Kia Optima: Slick work on oil shortage

  • Optima uses two pints of oil after 9k miles
  • Oil cost approx. 4.1p per mile
  • Warning light does sterling job

I like the graphics on the Kia Optima’s instrumentation panel. There’s a nice picture of the Optima’s rear end when the car’s cruising along, and when you scroll through the information trip computer the readouts are suitably pleasing and easily understood.

If you press the 'Trip' button on the steering wheel repeatedly you’ll get a host of information, quite literally, at your fingertips. It tells you the oil pressure, whether the eco-mode is on, trip mileage, average fuel consumption, elapsed trip time, current fuel consumption, outside temperature and so on.

Currently the Kia’s odometer reads 8,945 miles. Throughout the period that I have had the car absolutely no maintenance has been carried out on it, bar a quick fill-up for the windscreen wash container.

Then the other day, the ‘low oil’ indicator illuminated. I haven’t had that happen to me for quite a long while.

Well, 29 years to be precise.

The last time I got an oil light warning was when I was 17 years old and, with almost no mechanical experience and no breakdown recovery membership, I felt somewhat vulnerable. It was a cold November night in 1983 when the orange warning light showed up on the Smiths speedometer of my first ever car - a 1973 Austin Allegro.

The Allegro’s problem proved terminal: the warning light wasn’t just an indicator that the car needed a drink. It needed a new engine.

Two months later on Christmas day with a dead Allegro blighting my parents’ driveway I received a present that will be etched in my memory for ever. It was a reconditioned engine and gearbox for an Austin Allegro. Wrapped up, with a bow.

This was when I realised Santa wasn’t real.

So when the warning light for low oil made its appearance on the instrument panel in the Optima, a flood of painful memories entered my brain. Since the Allegro chose to expire just ten minutes after the first showing of its warning light, I started panicking about the mechanical health of the Kia. I didn’t want to be stuck on the southern carriageway of the hard-shoulderless A1 alongside a stationary Optima with an empty sump.

Of course, this is the 21st Century and modern vehicles are much more forgiving. Cars give you plenty of warning before they cry enough, so I was able to chunter along to the next garage – the Shell at Mill Hill roundabout - and purchase a pint of oil.

I checked the dipstick prior to the top-up and sure enough the level was below the minimum. I poured in the oil and went on my merry way content that this had been a job well done.

It wasn’t a job well done. It was, in fact a job half-done. The oil level light – complete with oil-can graphic – was still on. So, I did a u-turn, peeled off on to the M1, then bought another pint of Helix diesel oil at the London Gateway Services (formerly Scratchwood) and topped up. This time the oil level was at maximum.

I pulled out on to the slip road, then 10 seconds later the ruddy warning light went back on. Now my patience was really being tested.

I couldn’t believe two pints was not enough so I reasoned that the warning light hadn’t really caught up with current events and my attempts to shut it down. I pulled over on to the hard shoulder, turned off the engine, pondered my life for a minute, realised it was crap, restarted the car and pulled away. This time all was well.

So, after almost 9,000 miles and two pints of oil used at a cost of £21.95 I have concluded that 4.1p per mile in oil isn't bad particularly when you consider that my previous oil-warning horror cost me £40 for an instant RAC membership and my dad £250 in order to get his son's wreck of an Austin Allegro off his blasted driveway.

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Current mileage: 8,945 miles

Average mpg: 47.2mpg