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Kia Optima EX vs. LX

1. Features and Specifications

The LX and EX trim levels share interior features that make the Optima sought after for its class. Features such as remote keyless entry, a rear-camera display, and an 8-inch touch screen display with Apple/Android compatibility are a few of the notable features that both trims share. The 2019 Kia Optima EX introduces new interior features for this trim level such as leather seat trim, a 12-way power adjustable driver's seat including 4-way power lumbar adjustment, an auto-dimming rear mirror, and LED interior lighting throughout. Above all, the superior features in the 2019 Kia Optima EX is the cabin's ambience, with high-quality materials used throughout the interior, refined for the comfort of the driver and passenger. This is a feature that sets the EX trim level far apart from others. Learn more about Are Kia hybrids reliable in our guide 'Introduction to Kia Model Specific Reviews and Features'

Interior Features

The 2019 Kia Optima LX standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 185 horsepower, while the available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine delivers 178 horsepower. Whether you stick with the standard or upgrade to the EX, you're getting a vehicle with smooth handling and noteworthy fuel economy, making the Kia Optima an ideal commuter car for singles and families. The Kia Optima LX offers an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway with the 2.4-liter engine. The 2019 Kia Optima EX comes installed with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which has been known to deliver a fun driving experience with responsive handling while maintaining great fuel efficiency at 27 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway.

Engine Performance

1.1. Engine Performance

From the point of view of their motors, the EX and LX are indistinguishable. The two trims are powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-chamber motor that creates 185 pull and 178 lb-ft of torque. The choice of engine size expanded with the Kia Optima's 2011 upgrade, when a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-chamber motor ended up accessible in EX trim. This motor conveys 274 strength and 269 lb-ft of torque in the EX. While a few drivers may miss the V6 that was once accessible in past eras of the Optima, the new 2.0-liter turbo goes far in compensating for that motor's nonappearance. It conveys an outstanding measure of force with a major increment in torque. The 2.4-liter motor still gives a lot of pull and fair efficiency, yet it is difficult to ignore the casing's scary advertise change with just the midlevel trim offering an execution arranged motor. A six-speed programmed is the main transmission decision for the two motors, yet EX purchasers can pick amongst that and a seven-speed double grip programmed, which tends to enhance quickening and efficiency. This dual-clutch transmission is better than average with a couple of conspicuous special cases, for example, the Volkswagen Jetta, and Kia's choice to influence it to EX-selective gives the changes an extra factor to consider while picking between trims. The LX can be combined with the 2.0-liter motor by means of the utilized market, however encountering no value contrasts between two utilized cars, there would be no impetus to purchase the utilized EX over another utilized LX with the turbo motor.

1.2. Interior Features

The EX and LX models of the Kia Optima are the perfect cars for those seeking both comfort and convenience. The models differ quite a bit on interior features and design, as well as special features. The EX is a totally new design and is much closer to the top of the line model than the typical "mid-range" model. The special features are too numerous to list, but some include a Homelink rearview mirror with compass, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, an Infinity Audio system, power adjustable pedals, and rear sunshades. These are all features that are not even available as options on the LX model. The EX also includes a unique feature known as the Supervision instrument panel, a cooled glove box, and an option for a panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade, making it the perfect car for comfort. The LX model doesn't include many special features, but all Optima models should provide a quiet and comfortable ride, given a large amount of engine insulation and a unique design of the motor driven power steering. Both models also include dual zone air conditioning with rear vents, a convenience for passengers in addition to the driver.

1.3. Technology and Connectivity

The app can also be used to listen to music from popular third-party apps such as Spotify and Pandora. In addition, there is access to a wide variety of supported third-party apps that the driver may find useful. This feature not only prevents drivers from getting a ticket in the event that they are caught using their phone and driving, but it also provides a safe and easier way to access important data while driving.

Smartphone users will be pleased to know that both the EX and LX models have Apple CarPlay. This feature allows you to connect your iPhone to the car and perform various functions on your phone via the car's touchscreen or using Siri. These functions include sending and receiving calls, sending and receiving text messages, using Apple Maps, and listening to music.

There are a few technologies found within both the LX and EX models that provide drivers with a greater ease of use. The LX features a 7" TFT meter display that shows important information such as speed, fuel level, and turn by turn navigation. This display not only simplifies the process of figuring data but also helps you from having to take your eyes off the road to get important features.

