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How Well Does The Kia Optima Drive In The Snow? (Answered)

Kia Optima is a mid-sized, great-looking sedan. If you are looking to drive it in snow and want to know how it performs, this is the best article you have come across. Let’s start with a quick answer:

KIA Optima generally does well in the snow when equipped with winter tires. It comes with an All-Weather System, FWD, and traction control, making it one of the best sedan cars for all weathers. Its heated seats, windows, and power steering are other useful features in the snow.

First, we will look at why the owners love this car so much, and then we will dive into the car’s various features that make it stand apart from the rest of its opponents and give a comfortable and stable ride in the snow.

Also read: The Expected Mileage Of A Kia Optima

Customer Reviews Of The Kia Optima In The Snow

We feel it’s essential to look at what the owners of the car think about it. For this, we went through numerous forums, articles, and YouTube videos and gathered helpful information for our car.

In general, people are content not only with the 2020 model but also with previous Optima models. With a set of snow tires, the car works perfectly well in snow. Let’s, look at what the owners of the car have to say:

“I have a 2018 EX Tech. It handles beautifully in the snow with Continental Winter Contact tires.

Winter tires should be mandatory. It’s not even about the cost because it’s only 50 bucks a season to change them over (and if $50 is too much for you, then you can DIY). Over the length of ownership of the vehicle, you will need to replace the factory tires at least once. If you spend half the year on winter tires, then you’re just extending the life of your “all-season” (I hate that term) tires.”


“I’m from Ontario, Canada…the winters can get pretty nasty up here, especially in Northern Ontario.

 I bought my Magentis in January, and I did a lot of highway driving with it. It plows through the snow with exceptional handling, and the heated mirrors and heated seats were an extra treat for the drive.

Like most cars, though, in the city, don’t expect to floor it when taking off from a red light turning green. It’s not invincible and will slip while gaining traction on the icy roads.”


“We’re from Ohio and get our fair share of snow. We have been able to get around pretty well with our 2003 Optima. The front-wheel-drive and new tires help a lot. If not for that, I would have to fall back on our 97 Nissan pickup 4×4.”


Features That Help The Optima In The Snow

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

Anti-Lock Braking System is an advanced technique that is seen in many cars, including Kia Optima. It prevents problems with tire lock. Tire lock is a common problem that may occur when your vehicle is standing on a slippery road, and you firmly apply the brakes.

ABS monitors wheel movement while braking; when the tire locks, the system releases the brakes. It reduces the effect of the brakes on the wheel and stops it from locking in motion. Thus this helps the car from losing control.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

The ASCC radar sensor and the LDWS camera automatically apply the brakes to a vehicle upon detection of an unexpected forward collision due to the sudden braking of the preceding vehicle or careless driving. 

Traction Control

Measures the speed of the wheels and compares them to that of a car. The slip occurs when the wheels start to move faster than the car itself. The Traction Control system on Ford Transits prevents tires from slipping and losing traction in wet areas. As the slipperiness of the tires occurs most often on a slippery road, Traction Control is a beneficial feature for cold-weather regions.

When Traction Control detects slipping, it does the following things:

  • squeezes” the engine, that is, it stops the engine from energizing the wheels
  • apply the brakes on slippery wheels

With these actions, Traction Control can reduce tire acceleration and eliminate slipping. This allows Optima to grip on the road and prevent it from losing control.

Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)

HAC is another safety feature. When traveling uphill, some drivers may often tend to hold their car and then start moving again. In this situation, if you press hard on your accelerator. There are chances that the vehicle may roll backward, and if the hill is covered with snow, the chances considerably increase that your car will move backward. 

HAC holds your vehicle from rolling backward. It does this by holding the driver’s braking pressure during the stopping procedure for 2 seconds, even if you release the brake pedal.

During the pressure-hold period, the driver has enough time to press the accelerator pedal to drive off. The braking pressure eases as soon as the car detects the driver’s intentions to move on.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

The Electronic Stability Control is designed to help the driver maintain vehicle control under adverse situations. ESC system monitors vehicle performance to detect loss of stability. If the ESC detects that your vehicle is becoming unstable and leaving its track, it will eventually provide stability.

ESC will slow down engine speed, leading to the slowing down of your car speed. By this, ESC makes it easier for you to regain control. Also, if your car moves away from its first lane, the ESC will use the brakes to correct its course.

Here is an example of how that works:

Imagine that your car is out of control as you turn left, and now you are drifting forward. The ESC will apply the brakes to the wheels on the left side of your car and leave the others spinning.

This stops your car from turning right and then turns it back in the right direction (left).

Lane Keeping Assist

Sometimes on a snowy road, there are chances that your car may drift, and if you are driving at the edge, this drift may cause your vehicle to overturn. Kia lane-keeping assist is a fantastic feature. 

It is basically an AI that will control your steering. So, if your car is drifting away, it will bring your vehicle right on track. So, you need not worry and can relax when the lane-keeping assist is on.

Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)

When you are driving on a bumpy road or slippery or snowy one, at that time, there are chances that your vehicle may sometimes go out of control. This is where the advanced AI of Kia kicks in.

