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Kia began selling cars in the U.S. in 1992. Its earliest models were rather forgettable, but the company turned a corner after joining forces with fellow Korean automaker Hyundai in 1998. More recently, it’s been churning out a wide range of innovative vehicles, including numerous hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric models, such as the EV6. Though Kia and Hyundai share some platforms and technology, the Kia brand distinguishes itself with an emphasis on athletic styling and performance. Some of its most popular models include the Forte, a compact sedan, and the Telluride, a three-row SUV.
First-Class Style The 2019 Optima is attractive and comes in four trims: the LX, S, EX, and SX. This fourth Optima generation now features new headlights, wheels, and trim pieces in all models, along with a revised Uvo infotainment center that's a snap to use. The Optima has a generous amount of space in the interior cabin with standard features throughout that give the driver the most bang for their buck.
Audio Upgrade Kia's infotainment system comes with an 8-inch touch screen display that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it easier for drivers to link their cellphones. Functions like remote engine start, door lock, and climate operations can all be controlled via a smartphone app should drivers choose to use that feature. The Harman Kardon audio system is an added bonus and is reported to sound clear and vibrant.
Variety Buyers will have their pick of a variety of options and tweaks in all four of the Optima trims. Kia's base model Optima, the LX, comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, heated mirrors, remote locking, and cruise control, among other options. The EX comes with its own powertrain driven by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. The SX is the most expensive but pays off with a turbocharged engine and a premium package sporting adaptive LED headlights and fog lights, a rear spoiler, and a sport-tuned suspension. The package is rounded off nicely with ambient interior lighting and a temporary spare tire.
Space Issues The Optima is tight on headroom in both front and back seats. This can make for discomfort among taller passengers and drivers. Be aware that adding in a sunroof can make space seem even tighter. Rear visibility is a bit poor because of the roofline.
Powertrain The EX model has its own 1.6-liter turbo powertrain along with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Compared to other models, the 1.6-liter is slow and not as smooth a ride as you may like to feel.
Fuel Economy The Kia's hybrid powertrain leaves something to be desired. In a highway test done by Car and Driver, the plug-in hybrid topped out at only 41 miles per gallon compared to the EPA highway estimate of 43 mpg. Conversely, the Optima with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine reaches 35 mpg.