2. Pricing and Trim Options

Kia has a reputation as a value-minded company and it shows in the pricing of the Optima. The EX has a base price of $22,940 with the fully loaded model coming in at $25,940. The base price of the LX is $18,330 with the fully loaded model at $21,190. The price difference between the two is just over $4,000 depending on what options you choose. The loaded LX comes in at a base price that is more than $4,000 cheaper than the base model EX. If you were to take an LX and equip the same options as the base model EX, your out the door price when including options and destination charge would only be a few hundred dollars less than if you had just bought a base model EX. With incentives, this difference becomes negligible, so it begs the question why aren't they just packaged together? The price discrepancy between the two becomes evident when comparing the fully loaded models. At $21,940, the fully loaded LX is just $1,000 more than the base model EX. High interest rates for financing and lack of affordability for top-end model could be a factor influencing this pricing strategy. Though it would appear to make better economic sense to equip top-end features to a loaded LX, it may be wiser to at least take a look at the base model EX. There seems to be a price overlap between the top-of-the-line LX and base model EX, so examining features from upper range LX to base model EX will give a good idea of how well LX pricing strategy will translate into sales before delving into comparisons of qualitative elements of the two.

2.1. Price Comparison

It is obvious when a complete model redesign comes along like the Optima's this year. The EX and LX are smartly divided at the price point most consumers will be setting their sights on, $20,000. The LX starts at $18,150 while the base price for the EX is $21,950. A larger priced gap can be expected later on when more options become available for the two trims. All of the extra features on the new EX make the $3,800 increase seem entirely worth it. Although, the base hybrid model that has slightly better fuel consumption is available at $23,240. This could detract budget-minded consumers away from the petrol EX model, potentially leading to greater discounts and sales incentives in the future. Currently, excellent deals from Kia are available in the US and Canada with 0% financing options and possible cash returns. With some shrewd negotiating, a price near the 20k mark for the EX could be achieved.

2.2. Trim Levels

Other added features include an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, alloy wheels, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob. The EX also has an optional package for an automatic dimming rearview mirror, a power sunroof, and a 6-disc in-dash CD changer. These features are quite considerable for the difference in price between the LX and the EX, and whether they're worthwhile for the extra money is a subjective decision.

Stepping up to the EX, there are a few more added luxury features. Kia has tried to market the Optima as quite a luxurious car for its price range, with the EX being at the forefront of this marketing direction. The first thing that is likely to catch attention is the wooden trim in the EX, and this is a unique feature to this model of Optima in the Kia range. This may make some prefer the look and feel of the interior of the EX over the LX.

Trim levels for the LX and EX are fairly well differentiated, and as mentioned, the LX is available with a smaller engine. The LX is a relatively basic car and features expected in this level of car are power windows, locks, and mirrors, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, and a CD player. It can be said that the LX is quite well-equipped for a base model car, and all the basic features are there.

3. Safety and Reliability

In the area of safety, the Optima stands tall. The IIHS has announced that the 2016 Optima is a Top Safety Pick+, this is the highest possible safety rating available and is retained only for the vehicles with a great performance in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. This further proves that the Kia Optima offers a taste of luxury for an affordable price. Model + trim level must have front crash prevention in order to qualify for this award, and the Kia Optima comes out on top for front crash prevention with an optional package available on the LX, the package includes: automatic braking which will engage the brakes if the driver does not react to the collision warning in an attempt to avoid a collision, and Dynamic Bending Lights which improve illumination and visibility when cornering. Influence this decision. The safety conscious buyer will find solace in the fact that the Optima has an extra air bag (driver's knee air bag) standard across all trim levels.

As with any family sedan, safety is a crucial consideration. On that front, the 2016 Kia Optima impresses, as the EX and SX come with a blind spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. This is the chance to really up the ante in terms of status and sophistication, as the lower trim levels also include rear camera display and a conventional blind spot detection system. The latter of the two features is a system where a visual signal in the side view mirror will indicate if there is an object in the way when the turn signal is activated. High tech stuff.

Kia Optima may be more focused on luxury and affordability than sportiness and performance, but that doesn't mean it skimps on the stuff beneath the surface. The Optima is packed with a wide variety of standard safety features, but it really stands out in the safety ratings. Kia has crafted a sedan that really holds its own in the case of an accident. However, these high ratings are limited to the higher trim levels.

3.1. Crash Test Ratings

In real-world safety—a slightly different study—there's more good news. The Optima performs well in all respects except one: a few vehicles, especially large pickups, pose a far greater threat of injury in a collision. And the Optima still isn't as protective as other mid-size cars in front offsets. High safety scores carry over to the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shares its body structure and most of its safety equipment with the gasoline model. The Optima Hybrid is rated identical to the gasoline model, while the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid also earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation.

