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Kia Optima Saloon review

2016 - 2019 (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 53.5
” Kia's big saloon is a used-car bargain, but not fashionable “

At a glance

Price new £21,495 - £33,995
Used prices £3,885 - £15,090
Road tax cost £0 - £190
Insurance group 19 - 31
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Fuel economy 53.3 - 54.3 mpg
Range 524 - 1032 miles
Miles per pound 6.8 - 6.9
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types



Alternative fuel

Pros & cons

  • Lots of kit as standard
  • Impressive ride quality
  • Excellent reliability, long warranty
  • Not exciting to drive
  • Bland interior
  • Boot smaller than rivals

Written by Richard Kilpatrick Published: 15 September 2022 Updated: 15 September 2022


For buyers of big saloons, the Kia Optima from 2015 to 2019 made some big improvements over the previous model – a car so obscure now you can be forgiven for forgetting it exists. As a rival to the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat, the Optima had to be good, but it’s telling that it’s no longer offered here. Drivers looking for a new big, low Kia should check out the Stinger.

Kia’s British customers are often private buyers, who traditionally choose similarly priced hatchbacks or SUVs; a European redesign for the Optima attempted to increase the appeal of the big car. There’s an estate (called the Optima Sportswagon) and a plug-in hybrid.

Obscurity means that the Kia Optima can be quite a bargain as a used car, particularly the plug-in hybrid, and only the oldest and highest mileage are reaching the end of their seven year, 100,000 mile warranty coverage.

> Find a used Kia Optima (2016-2019) for sale near you

Kia Optima engines – diesel, petrol and plug-in

The Optima originally offered just one engine, a 1.7-litre diesel, producing 139hp and 340Nm. That means 0-62mph in 10 seconds and a top speed of 121mph. Under the applicable testing it claims 67.3mpg, while CO2 emissions of 110g/km keeps VED down on pre-April 2017 registrations.

New for this generation, the twin-clutch automatic transmission is more efficient than the previous generation, matching the kind of tech you’ll find in premium cars of the same era.

The wider range includes a 1.6-litre diesel, but only on the 3 trim level, the 235hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol GT and the 202hp plug-in hybrid. Nearly all the examples you find for sale will be the 1.7-litre diesel, though a few plug-in hybrids will usually be on the market too. As a saloon, the latter is considerably cheaper than the Optima Sportswagon PHEV.

Kia Optima 2016-2019: gadgets and trim levels

Following Kia’s established numeric trim levels, the most basic 2 is only available with manual transmissions and the 4 comes with an automatic gearbox. The GT, GT-Line and plug-in hybrid have their own trim configurations. All are well finished and reasonably attractive, but don’t expect it to challenge Audi or BMW levels of quality.

Even base-spec cars come with a lot of kit, though. Standard specification includes:

  • > Seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav system
  • > Reversing camera
  • > Dual-zone air-con
  • > Cruise control
  • > DAB radio

Moving up the trim levels means unlocking more toys such as a 360-degree surround-view camera, cornering headlights, a premium sound system, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control.

Kia Optima 2016-2019 buying guide

If you’re looking for a big saloon and can remember when brands like Kia were competing at the budget end of the market, you are going to love the Optima. By the time this version came out Kia’s push upmarket was already well underway, and as the Optima is a core model for global markets it’s not some strange hanger-on, it benefits from the same tech and trim upgrades as the Sportage and Sorento.

The majority of models you find will be the 1.7-litre diesel, but the plug-in hybrid is a proper bargain, offering similar ‘early electrified’ capability as an Outlander PHEV for much less money. The estate equivalent is almost a third more expensive than the saloon. However, the plug-in hybrid saloon loses more than 200 litres of boot space for the batteries, taking a class-competitive 510 litres down to just 307 litres.

As a big saloon its natural habitat is motorways, where it rides well and offers impressive comfort. If you’re considering an older Mercedes E-Class or Audi for that sort of drive, you’ll get a much younger, more reliable Optima for the money. Around town the ride can be quite fidgety.

You’ll also find most cars still have the balance of the factory warranty. Get a 2019 model with low miles in 2022 and you still have more cover remaining than buying most new cars. Yet it’ll cost less than a basic Ford Fiesta.

Kia Optima common faults and problems

The good news is that even the oldest Kia Optima from 2016 has a bit of warranty left. The better news is that Kia, as a rule, already rate highly for reliability. This, and the relative rarity of the Optima, means there’s no such thing as a ‘common’ problem for it. There are a couple of recalls applicable, but any car with full dealer history should have been rectified.

1. Check the service history

All Kias sold when the Optima was new have a seven year warranty. This only remains valid if the car is correctly serviced and for sake of avoiding an argument, by a Kia dealer. The warranty covers up to 100,000 miles and is transferable – as long as those services are up to date.

2. Kia Optima 2016-2019 software updates

It’s worth noting that Kia provided various updates to the infotainment and ECUs in the Optima over time, including the gearbox management. Make sure all the right updates have been applied.

3. Kia Optima 2016-2019 bodywork

The Optima is a car designed to compete with the Mondeo, and with American tastes in mind. It’s big. Look for parking marks and mishaps along the sills and ahead of the arches on the rear doors. Any repairs could invalidate the warranty if things like door locks or window mechanisms have been replaced incorrectly.

4. Kia Optima 2016-2019 driver assistance problems

There’s a recall for the autonomous emergency braking, applicable to models up to 2018. It’s a good reminder to check that if fitted, the adaptive cruise control is working well – it’s an impressive system for the age and price of car.

5. Kia Optima 1.7 diesel: low mileage and DPFs

This isn’t an Optima-specific problem, but that simply reflects how reliable these cars are. As with any modern Euro 6 diesel, the Kia 1.7-litre you’ll find in most Optimas needs the right maintenance and good, high-speed runs regularly to clean the DPF and achieve high mileages without problems. If you’re tempted by an appealingly low mileage one, make sure you take a test drive of at least 20 minutes with some 60-70mph stretches once warmed up.

And, that’s it. The Kia Optima is ideal for buyers seeking out a roomy, respectably new and subtle family car, while also saving money. At least until it’s older and out of warranty few serious issues have surfaced and there’s a lot to like and trust, with Kia’s track record suggesting this will be a cheap big car to run.

Read the rest of the review to see what we thought of the Kia Optima at launch, and how it compares with rivals.