2017 Kia Optima: AutoGuide.com Car of the Year Contender

AutoGuide.com gathered six of the most significant new cars for the 2017 model year for our annual Car of the Year evaluations. This year, our contenders are the Hyundai Elantra, BMWM2, Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, 2017 Kia Optima, Ford Focus RS and Chevrolet Cruze. There was no hard price cap on this year’s entrants, but we tried to make sure none of them were extravagantly priced. We will release a new video on each contender every day leading up to Dec. 13, when we announce our winner. Stay tuned for our Crossover/SUV of the Year and Truck of the Year series, which is also coming soon!

The 2017 Kia Optima is an important sedan for the Korean automaker, as the popular family sedan is a great showcase for how the brand is trying to move upmarket. New for 2017, there is also a hybrid and plug-in hybrid model, both of which are treated to the full redesign that its gas-powered sibling got, making the Optima lineup one of the most significantly changed for the 2017 model year.

Bringing the fire to such strong cars as the Honda Accord and Nissan Maxima, the new Optima boasts one of the classiest interiors in the segment, looking much more expensive than it actually is. The quilted leather seats, aluminum trim, and the fantastic flat-bottomed steering wheel all add up to a premium-feeling cabin that is well built.

The 2017 Kia Optima lineup backs up its premium aspirations with a whole suite of available technology such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and, of course, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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In the gas version, the Optima is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but this engine is truly impressive because it can run on regular-grade 87-octane gas. The 2017 Kia Optima can also be powered by a carry-over naturally aspirated 2.4L engine or a 1.6L turbo, but the more interesting powertrains are the green ones.

ALSO SEE: Kia Expands Lineup with Updated Optima Hybrid and New Plug-in Hybrid

In the hybrid, a four-cylinder engine works together with a 38 kW electric motor to output a combined 193 horsepower. The hybrid also gets a higher-density battery pack that Kia promises doesn’t eat into cargo space. All in, the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid is rated at an impressive 39 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway.

The plug-in hybrid amps things up even more with a more robust energy storage system, a total driving range of more than 600 miles, and an all-electric range of 27 miles.

For having such a strong lineup, the 2017 Kia Optima is a strong contender, but we do wish the brand pushed the sedans to make them even more groundbreaking.