Kia’s Optima four-door sedan has been a player in its front-wheel-drive category for the past decade, thanks to its good looks, great warranty and excellent driving manners. A handsome mid-size machine, the 2019 model has been reworked just enough go make it “new” in this upcoming sales year.
The opportunity to test a 2019 Kia Optima SX turbo arrived during a Labor Day trip to Chicago and then to Indianapolis for NHRA’s U.S. Nationals, the biggest drag race of this, or any year. Kia equipped us with a Sparkling Silver sedan that has a red/black leather interior. It not only looked racy; it behaved beautifully over the road.
Handsome with its sleek, wind cheating body lines and small winglet at the trunk opening, the SX model Kia Optima is a business express. An express, you ask? Well, yes, with its 2-liter directly injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 245 horsepower at 6,000 rpm (redline is 6,500) and with 260 ft-lb of torque between 1,350-4,000 rpm, this Kia is ready to roll – and roll quickly.
The Optima SX’s six-speed sportmatic sport shifter allows the driver to toggle between driving modes, shift on the floor or using the paddles, the latter allowing the Kia to stay in manual mode far longer than most of its peers. MacPherson strut and multi-link suspensions keep this sedan firmly planted, while motor-driven power steering is exceptionally direct.
All-wheel disc brakes stop the 3558-pound 2019 Kia Optima SX kindly, while Kumho 245/45R rubber mounted on starred, 18-inch five-spoke dark-gray/polished alloy rims help bring this sedan to a quick stop or assist it with grip in the country corners traveled to and from the racetrack each day.
The interior of this sedan is both accommodating and luscious. Both front-seat passengers are coddled with full power, leather seating that has both heating and cooling features; the driver gets two seat memories and views both tachometer and speedometer, with temperature and fuel gauges below them. A central info center was kept on range information, in order to keep tabs on efficiency; the display features gear, outside temp and the odometer.
Kia’s UVO link system is one of the better infotainment groupings available today, including navigation with an eight-inch double-panel touchscreen and rear camera, together with Android and Apple integration, working through the fab Harman Kardon premium audio system. Bluetooth is simple to access for phone integration, as well, and Kia includes SiriusXM for three months. The heated, leather wrapped with red-stitching steering wheel has audio and phone controls on the left and accesses the information center and cruise control on the right.
This Kia’s smart cruise control’s algorithms are very, very good and allow for rational distances between the Optima and the car it’s following. This is one of the “nannies” that was fully employed during the trip, along with blind-spot, parking distance warning and front/rear cross-traffic collision warning systems. I turned off the lane departure warning and lane-keeping assists and didn’t really appreciate the driver attention warning that tells me to take a break after a couple of hours. I leave that to my dog.
Kia includes a panorama sunroof with power shade on the Optima SX model and it was certainly welcome, as are the LED headlights with both low- and high-beam assist. LED daytime running lights, fog lights and tail lights add to the elegance and night-vision capability of this car. Rear seat passengers have plenty of space, their own air flow, a 12-volt and USB to keep the infotainment flowing. The gray-tone headliner adds elegance to the interior.
Mileage on this turbocharged sedan is quite good, rated at 21/30/24 and coming in far better than that, even with less than 3,000 miles on the odometer. Over the road and combined with country roads, this driver extracted close to 30mpg using regular fuel in the 18.5-gallon tank.
Traveling with a dog, no matter how small, means bringing more than one person might need and the 2019 Kia Optima SX’s 15.9-cubic-foot trunk swallowed whatever was placed inside. There are cubbies that keep bottles from careening across the hold and, of course there’s a nice split to the rear seat to allow more accumulation.
Pricing for this 2019 Kia Optima SX is excellent when one considers all of the standard niceties. At $33,315 inclusive, with only the $920 freight fees and an extra charge for the beautiful paint, the Kia is actually a bargain.
Offering updated styling and standard safety features that were options on prior model years makes this SX uprated model a best bargain. The only issue Kia might have in placing its 2019 Optima SX in buyers’ homes is the fact that it’s a sedan in an SUV world. That’s a darn shame because it’s definitely a winner.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit