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2018 Kia Stinger vs. 2018 Kia Optima: What’s the Difference?

  • 2018 Kia Stinger is a performance sedan with an available 365-hp engine
  • 2018 Kia Optima has a more luxurious interior
  • Pricing for the Optima ends just short of where pricing for the Stinger starts

If you are targeting Kia in your search for a midsize sedan, identifying some of the differences between the 2018 Kia Stinger and the 2018 Kia Optima might come in handy. There’s no shortage of them. Whether you’re considering exterior/interior styling, powertrains or features, there’s an abundance of reasons for choosing one over the other.


Kia slighted neither of these sedans in the design studio. Both boast good looks and can more than hold their own when judged on curb appeal within the segment. They share the familial tiger-nose grille and cat’s-eye headlamps. Both are sleek in profile; although the Stinger’s roofline is a bit more coupe-like thanks, in part, to its sportback configuration. Accessing the Stinger’s cargo hold is via a hatch, rather than the Optima’s more traditional trunk.

Each sedan’s mandate, however, is readily visible in its exterior appearance. Where the Optima is softer and more conservative, as befits a family sedan, the Stinger is chiseled and more muscular, calling attention to its athletic endowments. The Stinger’s hood is longer and its front overhang shorter. Its stance is wider and its wheelbase four inches longer. The Optima stands a couple of inches taller and is a tad longer overall.


Both sedans are furnished for five. In terms of passenger elbow room, the Optima is larger in every measure. This is particularly true for those up front where head, shoulder and legroom are notably more generous. The Stinger’s cargo capacity, though, is significantly greater. Higher in the Kia pecking order, the 2018 Kia Stinger provides a higher-end cabin. For example, standard equipment includes leather interior and a hand-stitched, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with paddle shifters. Virtually every aspect of the Stinger’s passenger space is more upscale with a wider range of options available.


Nowhere are these sedans more unalike than in their mechanicals. In fact, in its GT guise with its 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, the 2018 Kia Stinger is in a league with some of the world’s more formidable performance sedans. Having said that, if you’re trying to make a choice between the Optima and the Stinger, you aren’t on the market for the Stinger GT and its under 5-second 0-to-60 sprint.

However, even when discussing the Stinger’s less volatile 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder that’s on par with the Optima’s top-end 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine option, the Stinger has more horsepower and torque, as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission instead of the Optima’s 6-speed automatic. Oh, and the Stinger is rear-wheel drive with AWD optional, while the Optima is FWD. The Optima also has two other engine choices: a 185-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 178-hp 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder. The 1.6L turbo gets a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic tranny.

Whereas the Optima’s three engines use regular gasoline, Kia recommends premium for the Stinger’s mills. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Optima delivers better mileage regardless of engine. Its base 2.4L provides a government-estimated 25 miles per gallon city and 36 mpg highway. Its 2.0T gets 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway. Rounding out the Optima’s engines, the 1.6T bests them both with 28 mpg city/31 mpg highway. The Stinger with its 2.0T delivers 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway. The Stinger GT is 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

Features & Technology

A number of features missing from the Optima’s equipment list can be found on the Stinger’s, but again, some of these are on the top-of-the-heap Stinger GT. When comparing the Optima with the more affordable entry-level Stinger, they aren’t as far apart; although the Stinger still provides more standard content. Dual-zone automatic climate control, for instance, is standard on every Stinger, but optional on all but the highest Optima grades. While many driver-assist features, such as automatic emergency braking and advanced smart cruise control aren’t even offered on the lower Optima grades, they are optional across all Stinger trims.

Driving Experience

Driving these sedans is night and day. Even leaving the Stinger GT out of the discussion, there are still differences. Thanks to the Stinger’s RWD, handling and steering are worlds apart. With its several engine choices, the Optima varies from rather sedate with the 2.4L to rather zippy in the 1.6T. It’s a comfortable family hauler that delivers a better-than-average ride quality in a relatively quiet environment. And, ya gotta love the amount of interior space.

Despite the Stinger’s performance DNA and rowdy attitude, it’s an every-day driver. Yes, it seats five, but it’s better suited to two adults in the backseat. Think of the interior as more of a cockpit than a cabin. It’s comfy enough, but it’s bred for serious driving. Go online and search for driving impressions of the regular Stinger and you won’t find much. It’s been overshadowed by the hot-shoe Stinger GT, but it’s athletic and surefooted in the corners. Although it doesn’t have the Nurburgring creds of the Stinger GT, the Stinger can still gallop from 0-to-60 in under six seconds.


Both sedans provide seven airbags, a backup camera and rear parking assist. The Stinger adds front parking assist to its standard safety gear. The Optima adds blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert to its list of standard features. Optional on every Stinger and Stinger GT are forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian warning, front-collision warning system, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, high beam assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and smart cruise control. All of these driver-assist/safety features are standard on the Stinger GT2. Most of these systems are only offered as options on the two higher grades of the Optima.

The Optima is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus, scoring Good (highest score for IIHS) across the board in crash tests. It also rated five out of five stars in government crash tests. Neither IIHS nor the government has crash tested the Stinger.


Breathing different air, the 2018 Kia Stinger and the 2018 Kia Optima are both worthy contenders in the midsize segment. Both offer that terrific Kia warranty and are value packed. But that’s about where the similarities end. They target different buyers and, for the most part, different pocketbooks. The Optima is more of a family sedan, with prices ranging from $23,450 to $31,450. The Stinger is a more of a couple’s performance sedan, even in its entry-level trappings. The minimum for getting into a Stinger is $32,750. Qualifying for a Stinger GT raises the ante by almost $6,500.

Basically, it comes down to your needs and what you have to spend. We don’t think you can go wrong with either one.

Find a Kia Stinger for sale.

Find a Kia Optima for sale. 

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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