2013 Kia Optima safety ratings are strong, and more so than most rivals in the midsize sedan class. The 2013 Optima earns a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the new small overlap frontal test from the NHTSA, the Optima scored 3 stars, one of five vehicles to date to have done so. That test adds to the Optima's set of already strong figures. The IIHS has rated the Optima as a Top Safety Pick, and it has earned top 'good' ratings in front, side, rear, and roof strength tests.

3.2. Advanced Safety Features

For the LX, the standard safety features are limited to anti-lock brakes, front airbags, side curtain airbags, front active headrests, and lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system for child safety seats. While it only comes with the basics, the LATCH system is very beneficial for parents. The only available upgrade for the LX is the engine, as there are no options available for adding safety features. Overall, the safety features are one of the biggest differences in value between the two models. The EX is one of the class leaders in terms of standard and available safety features, while the LX has a minimal amount of options with no available package upgrades.

On the EX, the Kia Optima is equipped with advanced safety features such as traction control, brake assist, stability control, and a backup warning system that are not available on the LX. All of these help to avoid an accident before it happens. The Brake Assist is a big plus on the EX model, which will apply full brake force if it detects an emergency stopping situation, a feature that can help lessen the severity of an accident. The stability control is also very important for safe vehicle operation, as it automatically activates when it is most needed to prevent the car from skidding off the road.

3.3. Reliability Ratings

By comparison, the Kia Forte has always been a decent platform for a reliable and affordable vehicle. Ranking equal to or better than average for most years since its release to the US auto market, but falling short of the Optima's high standard. The Forte is one year ahead in its design compared to the Optima, so both cars are very comparable in terms of history. This is evident when comparing the two cars' reliability ratings on a scale. Gunnar Euro Vigna, the reliability concept communications manager at JD Power and Associates, explained, "The Kia Forte and the Kia Optima tend to be very close in their reliability ratings; the biggest difference will be while Optima has had tons of standard features, the Forte will always have a lower price point at the time of sale. So if they are looking for a less expensive vehicle, the Forte will be a good choice if they are willing to give up some comfort and convenience features. But both vehicles will be relatively strong at this point in time and very close to each other."

Consumer Reports ranks automobiles based on predicted reliability, so this is a great way to find out what to expect once you've bought the car. CR uses 17 different criteria - from engine major to upholstery wear - in its ranking system, which compares a vehicle to others in the same class. The improvements to Kia's credibility begin with its improvement in the rankings over competitors. From 2001 to 2005, the Optima consistently scored below the baseline ranking, which is represented by the solid black line in the graph. And since 2006, when the vehicle began being assembled in the US, the reliability rankings began to improve. Steadily ranking above average or better for the past 3 years, and a substantial hike in rating was shown between 2010 and 2012, and it's held that high standard until now at the time of this review. Keep in mind that the Kia Optima has changed body styles since 2010, so if you are looking into buying a used Optima, make sure to check specific ratings for older models. This is great news for consumers since the Optima has never been ranked this high, meaning it is currently in the best condition it has ever been and projected to stay that way. This improvement in reliability is also mirrored in the build quality ratings. The Optima build quality has remained average or above since 2001, which is a big step considering the car ranked well below average up through the early 2000s. This is huge considering the build quality is the factor that most significantly contributes to reliability. With the change in country of assembly and the design of the 2011 model marking the beginning of its surge in reliability. This is significant considering the car was designed and built with the intent to compete with the biggest names in the US auto market. This puts the Optima in a great place now, and we can only hope the progression continues. Building a reputation for reliable cars puts the Optima in a good spot in the family car market and can bring in more business as well as improve resale values for the consumer. This combined with the substantial increase in safety ratings throughout the years makes the new and used Optima a very valuable purchase. Because it is all about getting the most for your money.

4. Customer Reviews and Recommendations

The Rondo customers have had nothing but good reviews about their car. This is a good sign for those interested in the Rondo. Overall, people who own a Kia Optima have been happy with their purchase, regardless of model. At kia-forums.com, a member survey found that over 82% of Optima owners were satisfied to some degree with their car, and 80.54% said they would buy the car again.

The LX has been a popular choice for buyers on a budget. Many customers have expressed that they feel the LX was a great value for the money. People have enjoyed the smooth ride and good gas mileage, as well as the stylish body and roomy interior. They also liked the easy to read gauges and intuitive console and control panel. The LX has faced few complaints, but some customers have reported a lack of power and acceleration as a downside to an otherwise stellar car.

