Our only disappointment with the interior design was the dashboard and door cars which were all hard plastics. The 2017 Mazda6 GT we featured had a leather wrapped dash and door cards, and the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6 also comes with softer material for the dashboard.
We also continue to praise manufacturers that have gotten on board with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to allow customers more choice with the way they interact with their vehicles. While we truly loved the Kia's built-in navigation system, it still is nice to use either platform to connect in and listen to music, maps, or anything else you have on your phone.
We didn't have much of a chance to try out the performance of the Kia Optima SXL Turbo due to the wintery weather, however we did have ample opportunity to drive this car in the snow, and we were very impressed with it's FWD performance. Normally we'd prefer AWD vehicles for winter, however we had complete confidence with this vehicle during some heavy snow over the week and found it powered through any difficult patches without problem.
245 horsepower isn't anything to laugh at for a car of this size. You certainly won't be racing it around, at least not in any races you'll be winning, but the 2.0L turbo engine has plenty of power to get you onto the highways and to pass slower traffic. The flappy paddles can give you a more sport feel to the car with the traditional 6-speed automatic transmission, and it's not uncommon to still find a 6-speed on this class of vehicle, few auto makers have made the jump to 8 at this time. A manual transmission is not offered on this vehicle at any trim level.
The ride of the Optima was also very nice, eating up a lot of the rough Québec roadway during our week without much issue. Mixed with the comfort of the seats, this mid-size sedan is a very comfortable option for buyers looking to have safety and luxuries at an affordable price point. We do believe Kia's projections for their sales numbers, with the SXL Turbo being one of the most popular options for buyers, as competition continues to get fierce. While the Kia might have a more conservative design over it's competition like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, the Optima looks great, performs great, and offers a lot in one package.
We're excited to see where Kia continue to take their brand and what enhancements they plan for the future. We think with a few minor updates to the interior trim this could be a serious competitor for more premium vehicles without having to spend premium dollars. You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Kia Optima SXL Turbo below: