In-depth Reviews

Kia Optima saloon (2016-2019)

“The Kia Optima comes with plenty of equipment and the company’s excellent seven-year warranty”

Carbuyer Rating

3.3 out of 5

Used car deals
Owners Rating

4.8 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Excellent warranty
  • Spacious cabin
  • Great value

Cons

  • Bland interior
  • Boot could be bigger
  • Hybrid model is expensive

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. The Optima is a handsome and generously equipped car and, while it was previously only available with a slightly underwhelming 1.7-litre diesel engine, the recent addition of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version brings the Optima out of the ‘also-ran’ category. Kia has also recently added an estate bodystyle to the Optima range: we’ve reviewed this Kia Optima SW separately.

The Optima’s 1.7-litre diesel engine returns 67.3mpg, 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.

Going for the hybrid model sees the Optima’s price increase by about £10,000 or so, but this includes all the equipment you’re ever likely to need or want. It’s also worth noting that the Optima hybrid attracts a Benefit-in-Kind rate of just 7%, making it seriously appealing to the company-car drivers it’s (realistically) aimed at; fuel economy is also a strong point, as the hybrid Optima returns a (claimed) 176.6mpg. Regardless of the Optima’s overall efficiency and appeal, it’s perilously close in price to the hybrid BMW 3 Series 330e, a car with a more desirable badge and a better driving experience.

Kia is shortly to offer a powerful GT version of the Optima, which comes with a 242bhp turbocharged petrol engine as well as suspension and handling tweaks. We drove the SW estate version of the Optima GT recently and found it enjoyable, although the purchase price and running costs may put some off.

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: in addition to sat nav, the entry-level Optima 2 has a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera and DAB radio, as well as a leather steering wheel and gearlever, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and all-round electric windows.

The hybrid Optima comes with almost every conceivable extra going, while upgrading the diesel model to 3 or GT-Line S trim costs about £2,000 or £8,000 respectively. We can’t help but feel these increases are hard to justify, though, considering the standard car’s list of equipment.

The Optima doesn’t sell in big enough numbers to have featured in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and while Kia’s 14th place finish (out of 32 manufacturers) is pretty average its 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.

Most Popular

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Tips and advice
1 Oct 2020

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

New Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport gets 296bhp and racetrack mode
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport prototype
Volkswagen
13 Oct 2020

New Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport gets 296bhp and racetrack mode

2020 scrappage schemes: the complete guide
Tips and advice
12 Oct 2020

2020 scrappage schemes: the complete guide

More on Optima

2019 Kia Optima SW PHEV: price, specification, on-sale date
Kia Optima saloon
4 Jan 2019

2019 Kia Optima SW PHEV: price, specification, on-sale date

Updated Kia Optima plug-in hybrid estate on sale now
Top 3 used hybrid family cars for £26,000: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, VW Passat GTE, Kia Optima PHEV
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
30 Aug 2018

Top 3 used hybrid family cars for £26,000: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, VW Passat GTE, Kia Optima PHEV

"Dear Carbuyer; I want to replace our diesel family car with a practical plug-in hybrid, and have £26k to spend. What would you recommend?"
Sportswagon GT joins updated Kia Optima range
Kia Optima saloon
8 Aug 2018

Sportswagon GT joins updated Kia Optima range

Updated Optima range starts at £22,260; on sale now with new engines and a flagship GT edition
Kia Optima PHEV hybrid (2016-2019)
Kia Optima PHEV hybrid
18 Sep 2017

Kia Optima PHEV hybrid (2016-2019)

"The Kia Optima PHEV is a stylish and enjoyable plug-in hybrid, but disappointingly expensive"
Kia Optima Sportswagon estate (2016-2020)
Kia Optima SW estate
6 Sep 2016

Kia Optima Sportswagon estate (2016-2020)

"The Kia Optima SW estate joins the four-door Optima saloon in the Kia range, giving buyers a more practical and spacious option"
New Kia Optima: prices, specs and release date
Kia Optima saloon
1 Dec 2015

New Kia Optima: prices, specs and release date

Latest Kia saloon goes on sale in January
Next-generation Kia Optima revealed
Kia Optima saloon
26 Mar 2015

Next-generation Kia Optima revealed

Sharper look and upgraded interior for Kia's flagship saloon
Kia recalls more than 25,000 UK cars
Kia Sorento SUV
4 Jun 2013

Kia recalls more than 25,000 UK cars

Kia has recalled 25,192 cars in the UK due to a potential problem with brake lights