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2017 Kia Optima: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2017

Of all the midsize family sedans on the market, we think the 2017 Kia Optima stands out for a number of reasons. It's styling remains sleek and sporty, giving the impression it costs much more than it actually does. The Optima is a comfortable cruiser with a massive interior and a large trunk, and even the most inexpensive model comes equipped with features one wouldn't expect in a base car. Power is never in short supply, as the Optima offers a choice between two turbocharged engines and one normally aspirated unit, as well as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version. When placed against rivals like the Honda Accord, the Chevrolet Malibu and the Toyota Camry, the Optima shines brightly, although it doesn't offer the option of all-wheel drive, which you can get on the Ford Fusion and comes standard on the Subaru Legacy.

Inside, the Optima delights with its modern styling and impressive list of standard and available features. Small things -- such as the available 10-way power passenger seat -- make a big difference, as do luxury options, including the massive panoramic glass sunroof, heated rear seats and the 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

What's New for 2017?

For 2017, Kia gives the SX 18-inch alloy wheels as part of its standard equipment list, while the SXL gets 18-in chrome alloys. LED adaptive headlights with auto high beams are made standard on SXL and available on the SX. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, auto high beams and lane-departure warning are now available on the EX trim via the Premium Plus Package.

What We Like

Standout styling; good safety scores; impressive standard and optional equipment list; choice of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines; good fuel economy; great warranty

What We Don't

Limited rear-seat headroom; handling not as precise as in the Mazda6 or the Ford Fusion; no all-wheel-drive option; advanced collision-avoidance technology not offered on base trims

How Much?

$23,095-$37,500

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Optima offers a choice of three gasoline-powered engines. Standard on the LX and EX trims is a 2.4-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder good for 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is also standard. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

Next is an available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine offered only on the LX trim. This engine produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 1.6T earns an impressive 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy.

Finally, there's the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine available only on the top-level SX and SXL trims. This engine produces a healthy 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates for the 2.0T are a respectable 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Kia Optima is offered in five trims and three engine choices: LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX and SXL.

The Optima LX ($23,095) brings a 2.4-liter engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels, power windows, power locks, power mirrors with integrated turn signals, air conditioning, cruise control, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with a 5-in LCD rear backup display, satellite radio, an iPod/USB port, Bluetooth, a tilt-telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, a manual 6-way driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and Audi drive select adjustable steering settings.

The Optima LX 1.6T ($25,035) adds the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels with a unique light-gray finish, power-folding heated outside mirrors, acoustic front-door glass, auto up/down power front windows and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, plus push-button starting with a smart key and a smart trunk.

The Optima EX ($25,335) retains the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic but adds to the 1.6T's features, including the addition of 17-in alloy wheels, LED taillights, dual projection headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, two rapid-charge USB ports, wood-trim interior accents, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, a 12-way power driver's seat with 4-way power lumbar support and 2-position memory for the driver's seat and mirrors.

The Optima SX ($30,835) adds the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, an upgraded steering and suspension setup, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, 18-in alloy wheels, chrome dual exhaust tips, red brake calipers, sport front and rear bumpers, HID Dynamic Bending headlights, a rear spoiler, a 4.3-in LCD display panel, UVO eServices infotainment with a voice-activated navigation radio and an 8-in monitor, satin chrome interior accents, metal pedals and rear-door sunshades.

The Optima SXL ($36,985) adds additional chrome trim, LED adaptive headlights with auto high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio, an electronic parking brake, Nappa leather seating, a 10-way power passenger seat with 2-way power lumbar support, ventilated front seats, heated rear-seat cushions, rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward collision warning and the Surround View monitor.

Optima more popular options are separated into packages by trim.

The LX Convenience package adds power-folding heated side mirrors, rear park assist, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic detection, plus a 12-way power driver's seat with 2-position memory.

The LX 1.6T Technology package adds navigation with UVO, dual-zone automatic climate control, two fast-charging USB ports, rear park assist, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic detection, a rear-seat 12-volt outlet and LED rear combination lamps.

The EX Premium package includes a panoramic sunroof, navigation, ventilated front seats, a 10-way power passenger seat and LED interior lighting. The Premium Plus Package adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, a 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, heated rear-seat cushions and rear-door sunshades.

The SX Premium Technology package adds the panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon audio, adaptive headlights, high-beam assist, rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and ventilated front seats.

Safety

Every 2017 Kia Optima comes standard with a full complement of airbags, including front-seat side, full-length side-curtain and driver's-knee airbags. Electronic traction and stability control are standard, as is Kia's Vehicle Stability Management system, hill-start assist and a tire-pressure monitor.

The Optima earned five out of five stars in every test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2017 Optima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all crash tests, including a Superior rating in crash detection and mitigation (when equipped with optional crash-avoidance equipment).

Behind the Wheel

We only had the opportunity to drive a model equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine at the launch event in Aspen, Colorado. Despite the thin air, the 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that the Optima packed under the hood delivered spirited performance, with a manageable, predictable level of turbo lag. Still, we found the performance every bit as satisfying as the Optima's best V6 rivals, and its fuel economy was more than acceptable. Three drive modes are selectable via a center-console switch (Normal, ECO and Sport), affecting the electric power steering, throttle response and transmission shift points. Steering was noticeably better in Sport mode, killing some of the numbness that cropped up on center in the other modes. Handling on the whole is better than before, regardless of mode.

On the road, our Optima was exceptionally quiet, though the ride was somewhat firm. If you're looking for comfort over performance, the smaller wheel/tire packages and more compliant suspension settings of the LX and EX trims might make a better choice. We found the Optima's new seats to be a big step up from the previous generation, with better support and -- finally -- 10-way adjustable settings for the passenger.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Honda Accord -- The Accord offers the option of a V6 engine and slightly higher resale value, but it's not as sporty or luxurious as the Optima. However, you can get advanced collision-avoidance systems on all Accord trims.

2017 Toyota Camry -- The Camry is the sales champ in this segment, offering excellent reliability and resale figures. However, the Optima offers more luxury features, more engine choices and a better warranty.

2017 Subaru Legacy -- The Legacy isn't as powerful or fun to drive as the Optima, but its standard all-wheel drive makes it superior in winter driving, and even the affordable Premium trim can be equipped with collision-avoidance technology.

Used BMW 5 Series -- A 2012-2015 BMW 5 Series will offer more power and exceptional ride and handling abilities, although earlier models lack some newer safety features.

Autotrader's Advice

Surprisingly, we think the base LX offers everything you need in a family sedan. The value prospect for more-upscale buyers is probably an EX with the Premium Plus package as it now offers features such as adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Kia Optima: New Car Review - Autotrader