Kia Optima saloon (2016-present)

The Kia Optima is a stylish, reliable and well-equipped family saloon that’s good value for money

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Good looking
Well equipped
Long warranty

Weaknesses 

Only one engine for new models
Dull to drive
Awkwardly shaped boot
Best finance deal

KIA Optima Diesel Sportswagon (2016-2017) 1.7 crdi isg 3 5dr

Finance price £165 per month

Cash price £10,290

Kia Optima saloon prices from £8,196  Finance from £156 per month

The Kia Optima is a family saloon whose rivals include the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and the Hyundai i40. First launched back in 2016, it's price tag has reduced somewhat, but there are also plenty of used examples around that you can pick up for even less.

In recent times, family saloons like the Optima have been overtaken in buyers’ affections by SUVs due to their higher driving position and greater sense of space. This being so, you should ask yourself what a car like the Optima can offer you.

How about lower running costs, greater comfort and better value for money? On top of all this, like all Kias, a new one comes with a seven-year warranty, even used models are likely to have a substantial amount of that warranty left.

Until last year, the Optima was offered with a choice of three engines: a 1.7-litre diesel, 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid offering up to 30 miles of electric-only driving. The diesel was the most popular among company car drivers and there are plenty of these on the used car market as a result.

In 2018, the line-up was reduced to just one engine: a new 1.6-litre diesel. On paper it looks less economical than the old 1.7-litre version, but that’s because it’s been tested under the new, more accurate economy test that makes the economy figures of more recent cars appear less impressive. But, in actuality they are probably much higher than those tested under the old system.

Whichever way you go, both of these diesel engines are a little slow and not especially refined. However, the Optima’s suspension does a good job of smoothing out rough surfaces and the handling is tidy and grippy, which is some compensation. The steering lacks feedback and is a little vague but, overall, the Optima is a comfortable, secure and predictable car to drive. Motorway cruising is especially smooth, while it is just as happy and pottering around town or winding along country roads.

It may lack the headroom of a large SUV but the Optima’s interior is nevertheless quite roomy and even rear-seat occupants enjoy plenty of legroom. It's also quite practical for day-to-day use, there are numerous cubby holes for storage ranging from a chilled glovebox to a convenient centre storage box.

By design, however, saloons are never going to be the most practical cars you can buy. The Optima is better than most though, with rear seats that split and fold as standard. While the boot measures a reasonable 505 litres (the Ford Mondeo’s is 540 litres) it is spoiled by a large lip you have to lug things over, and the space created by the folded seats is awkwardly shaped. It gets worse: if you go for a used plug-in hybrid model the presence of the batteries means the boot is only 307 litres.

Despite being a little bland looking, the Optima’s interior is well finished and solid-feeling, and features lots of high-grade materials. It’s well equipped, too, even in level 2 trim.

Until 2018 there were three trim levels called, unimaginatively, 2, 3 and 4. However, as of 2019, new Optimas are offered only in levels 2 and 3 trim. Unless you really want fake leather, larger wheels and a powered driver’s seat, we’d save the £2000 required to have it and stick with well-equipped level 2 trim.

Last Updated 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 11:45

Key facts 

Warranty: 
7 years
Boot size: 
505-litres
Width: 
1860mm
Length: 
4855mm
Height: 
1465mm
Tax: 
£0 to £300; £145 in second year for cars registered since 1 April 2017

Best KIA Optima for... 

Kia Optima 1.6 CRDi 2 ISG
In manual or automatic guise, this latest version of the Optima returns 53.3mpg on the new, more realistic fuel economy test. That’s reasonably impressive for a large, heavy family saloon. Level 2 trim helps to keep the price down.
Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 2 ISG
Replaced by the 1.6 CRDi, this version of the Optima is now only available as a used car. Still, that means that prices are much lower, while entry-level 2 trim has all the essentials a busy family could want.
Kia Optima 2.0 GDI-T GT auto
No longer available as a new car, this Optima remains the fastest version you can buy with a top speed approaching 150mph (where permitted) and 0-62mph in just a shade over seven seconds.
Kia Optima 1.6 CRDi 3 DCT auto ISG
The Optima’s diesel engine isn't the best while the addition of level 3 trim and the automatic gearbox raises its price so much it puts it alongside much better vehicles. It also loses value quite quickly, meaning it won’t be worth much when you come to sell.

 

2015 Model launched and powered by choice of 141hp 1.7 CRDi diesel manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic engines with ISG (stop-start system which turns off the engine when stationary). Cars registered before 1 April 2017 taxed at higher rates.
2016 2.0 GDI PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) version is launched boasting zero road tax and 172mpg - only likely if you predominantly cover short journeys and charge the battery regularly. Followed by a 244hp 2.0 GDI-T automatic petrol with 149mph top speed.
2018 Updated Optima gets new 1.6 CRDi diesel engine in place of 1.7 CRDi. New tougher emissions regulations force departure of the petrol engines (2.0 GDI PHEV and 2.0 GDI-T) from the line-up, leaving just the 1.6 CRDi diesel.

