2018 Kia Optima vs Mazda 6

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The Optima didn’t just change how people see the Kia brand back in 2011 when it was so radically redesigned; it changed how many of us looked at the midsize sedan segment as a whole. Now, some serious and impressive rivals are out there to challenge the 2018 Optima, so let’s put one of them to the test by comparing the new Kia Optima with the Mazda 6.

2018 Kia Optima vs Mazda 6


Some of us would say there was no need for Kia to restyle the Optima for the 2016 model year–it was just that good. But they did, and they did it well. The front fascia has seen the most significant change, but the rest of the car is sleek and similar to the previous Optima, which is a genuine compliment.

The Mazda 6 is a bit of a puzzle. Critics love a lot of things about it, including the way it looks, but buyers haven’t quite caught on to the magic. This is a beautiful-looking car that probably deserves more attention, with an aerodynamic shape and aggressive front grille.

Engines & Performance

Buyers have a number of engine options with the Optima, but the choice is limited to four cylinders. The options are the standard unit is a 185 horsepower 2.4-liter, an economy focused 1.6 turbo offering 178 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter turbo that boasts 245 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2.0-liter is the most fun, but the very good standard engine will be more than adequate for most buyers.

Mazda adopts a take-it or leave-it approach to engines with just one unit across all versions of the Mazda 6. The engine is question is very similar to the base unit in the Optima, a 2.5-liter inline-four that puts out 184 horsepower. The Mazda drives and handles better than that amount of horsepower might suggest, but this is still a solid win for the Kia.


If you’ve not sat inside a Kia for a while, you might be surprised by what you find inside the cabin of the latest Optima. The interior is roomy and well-appointed, with upscale finishes that leave you in no doubt about the direction of travel of Kia as a brand. All trims are quiet and comfortable, and the top SX trim really is like a luxury model.

The Mazda 6 also has a roomy and comfortable interior, with more leg room in the rear than the Kia and quite a bit less in the front. When it was originally launched, the interior of the Mazda was nothing to shout about, but it has been improved considerably over time. Nevertheless, the 6 still falls short of the Optima, especially at lower trim levels.

Fuel Economy

The 1.6-liter versions of the Optima are the most fuel-efficient, rated by the EPA at 28 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined. Even the 2.0-liter is rated at 22/31/25 mpg, which is still impressive.

Buyers might lack choice when it comes to engine options for the Mazda 6, but the single engine that is available is one of the most efficient in its class. EPA ratings come in at 26 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. Those numbers deliver a solid victory for the Mazda.

Learn More about the Kia Optima

The Mazda 6 would likely beat out any other midsize sedan, but Kia isn’t just any other car manufacturer. The 2018 Kia Optima doesn’t just look fantastic; it’s actually as good as it looks. And when you look this good, that really is something to shout about.