2017 Kia Optima: Smooth, stylish and confident

By Mike Blake - Carlisle Events
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When Kia Motors first brought out the Optima in 2000, both the company and the vehicle were thought of as low-frills, workmanlike economy entities. Seventeen years later, they have both come a long way. The economy factor still exists, but exhibit style, substance, quality, premier safety attributes and upscale amenities.

The Kia Optima (also known in Canada and Europe as the Kia Megentis in 2002), now in its fourth generation, is sportier and sleeker than earlier versions, is crafted with Euro-inspired architecture and offers turbo engine options.

Re-designed last year, the 2017 Optima midsize sedan carries over into this model year with several new features to help keep it the bestseller in the Kia lineup, with focus on its attractive design, interior comfort, spirited performance and lots of infotainment. For 2017, the SX trim gets standard 18-inch alloy wheels and SXL is now equipped with 18-inch chrome alloy wheels – both were previously optional. LED dual-projection headlights with Dynamic Bending Light and High-Beam Assist is now standard on SXL and available as part of a new SX Technology Package. And now available on EX trim is the new Premium Plus Package with Advanced Driver Assisted System, which includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning System. Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Electronic Parking Brake, High-Beam Assist and Lane Departure Warning System.

Kia’s top-selling nameplate is styled with Euro-inspired architecture, and it continues with a length of 191.1 inches; height of 57.7 inches and width of 73.2 inches on a 110.4-inch wheelbase, with ground clearance of 5.4 inches. Optima seats five and my test SX 2.4 trim ride with an automatic transmission and a sunroof, weighed in with a curb weight of 3594 lbs.

The 2017 Optima is available with three engine choices carrying over from last year. A standard 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder with an aluminum block and head that produces 185hp and 178 lbs.-ft. of torque, is EPA estimated at 25mpg/city and 36mpg/highway. New for last year’s Optima, and held over. is the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine on the LX trim. The 1.6 turbo is rated at 178hp and 195 lbs.-ft. of torque and with a Dual Clutch transmission, is rated at 28/37. My test SX trim was powered by the 2.0-liter turbo engine mated to an automatic transmission. The system delivered 245hp and 260 lbs.-ft. of torque. Rated at 22/city and 31/highway, my weeklong tests yielded an average of 26.6mpg in mixed-use driving.

On the highway, there was little turbo lag and acceleration was plentiful and predictable. On the track, I finished off a zero-to-60mph sprint in 6.7 seconds and a quarter-mile in 15.1 seconds.

The Optima ride is smooth thanks to an independent, MacPherson strut front with coil springs and anti-roll bar, working with an independent, Multi-link rear with coil springs and anti-roll bar. The rack and pinion, electric motor steering was vague, and some yaw was present during quick maneuvers, but Optima moves well in town and in parking while showing confidence and stability on the highway.

Optima’s interior is upscale and intuitive, with an innovative and functional cabin that is well-appointed with class-up touches. Optima utilizes soft-touch materials throughout the passenger compartment, and the driver-oriented cabin has been simplified with a clean, unified design. The cabin is filled with state-of-the-art connectivity items including UVO (an advanced technology system with no user fees), Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score, along with Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay®.

Optima provides comfortable interior accommodations, but they are not overly generous. Headroom is only 39.8 inches in front and 37.8 inches in row two; legroom is good up front at 45.5 inches, but only 35.6 in the rear seats; and shoulder room is 58.1 inches up front and 56.4 in the rear.

Earning Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+) designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when equipped with optional front crash prevention, 2016 Optima is outfitted with such safety items as driver and passenger advanced front airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, front active headrests, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control system, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, electronic brake distribution, tire pressure monitor system, immobilizer and hill-start assist control.

Kia offers five basic Optima trims starting with the base LX and a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine for $22,000. The LX 1.6T (Turbo) starts at $24,140; the EX with the 2.4 engine starts at $25,440; the base SX that I tested, starts at $29,940 and adds the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, panoramic sunroof, voice-command navigation and Infinity® Premium Audio System. The top-tier SX Limited starts at $36,090 and adds Advanced Smart Cruise Control and a Harman/Kardon® QuantumLogic™ Premium Surround Sound system with Clari-Fi™, 630 Watts and 10 Speakers. My test SX Turbo in Snow White Pearl with Merlot leather, added the SX Launch Edition Package for $2900 containing Merlot sport leather seating, panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, Harman/Kardon® Premium Surround Sound, 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. An autodimming mirror added $350; a cargo mat added $95; a cargo net added $50; mud guards were $95 and destination charges added $895, for a sticker-as-tested of $34,230.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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