Kia Optima (2016-2019) Review

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

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Good looking
  • Well equipped
  • Long warranty
  • Dull to drive
  • Awkwardly shaped boot
  • Only one engine for new models
Limited Kia Optima stock available.

The Kia Optima Saloon is an affordable family car available as an alternative to the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and the Hyundai i40. The second generation version launched in 2016 and suffered drops in prices throughout its time on sale, leading it to be discontinued in 2019, and making it even better value on the used market.

In recent times, family saloons like the Kia Optima have been overtaken in buyers’ affections by more practical SUVs with 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 cheaper running costs, greater comfort and better value for money? On top of all this, all new Kias come with a seven-year warranty, so a two or even three year model will still have as much protection remaining as many new cars.

You can find the Optima with one of three engines: a 1.7-litre diesel, a 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 older 1.7-litre version, but that’s because it was tested under the newer, more accurate economy test that makes the economy figures of more recent cars appear less impressive. However, you are far more likely to achieve these figures, thus the 1.6-litre version should be more efficient in the real world.

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 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 offers 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. If you go for a used plug-in hybrid model, the presence of the batteries means boot space is reduced to 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 the most basic '2' trim.

Until 2018 there were three trim levels called, '2', '3' and '4'. The top spec '4' model was dropped during the Optima's last year on sale, and mid-range '3' versions may not have been as popular as you’d think because of its significant cost for mainly aesthetic upgrades: fake leather seats, larger alloy wheels and a powered driver’s seat.

Key facts

Warranty 7 years
Boot size 505-litres
Width 1,860mm
Length 4,855mm
Height 1,465mm
Tax £0 to £300; £145 in second year for cars registered since 1 April 2017

Best Kia Optima for...

Best for Economy – Kia Optima 1.6 CRDi 2 ISG

In manual or automatic guise, this diesel 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.

Best for Families – Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 2 ISG

Replaced by the 1.6 CRDi, this older version of the Optima has had time for used prices to fall. Entry-level 2 trim has all the essentials a busy family could want.

Best for Performance – Kia Optima 2.0 GDI-T GT auto

This Optima was the fastest version you can buy with a top speed approaching 150mph (where permitted) and 0-62mph in just a shade over seven seconds.

One to Avoid – Kia Optima 1.6 CRDi 3 DCT 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 names

Trim 3

Where other makers give their cars fancy trim names to distinguish them, Kia simply calls its trim levels 2 and 3. Remember, older versions were also available in level 4.

Engines 1.6 CRDi

The GDi petrol engines were dropped in 2018, which means 2019 models are available with the CRDi diesel engines instead. The 1.6 figure is the size of the engine in litres, this engine replaces a slightly more powerful 1.7-litre CRDi that was also dropped in 2018.

Gearbox DCT

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

The 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine, with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, launched in 2018. It was designed to meet 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-litre CRDi diesel which, with 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 T-GDI, 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 economy



Top speed





0-62mph: 9.1s


2.0 T-GDI




0-62mph: 7.1s


1.7 CRDi




0-62mph: 9.7-10.6s


1.6 CRDi




0-62mph: 10.6-11.2s

121 - 122mph

Kia Optima Trims

2, 3, & 4

No one could accuse Kia of embellishing its trim names. At least they’re well equipped with level 2 trim offering 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, 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 media system (from seven inches to eight 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

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.

Other Editions

Optima Sportswagon (2016 – 2019)

Stylish, spacious and good value. The Kia Optima Sportswagon is a practical large family estate car