Review of: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid 4dr Sdn EX
2017 Kia Optima EX Tech: Features, at a price
By G. R. Whale
Mar. 6, 2017
This is the mid-life revision to Kia’s mid-size sedan, a clear demonstration they keep improving rather than the wholesale previous “new” Optima. While it’s still big on features you might find the ones you want elsewhere at this price, and it’s full of curiosities for me.
Pros & Cons
- + Interior space
- + Warranty coverage
- + Feature-packed
- - Active safety only in top trim
- - Value for money
- - Boring eco mode
Few people notice the windshield’s not a straight line across the top, even fewer note it parallel to the grille top—kudos to Kia for spending the money anyway for those who will appreciate it. The shiny-dot grille is a nice update and a sedan with one mild side styling line isn’t easy but they’ve pulled it off.
A single chrome arc runs from mirror to trunk, reminiscent of a German long-wheelbase flagship, though the rear has no more drama than average and despite a giant KIA badge many thought it a Chrysler 200.
Approach with the key and the power folding mirrors go out, but curiously it didn’t unlock the doors for me…like it’s just showing off. I don’t know if the fender jewelry slots do any venting but they dribbled a lot after I washed it.
Closing the door brings a “thwunk” as opposed to a “thud” but the big DI four—a design not known for silky silence—idles so quietly I kept checking the dash to ensure I’d not accidentally pressed off. And laminated side windows helped keep it quiet amongst others.
Everything’s fine up front in the airy, spacious cabin, even seat cushions long enough for me, and the rear impressed more. Not quite Passat or Accord dimensioned, I nonetheless sat behind my driving position comfortably, unusual with roof profiles like this. There’s a comfy armrest, two-stage seat heaters, center vents and broad cushions that invite three-wide seating, but middle headroom is quite compromised.
The backlit gauge font says classic Volvo, adjustment range is good, the angled center panel keeps everything handy, and Kia’s (again) spent the money to color-match left-side dash switches rather than a big black blot. Even the metallic start switch is better-looking than most.
A 450-litre trunk expands 40/60 and taller than many; there’s no pass-through but DIY should be easy enough. The underfloor bin will fit a temporary spare tire if you add one.
Cabin stowage options are good, including a port-hole with sliding lid big enough to conceal some devices plugged in.
At this trim there’s blind-spot warning, predictive backup camera, rear park sensors, Siri Eyes Free and a nav with decent voice controls and intuitive operation; steering wheel setting menus were equally simple. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were not on this car but Kia seems better than most about updating things in that regard.
If you want adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking you have to step up to the SX/SXL level trim that also brings a larger engine, more sportiness and consumption, where some competitors don’t require such upgrades for the active safety systems.
The Optima is easy to drive, very livable on a daily basis or road trip, if not high on excitement…that’s why they make the SX to compete with the likes of Mazda6, Accord Sport and Passat.
Rated for peak power at 4,000 revs or more, the engine still managed mild grades at 1,200-1,300 rpm, but this is in the normal drive mode where it upshifts early; I tried eco mode for giggles but there were no giggles whatsoever and I returned to normal for most, sport for heavy traffic. Or used the comfortable, simple shift lever.
Both gas and brake pedal prefer a mild touch, a smooth stop requiring more delicacy than I’m used to. Steering is mid-pack with no complaints, and the suspension setup and 17-inch tires managed marginal roads without crashing and banging, and stability control never complained about some enthusiasm behind the wheel.
I missed NRC ratings by tenths, doing 9.6/6.4 against their 9.4/6.5 and averaging 8.5 without much highway benefit.
Not supreme as when it looked boring and drove worse, Optima’s now valued like others. This EX Tech is $32,000, same as a Camry XLE, but an Altima SL with more active safety is $32,300, Accord EX-L (ditto) is $32,200 and Mazda6 GT with a choice of gearbox is $33,200. Both Fusion SE and Malibu LT with more safety systems mandate a 1.5 turbo so they’re four digits more, and VW’s larger Passat is $32,645 (driver assists and nav, no leather). In the end it will come down to which features (heated steering wheel, mega-moonroof, automatic emergency braking, etc.) you consider deal-breakers…or who has the best deal.
The Optima’s still a solid mid-size player. And where once you bought only for warranty, fuel economy and lots of neat stuff, now you can add style, quiet and room as well.