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The 2018 Kia Optima SX has a sleek profile and a powerful turbocharged engine.

Correction: This story has been corrected to show the Kia Optima was a 2019, not a 2018.

If you are in a business career you're probably familiar with the acronym ROI, meaning "return on investment."

In my book, the 2019 Kia Optima SX Turbo has great VROI, or "visual return on investment." There's just something about the silhouette and the trademark Tiger-nose grille that makes the Optima look like a luxury car, while the price is firmly mass-market.

Even after several years with the same basic outline, the Optima still looks — as the kids say — "lit." The SX Turbo is the top-of-the-line trim level and lists for about $10,000 more than a base model, but it's worth every penny. Locally, Kia of Chattanooga on Chapman Road had nine Optimas in its digital inventory this week, including one significantly discounted SX model.

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The simple dash and two-tone leather seating contribute to the 2018 Kia Optima SX's attractive interior.

WHAT IS IT? A four-door, five-passenger sedan with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. With a class-leading 100,000-mile (or 10 year) power-train warranty, the Optima remains a compelling value.

WHAT DOES IT COST? An SX with tech package, like our tester, has an MSRP of about $34,500. A base LX model, meanwhile, starts at $23,830.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2019 Kia Optima SX Turbo

* Exterior color: Titanium Silver

* Interior color: Black and Red

* Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo

* Horsepower: 245

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 31 mpg highway, 22 mpg city

* Local Dealer: Kia of Chattanooga, 2136 Chapman Road

* Price (as tested): @$34,495


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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WHAT WE LIKE: The sleek styling, huge trunk, two-tone leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, 18-inch wheels, Tiger-nose grille, black side mirrors, immense rear legroom, beefy steering wheel and Audi-esque dash.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: We'd like to see Kia replace the hard plastics in the door panels, increase front-seat headroom a smidgen and add a little more padding to the seats.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: The 2.0-liter turbo engine takes a beat or two to spool up, a pause known as turbo-lag. This can be a little disconcerting until you learn to compensate. Once the horses are summoned, though, the SX becomes a tire burner. The new Kia Stinger is getting a lot of glowing press, but the Optima SX is a good fall-back if your budget won't stretch that far.

STYLING: Our Titanium Silver tester, provided for a week-long loan by Kia, shows off the car's lines. The two-tone, red and black interior also marks the SX as the sportiest trim level. Kia designer Peter Schreyer has said the brand's black-mesh Tiger nose grille is meant to become iconic, like the kidney shaped grilles on BMWs.

COOL FEATURE: Kia has led the way in the deployment of ventilated seats. Anybody who has experienced black leather upholstery during a Chattanooga summer will appreciate the Optima SX's air-cooled seat surfaces.

BOTTOM LINE: Sedan buyers are reaping a windfall as dealers shift to more SUV inventory and discount cars. Buyers of the Optima SX will get a premium automobile at an enticing price.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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The 2018 Kia Optima SX is set off by dual exhausts and a black deck-lid spoiler.
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