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2018 Kia Optima Introduction

When it was redesigned for 2011, Kia’s midsize Optima established a trend toward sedans that stand out in styling, unlike the often-dowdy four-doors of the past. Reworked again for 2016, the Eurostyled Optima enhanced that perception.

Little has changed for the 2018 model year, except for adding a sportier-looking Optima S trim level, at a particularly tempting price. In addition, several valuable active-safety features are now standard or available for more models. All Optimas now have blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus rear parking assistance. A rearview camera also is standard.

Base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with direct injection, standard in LX, EX, and new S trim levels. Developing 185-horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, it works with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Optional on the LX is a more fuel-efficient 1.6-liter turbo, rated at 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, mating with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. In Optima SX trim, a 2.0-liter turbo produces 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, driving a 6-speed automatic.

In the Optima Hybrid, a 154-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is coupled to an electric motor and 1.62-kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, achieving a combined fuel-economy estimate of 42 mpg. Total output from the Hybrid powertrain is 192 horsepower. The Hybrid can travel short distances, at low speed, on battery power alone.

The Plug-in Hybrid, which can be recharged at an electrical outlet, couples the same 2.0-liter engine to a stronger (9.8-kWh) battery and electric motor. Combined output, at 202 horsepower, is slightly higher than the regular Hybrid. Weighing about 250 pounds more than the Optima Hybrid, the Plug-in can travel up to 27 miles on battery power alone. It’s EPA-rated at 103 MPGe (equivalent), or 40 mpg Combined when running on gasoline.

All Optimas have front-wheel drive. Each promises comfort and satisfying ride/handling qualities, though none qualify as sporty in nature. The new Optima S looks a bit more sporty, with its own front bumper, decklid spoiler, and 17-inch wheels.

In addition to greater availability of advanced safety features, led by automatic emergency braking, Optima has earned top crash-test ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2017 Optima a Top Safety Pick+, after it earned top Good scores on every crash test, and also for headlights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Optima a five-star rating overall, and in each crash-test conducted.

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