2018 Kia Optima vs. 2017 Buick Regal

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Optima has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Regal doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Optima SX offers an optional Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Regal only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the Optima and the Regal have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights and lane departure warning systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Kia Optima is safer than the Buick Regal:





5 Stars

4 Stars




5 Stars

5 Stars

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

218 lbs.

254 lbs.




4 Stars

4 Stars




Chest Compression

.4 inches

.6 inches

Leg Forces (l/r)

87/92 lbs.

98/371 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Kia Optima is safer than the Buick Regal:





Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars




Chest Movement

.8 inches

1.7 inches

Hip Force

306 lbs.

330 lbs.


Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars





Into Pole


5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

15 inches




Spine Acceleration

37 G’s

48 G’s

Hip Force

585 lbs.

618 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Optima the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 117 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Regal has not been fully tested, yet.


The Optima comes with a full 5 year/60,000 mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24 hour roadside assistance. The Regal’s 4 year/50,000 mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 10,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima 4 years and 30,000 miles longer than Buick covers the Regal. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Regal ends after only 6 years or 70,000 miles.


To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Optima has a standard 150-amp alternator. The Regal’s standard 120-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Optima has a standard 800-amp battery (760 SX). The Regal’s 512-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Optima second among midsize cars in their 2017 Initial Quality Study. The Regal isn’t in the top three.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Buick vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia first in initial quality, above the industry average. With 23 more problems per 100 vehicles, Buick is ranked 13th.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Optima LX 1.6T gets better fuel mileage than the Regal FWD (28 city/37 hwy vs. 19 city/30 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the Optima gets better fuel mileage than the Regal FWD:







2.4 4 cyl./Auto

25 city/36 hwy

19 city/30 hwy

2.4 4 cyl./Auto


2.4 4 cyl./Auto

24 city/34 hwy




2.0 turbo 4 cyl./Auto

22 city/31 hwy

21 city/29 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Kia Optima uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Regal Turbo/GS requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.


A seven-speed automatic (SMG) is standard on the Kia Optima LX 1.6T, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Regal.

The Optima offers an available sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Regal doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

The Optima stops shorter than the Regal:





60 to 0 MPH

129 feet

134 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

140 feet

141 feet

Consumer Reports

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Optima’s wheelbase is 2.6 inches longer than on the Regal (110.4 inches vs. 107.8 inches).

For better maneuverability, the Optima’s turning circle is 2.3 feet tighter than the Regal’s (35.8 feet vs. 38.1 feet).


The Kia Optima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 400 pounds less than the Buick Regal.

The design of the Kia Optima amounts to more than styling. The Optima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .27 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Regal (.32) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Optima get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the Optima is rated a Large car by the EPA, while the Regal is rated a Mid-size.

The Optima has 8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Regal (104.8 vs. 96.8).

The Optima has 1 inch more front headroom, 3.4 inches more front legroom, .6 inches more front hip room, 1.4 inches more front shoulder room, 1 inch more rear headroom, 3.7 inches more rear hip room and 2 inches more rear shoulder room than the Regal.

Cargo Capacity

The Optima has a much larger trunk than the Regal (15.9 vs. 14.2 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Optima LX 1.6T/EX/SX/SXL’s trunk can be opened just by waiting momentarily behind the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Regal doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.


The Optima’s optional easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Regal doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Optima SX detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Regal doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Optima SX has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Regal doesn’t offer cornering lights.

Both the Optima and the Regal offer available heated front seats. The Optima SX also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the Regal.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Optima (except LX/S) keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in Summer. The Regal doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Optima owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Optima with a number “1” insurance rate while the Regal is rated higher at a number “5” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Optima is less expensive to operate than the Regal because it costs $387 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Optima than the Regal, including $327 less for a water pump, $732 less for an alternator, $111 less for front brake pads, $116 less for a starter, $144 less for fuel injection, $27 less for a fuel pump, $536 less for front struts, $18 less for a timing belt/chain and $521 less for a power steering pump.


Both are recommended, but Consumer Reports® chose the Kia Optima as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Optima first among midsize cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Regal isn’t in the top three.

The Kia Optima outsold the Buick Regal by over six to one during the 2016 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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