Understanding KIA Optima car names 

  • Optima
  • Trim
    3
  • Engines
    1.6 CRDi
  • Gearbox
    DCT
  • Trim
    Where other makers give their cars fancy trim names to distinguish them, Kia simply calls its trim levels 2 and 3.
  • Engines
    Since the GDi petrol engines were dropped in 2018, the Optima is available with just one engine, a diesel it calls the 1.6 CRDi. The figure 1.6 is the size of the engine in litres, while CRDi stands for common rail direct injection. This engine replaces a slightly more powerful one called the 1.7 CRDi that was also dropped in 2018.
  • Gearbox
    You can have your Optima with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed automatic that Kia calls the DCT, for dual-clutch transmission. In terms of economy, it’s as efficient as the manual gearbox.

KIA Optima Engines 

2.0 GDI PHEV, 2.0 T-GDI, 1.7 CRDi, 1.6 CRDi

Buy a new Optima and all you’ll be offered is a 1.6 CRDi diesel engine, with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic launched in 2018. This meets much more stringent new emissions tests designed to more closely replicate real-world driving, with the Optima emerging with an economy figure of 53.3mpg.

This engine replaces the 1.7 CRDi diesel which, which had a claimed economy range of 64.2-67.3mpg, looks to be much more economical. However, these figures are based on the earlier, less accurate fuel economy test and in the real world you’re more likely to see 44mpg from a used 1.7 CRDi. Note, too, that it’s a noisy engine and it needs to be worked quite hard to pick up speed quickly.

Just as the 1.7 CRDi engine was dropped in 2018 so too were the Optima’s pair of 2.0-litre petrol engines. The more powerful, the GDI-T, is quick but uses lots of fuel.

The plug-in hybrid (PHEV), that combines petrol with electric power, is slower but more economical, although not anything like as economical as the official 172mpg figure would have you believe. For the best economy, you need to mostly drive the car on electric power alone, with the PHEV able to cover up to 30 miles on a full battery charge. It is also free of road tax. 

Fuel

Fuel economy

Power

Acceleration

Top speed

2.0 GDI PHEV

Petrol-hybrid

171.6mpg

204hp

0-62mph: 9.1s

121mph

2.0 T-GDI

Petrol

34.4mpg

244hp

0-62mph: 7.1s

149mph

1.7 CRDi

Diesel

64.2-67.3mpg

141hp

0-62mph: 9.7-10.6s

126mph

1.6 CRDi

Diesel

53.3mpg

136hp

0-62mph: 10.6-11.2s

121 - 122mph

KIA Optima Trims 

2, 3, & 4

No one could accuse Kia of embellishing its trim names. In fact, the current range comprises only trim levels 2 and 3, with 4 being dropped in 2018.

At least they’re well equipped with level 2 trim offering 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air con, a sat nav and digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and front and rear parking sensors. However, it’s not available with the automatic gearbox.

If you’re fine with that, then we reckon level 2 is enough, but if you must have more kit, not least its optional automatic gearbox, then level 3 also brings synthetic leather trim, larger alloy wheels, a powered driver’s seat, a larger touchscreen (from 7.0 inches to 8.0 inches), and some driver assist features including lane departure warning.

KIA Optima Reliability and warranty 

The fact that the Optima didn't feature in the 2019 Auto Express Driver Power owner satisfaction survey is probably due to its relatively low numbers in a market obsessed with SUVs. So be guided by the fact that other Kia models did feature, with two actually ranking in the top 10.

Much has been made of Kia’s long, seven-year warranty, limited to 100,000 miles. It’s not the only car maker offering this level of cover – for example, SsangYong does, too – but the Optima is alone in its class for having it. If you’re a high-mileage driver, it could be valuable and is at least an expression of Kia’s confidence in its products.

Used KIA Optima 

There are currently 6 Kia Optima saloons available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £8,196 to £18,995 for nearly-new models.

Monthly finance payments start from £156 per month.

The Optima faces some very stiff competition in a market that has almost turned its back on family saloons. Even so, the CRDi diesel versions hold their value pretty well with diesel-powered Optimas, especially those in level 2 trim with a manual gearbox, likely to be worth around 45% of their new price after three years.

The biggest fallers, and so the best used car bargains, are the petrol and hybrid versions which were expensive when new and whose economy is nothing special. These plus automatic diesel versions in expensive trim levels 3 and 4, the latter discontinued in 2018, lose value quickly and therefore make smart buys as used cars.

     

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