The Vehicle Stability Management system automatically enhances steering response and vehicle stability whenever it detects a change in the coefficient of friction between the right and left wheels. Thus it helps to maintain the stability of your vehicle.


Most passenger cars and crossovers are designed for front-wheel drive (FWD). This would be an excellent way to drive on the ice since most of the car’s weight is on the two wheelbarrows that help with traction.

If you are driving your car in a city with moderate snowy conditions, then in that situation, FWD might be a good option. 

But if you’re a person living in the region of heavy snow. Then buying an AWD car would be preferable, but affording one can be an expensive choice than FWD. This is because AWD cars are costlier and use a lot of fuel due to the extra weight of the AWD system.

Another significant advantage of the front-wheel drive is that the lightweight drivetrain dramatically reduces the entire vehicle’s weight and adjusts its assembly process to the production line, turning and lowering production costs. 

If you are an ordinary daily commuter who lives in an area that only moderates snow each year then, FWD is the perfect option for you. All Optima models are front-wheel driven. It is designed so that most of the car’s weight is centered on the front wheels. Thus, Optima fitted with a good set of winter tires is good to go on snow.

Also read: The Exact Bolt Pattern Of A Kia Optima

Weight Distribution

The main reason behind Kia Optima’s solid performance in snowy & icy conditions is because of the car’s weight distribution. The drive wheel of the vehicle is directly under a tremendous amount of weight of the engine, and this forces the tires to more or less stay in contact with the surface, and on turning, it helps the driver maintain positive traction with the road. 

This is also why cars and crossover SUVs with front-wheel drive have a better fuel economy score than all-wheel-drive models.

All new 2020 Optima comes equipped with a Front Wheel Drive system, so with its heavy engine and front-wheel drive, you can be assured that the tires would remain intact to the ground.


The distance between the front and the rear tires. The wheelbase is partially responsible for how easily a car can slip and get out of control. 

Vehicles with a shorter wheelbase usually slip easier than cars with a longer wheelbase. This is because it takes more time for a vehicle with a longer wheelbase to start sliding, giving the driver more time to maintain its stability in snowy conditions. 

On the other hand, the benefits of a short wheelbase are a tighter turning radius, better break-over angles, and more maneuverability.

Kia Optima has a wheelbase of 110 inches. It is neither too short nor too long. It is a neutral point for Optima.

Ground Clearance

Ground clearance of a car is essential if you are looking to drive your vehicle in snow. It is the least distance between the lower end of the vehicle body or chassis and the road. 

Optima has a low ground clearance of 5.3 inches.

If you live in an area with less snowfall, it won’t affect you, but if you have more than 5 inches of snow, it is nearly impossible to drive an Optima over there. 

Do we require winter tires in Optima?

Kia Optima comes equipped with an all-season Michelin primus ease MXM. These tires are suitable for all seasons. Still, people faced problems with these tires, so putting on a snow tire is highly recommended. 

Also, snow tires provide much more stability to the car and minimize the risk of slipping. Tires can be equipped with a snow chain for better control and stability of the vehicle.

How does Optima deal with low temperature?

Worried about cold weather, don’t worry; Optima has you covered. Kia has considered minor problems and assured the owners get a seamless experience even in snow.

The car comes with a dual-zone climate control system. This system maintains the temperature of your vehicle and keeps your front and back seats cold or warm, depending upon your needs. 

Optima also keeps your steering wheel warm. It also comes with a front and back window defroster button, so don’t worry about how snowy the weather is. Optima has you covered for everything. 

The heated-cool seats are available in all variants except LX and S.

High quality of cooling ethylene glycol: Kia Optima comes powered by a high-quality ethylene glycol cooler in the cooling system. It is the only type of cooler that should be used as it helps prevent rust in the cooling system, lubricates the water pump, and prevents cold. 

Also read: Types Of Gas A Kia Optima Takes (All Generations)

Reviews On Earlier Models Of The Optima

We also did some research on the earlier model of Optima. Older models also perform pretty well in the snow; however, owners have complained a lot about the car’s engine breakdown, which is a significant drawback. Let’s, have a look at some of the owner’s reviews:

“Engine Failure – Knocking Noise. I bought a used 2015 Optima hybrid Ex from Honda Dealer in Riverside, CA… My 16-year-old son really wanted this car and had saved it since he was 13yrs old. My husband and I match what he saved to help him buy the car of his dreams. I wish I would have done my due diligence with my research to know that Kia has known about this engine issue and continues to not stand behind their 10yr/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.”


Also read: 8 Common Problems Of A Kia Optima Hybrid

“Anyone who has been in Korea during the winter months knows that our snowstorms can be severe to drive in. The Optima has always done well since its introduction with bad weather driving. The Optima does even better with all the new elements, either optional or standard on specific trim levels. I believe in real-world driving. It is a most enjoyable vehicle, for I kept a ’02 for my wife that she favors in a most personal way.”


Also read: How Well Does A Volkswagen Atlas Drive In The Snow?