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In-depth reviews

Kia Optima saloon (2016-2019) - Engines, drive & performance

The Kia Optima is competent on the road, but it’s not much fun to drive

Carbuyer Rating

3.3 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.8 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.0 out of 5

While the Kia 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.

Kia Optima diesel engine

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.

Hybrid engine

Choosing the Optima hybrid sees economy grow significantly, but it also gets you more power – 63bhp to be precise, as the Optima hybrid’s 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor together produce 202bhp. You won’t notice a dramatically sporting drive (doing so would undermine the hybrid’s raison d’etre anyway), but the 0-62mph time shrinks to 9.1 seconds.

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A ‘drive mode’ switch allows you to choose from Eco and Normal settings, with the former offering less power and greater efficiency, and the latter reversing those priorities. It’s also possible to manually select electric-only mode, provided the batteries have enough charge. In this setting, the Optima PHEV will drive for up to 33 miles on battery power alone. Replenishing the batteries can be done using either the engine, a three-pin household socket or a charging station.

Petrol engine

We haven’t driven the saloon version of the Optima GT, but the SW estate GT features specially tuned suspension and steering to cater for keen drivers and is an enjoyable car to drive. Going from 0-62mph takes a reasonably brisk 7.4 seconds in the Optima GT SW, but the handling tweaks are so successful we’d argue it could do with an extra 40bhp from its 242bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. 

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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