The EX has received positive customer reviews. Consumers of this model have enjoyed how comfortable and stylish the car is to drive. The safety features have also brought added peace of mind. Many people have felt that the EX is a good buy for the money. However, some EX customers have wished that the car had more horsepower; they knew this before they bought the car, but still wish it had more power.

4.1. Pros and Cons

High emphasis was also put on the warranty KIA has to offer. This is especially relevant because one owner found the warranty to be useful. He reports "I was also glad to find out that it still had a warranty on the engine and parts for another two to three months, from what the dealer has told me. This was good to hear because the engine needed more work than I thought Optima originally needed".

A good dealership experience was another positive common point amongst Optima owners. One owner reports "The dealership I got it from was very helpful. They determined rather quickly that it was a lemon, and worked with KIA the whole time", another stating "It was a great experience that was made with the price point in mind".

An important factor that also helps aid the Optima's popularity is its good gas mileage. The Optima offers a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine which offers great fuel efficiency. One owner states: "The gas mileage. 24/32 MPG", another reports "excellent fuel economy for a medium size car". This is especially good for the cautious mother.

Another strong point for the Optima is the luxurious characteristics of the car. This factor helped lead to a position as the most liked sedan in its class. One owner states "The interior is very rich, crisp and sharp" while another agrees saying "best looking mid-size on the market today".

The positive points are as follows: Kia vehicles have long been known for their safety record. Examples include: standard front seat airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. This statement is supported by one owner's comment "great big car safety features". Another reports "The substantial size & weight of the car (It just feels safe), and the six airbags give me a great feeling of security. This is really proven when we came off second best (without injury) when a young driver went through a stop sign and hit us".

All answers to the question "Why do you like/dislike your car?" were analyzed. Customer feedback reveals many strong points, as well as serious concerns. It is important to note that the number of people that reported good points is about the same as the number of people that reported bad points. Therefore, it shouldn't go unnoticed that even though the Optima has some strong positive points, it also has some undeniable flaws.

4.2. Owner Satisfaction

The general consensus from professional car reviewers is that the Kia Optima is not exactly a perfect choice but a reasonable one. If the owner compares this vehicle to others they have owned in the past, they will find that the Optima is a durably built machine with an agreeable driving experience. This can be translated into a car that is safe for their family to own, even one that they can sell off to their teenage child come college time. The 3rd generation Kia Optima has received many safety endorsements from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the various models have received Top Safety Pick ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Available repair records for this car are few due to its "too-reliable" image, and those who have needed repairs have reported cheaper maintenance costs. Owners can be satisfied that the vehicle will hang around for a long time, and upon citation of mid-sized sedan resale values, some have discovered that a used Optima can be resold for a decent return.

All of these reviews serve to help the customer make a decision, but once the customer has purchased a vehicle and had time to form an opinion about their choice, they are likely to tell friends and family about the experience. Whether to recommend the vehicle is the ultimate judgment of the owner's satisfaction. The consensus of the many customers who have written into the Kelly Blue Book site is that they like the lighter pockets from opting for the LX over the EX model. While the dissatisfaction with the vehicle is generally quite low, the extra cost of the EX model is often blamed for a letdown in value. In particular, some feel that many of the added features they paid for are not impressive. Ownership costs come tied with fuel economy, and the Optima does well in this category, providing many slightly higher city driving figures than the EPA found ratings. There are several owners who consider the fuel economy to be a strong selling point, and with a pleasant-to-own vehicle coupled with low cost and fuel upkeep, the owner is very likely to recommend the Optima to a friend or family member.

4.3. Expert Recommendations

The Kia Optima offers style, features, and a smooth ride that very few other midsize sedans can match. The Optima comes in five trim levels. Launching the line is the EX, a reasonably priced entry that comes with a good number of features. Priced at nearly $22,000 to start, this model features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, keyless entry, a power driver seat, and full power accessories. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, metal interior accents, and a few added features to the Optima's exterior. Leather is an optional upgrade. Kia has built a solid reputation of creating a feature-laden product at a highly competitive price. Known for being the luxury build-up to the Optima's more strikingly priced models, the EX is a suitable pick for consumers who are willing to spend a little extra to get the bells and whistles with their vehicle. The question is, is it worth shelling out the extra dough over the more basic LX model? We say yes, but it depends on what you're looking for.​​​​​​​