Kia Optima saloon
Price £21,495 - £28,895
- Spacious cabin
- Great value
- Excellent warranty
- Boot could be bigger
- Only one engine available – and it's noisy
- Bland interior
At a glance
“The Kia Optima comes with plenty of equipment and the company’s excellent seven-year warranty, but it’s not as good to drive as the competition and is only available with one engine.”
The Kia Optima is a four-door saloon that goes up against excellent family cars like the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat. While it's a handsome and generously equipped car, it's only available with a slightly underwhelming 1.7-litre diesel engine. Kia updated the Optima in 2016 to keep the styling fresh and a plug-in hybrid version that should broaden its appeal is due imminently.
The Optima's 1.7-litre diesel engine returns 67.3mpg and costs just £20 a year to tax, so running costs are reasonable. Performance is less impressive, as although the 0-62mph time of 10 seconds is good on paper, the Optima needs to be worked hard when overtaking on the motorway and is fairly loud when accelerating. It's also not that exciting to drive. With competition like the driver-focused Ford Mondeo, it was always going to struggle, but vague steering and noticeable body lean when cornering add up to an underwhelming experience behind the wheel.
Inside, the Optima has a well designed dashboard and standard sat nav is a welcome feature, but the Kia doesn’t feel as ‘grown up’ as the latest Skoda Superb, for example. It's a very well-equipped car, though: the entry-level Optima 2 has a seven-inch touchscreen complete with sat nav, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a reversing camera and a DAB radio. Kia also fits all Optimas with a leather steering wheel and gearlever, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and all-round electric windows. Upgrading to the Optima 3 costs about £2,000 and brings a larger eight-inch touchscreen, bigger alloy wheels, lane keeping assistance and an upgraded Harman Kardon 10-speaker stereo system.
The top-spec Optima 4 costs about £7,000 more than the Optima 2 and includes keyless entry and go, a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights and a wireless phone charger. The Optima 4 also comes with a host of additional safety equipment including blind spot assistance, autonomous emergency braking and a 360-degree parking camera. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed automatic optional on higher-spec cars.
The Optima doesn’t sell in big enough numbers to have featured in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and while Kia's 19th place finish (out of 32 manufacturers) is relatively uninspiring, Kia's seven-year warranty is the most generous on the market, so Optima ownership should be a hassle-free affair. A five star safety rating from Euro NCAP adds further reassurance.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Optima has good fuel economy, but rivals offer more
The 1.7-litre diesel engine returns 67.3mpg and emits 110g/km of CO2, for an annual road tax bill of £20. Choosing the automatic gearbox sees fuel economy drop slightly to 64.2mpg, and road tax rise a band to £30 a year. While these figures are by no means disastrous, the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb are available with a wider range of engines, the most efficient of which can return almost 80mpg.
As well as Kia’s excellent seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, the Optima is also available with fixed-price servicing, which offers great value for money. A three-year plan costs just £329, while a five-year plan is £609. With servicing costs as low as these, the Optima makes a good case for itself in this area.
Engines, drive & performance
The Optima is competent on the road, but it’s not much fun to drive
While the Optima was designed to be comfortable rather than exciting, cars like the Mazda6 and Skoda Superb blend excellent cruising ability with more engaging handling. The Optima’s steering feels slightly vague, which makes it hard to place the car with confidence on the road. The recently updated suspension does a good job of isolating you from potholes and broken tarmac, but it causes the Optima to lean too much when cornering quickly.
The 139bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine gives the Kia a reasonable 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds, but on the road the engine doesn’t really feel powerful enough and its noisy character detracts from an otherwise-relaxing driving experience.
Interior & comfort
There’s lots of space on offer and the suspension is comfortable
The Kia Optima has a well built dashboard with plenty of soft-touch plastics, even if the overall design is less appealing than the Volkswagen Passat’s. Everything is laid out sensibly and works intuitively, though, and it’s a big step up from the previous Optima.
Kia has worked hard to make the car as quiet as possible, fitting plenty of sound-deadening material to ensure that wind and road noise disturb you as little as possible. The diesel engine is quiet enough once it’s settled down on a motorway cruise and the Optima is a pleasant place to spend time in on longer journeys.
Practicality & boot space
The Optima has a spacious interior and a decent sized boot
Front and back-seat passengers in the Optima get plenty of head, leg and footroom, with a height-adjustable driver’s seat making it easy to get comfortable. The middle rear seat is slightly raised, though, so it’s only really suitable for children.
The Optima’s 510-litre boot is a good size and while the rear seats offer 60:40 split-folding capability, being a saloon means the Optima isn’t as practical as the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb. There’s plenty of storage space on offer, thanks to a lidded central cubby, a cooled glovebox and a fold-down rear armrest, complete with cup-holders. The door bins aren’t large enough for big bottle of water, though.
Reliability & safety
An excellent warranty and strong safety scores provide peace of mind
While the Optima didn’t feature in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, Kia’s 19th place (out of 32 carmakers) was uninspiring, although this is offset by the seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty every one of the manufacturer’s cars comes with.
The Optima also scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests. All cars are equipped with electronic stability control, a host of airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system, while higher-specification cars come with blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert systems, to make motorway driving and parking manoeuvres safer, respectively.
Price, value for money & options
The entry-level Optima offers good value and generous equipment
Kia makes understanding the Optima model range easy, with the three trim levels available simply called 2, 3 and 4. The entry-level Optima 2 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen sat nav, electronic stability control, hill-start assistance, a Bluetooth phone connection with voice recognition, LED daytime running lights and rear foglights.
If that’s not enough, for about £2,000 more the Optima 2 adds lane-keeping assistance, larger sat nav and alloy wheels, as well as a Harmon Kardon 10-speaker stereo system – upgrades which we think are worthwhile. The top-spec Optima 4 is harder to justify, as it costs £5,000 more than the Optima 3, even if keyless entry, a leather interior and panoramic sunroof mean it’s a seriously well equipped car.