Kia Optima Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.40/5 Average
932 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

For much of its life, the Kia Optima had been firmly pegged as an also-ran vehicle. Introduced as Kia's first midsize sedan, the first-generation Optima couldn't promise the refinement, documented reliability and assured resale value of its key Japanese competitors. The second-generation Kia Optima followed much the same anonymous playbook, though with considerably better results.

The third-generation Kia Optima, however, is a different animal entirely. With sleek styling, plenty of standard features, potent engine choices and substantial value, the current Optima stands as a top pick for a midsize family sedan.

Current Kia Optima
Under the skin, the current Kia Optima is very similar to the Hyundai Sonata, but to Kia's credit, the Optima has a distinctive European flair to it. Inside and out, the Optima looks and feels like a much more expensive car than its humble price tag would suggest. Optimas are available in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX (standard and turbocharged variants) and SX Limited. There's also the Optima Hybrid, which comes in a single trim.

Optima LX and EX models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the LX, while a six-speed automatic is optional and standard on all other Optimas. The SX and SX Limited boast a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. Combined output comes to 206 peak hp and it's sent through a six-speed automatic. The EPA estimates the Hybrid will achieve 36 mpg in combined driving.

Standard equipment on the LX includes alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface. The EX and Hybrid also include keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control and leather upholstery. The SX is equipped similarly to the EX but adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded gauges (with integrated display screen) and paddle shifters. The SX turbo also comes with xenon headlights. The Limited's perks include a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitor, the Uvo voice-command system, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, upgraded audio and a navigation system.

In reviews, we've found that the Optima stands out thanks to its distinctive styling and upscale interior. Headroom is a bit limited, however, and taller drivers would be well advised to test the car with and without the sunroof. On the road, the Optima has a pleasant ride quality without feeling too isolated. The base engine will likely satisfy the vast majority of drivers, while the turbo is the pick for more spirited pilots. The Hybrid, however, is a bit of a disappointment. Its braking and acceleration in city traffic is uneven and somewhat unpredictable, and fuel economy trails that of competing hybrid sedans.

Used Kia Optima Models
Introduced for 2011, the current Kia Optima represents the third generation. This version is a dramatic departure from earlier Optimas due to its sharp styling, powerful engine lineup and upscale features. Since its debut, changes were minimal for the first few years. An EX Turbo trim level was offered for 2011 and '12 only. The voice command system (Uvo) debuted for '12, while the SX Limited trim debuted for 2013.

Shoppers should note that these earlier third-generation Optimas lack the current version's updated front and rear styling, revised front seats (for greater comfort) and new display screens. They also can't be had with some newer features, such as keyless ignition and entry, a blind-spot monitoring system and rear parking sensors.

Kia's second-generation Optima was produced from 2006-'10. Shoppers should be aware that the generation switch-over happened midway through the 2006 calendar year. Kia sold some first-generation models for '06 and then released the new sedan as the "2006.5" Optima.

At the end of this generation, the Kia Optima was offered in three trim levels: base, EX and SX. All came with a 175-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder as standard. The EX and SX could be had with a 194-hp 2.7-liter V6. A five-speed manual transmission was standard on the LX. Optional on the LX and standard on the EX and SX was a five-speed automatic transmission.

The automatic-equipped LX came reasonably well equipped with air-conditioning, full power accessories, antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The EX provided leather upholstery, while the SX came with a sport-tuned suspension.

Although the base four-cylinder provided class-competitive acceleration, the Optima's V6 was disappointing. It was significantly smaller and less powerful than other six-cylinders in the class. This Optima was reasonably fun to drive around town and provided a smooth ride quality, though many of its class contemporaries did a better job of isolating occupants from bumps and ruts.

This second-generation Optima had a few changes during its time. The most significant of these came in 2009, where the model received more distinctive styling and more power. The SX trim level also debuted. Previously, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder produced 161 hp, while the 2.7-liter V6 produced 185 hp. The other notable change came in 2008, when antilock brakes and stability control were made standard across the lineup.

The first-generation Kia Optima midsize sedan debuted for the 2000 model year. Mechanically, this model was very similar to the Hyundai Sonata of the time. Although it didn't include the finest-quality interior materials, it was well-suited for commuter duty thanks to a spacious cabin and comfortable ride quality.

First-generation models didn't have stability control or head curtain airbags, and four-cylinder models lacked the availability of antilock brakes. In road tests, we thought the 149-hp four-cylinder engine was a bit short in power and refinement. While the 170-hp V6 didn't inspire thrills, it was smooth and quiet, and offered better acceleration for highway merging than the four-cylinder.

For 2002, the V6 was updated to provide 178 hp. In its third model year (2003), the Kia Optima's front end was restyled (with rather dubious results). Improvements to the interior included a new center stack, door panels and fresh seat fabric. In addition, Kia began to offer Sportmatic manual-shift capability on four-cylinder automatic Optimas. Buyers might also notice that horsepower figures were revised downward that year due to a change in measurement technique, but actual output was unchanged.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 932.00
  • very dependable - 2007 Kia Optima
    By -

    bought this car with 160 miles on it now it has 48,000 and not one single problem sure its not that fun to drive and the inside lacks things its not a BMW people you get what you pay for but for reliability YOU CANT BEAT IT OR THE PRICE in almost 50,000 miles not one hicup gets great gas mileage i know for a fact that when i put the key in it will start the only reason i choose the kia is for one thing which is i need something that will last forever and wont kill my bank and i found it in the kia my next car you guessed it a kia.

  • Great on gas - 2010 Kia Optima
    By -

    I just bought this car used and was worried..This car is great, comfortable,gas saver,roomy. I was worried with a smaller engine from a v-8. Great little pick up. good choice no fancy frills but i need good gas and comfort. recommended

  • Stay Away from Kia Optima unless you like noise - 2012 Kia Optima
    By -

    Purchased this car May 9, 2012. After a few days, I noticed a creaking noise every time I turn left or right. Took the car into the dealership and was told the clock spring needed to be replaced. I've only had this car 7 days, and something already has to be replaced. Also, the engine or transmission is really loud when accelerating from 0-40. After I reach 40mph or higher, this noise goes away (not sure if that's a normal noise or not, my 2005 Honda Accord was never this loud!). Engine makes a pinging noise when engine is turned off. Looking to trade this car in really soon. This dealership, Crain Kia in Sherwood, Arkansas is not very customer friendly after the sell.

  • Used 2004 Kia LX V6 - 2004 Kia Optima
    By -

    I used to have a Civic so the V6 is a lot of power for me and I love it. Gas mileage has been 27 with mixed but mostly highway driving. I like this car a lot because of the price. If it holds up, I feel it's a great car for the price. Everything I've read says the Kia is quality and shouldn't fall apart on me. V6 is quiet compared to our 4 cylinder Spectra and as a young couple we feel like we've bought an adult car. The best selling point is the price. I bought used for $10,300 with 24,500 miles on it. Reliability is yet to be seen.

  • Safety features sold us - 2016 Kia Optima
    By -

    Auto hold braking, lane change warning, full body cameras, auto cruise follow distance and braking features are amazing and useful. The luxury items of seat air/heat, leather and electric EVERYTHING are icing on the cake. Stereo is like a theater. Very VERY roomy, front and back. Sunroof extends the entire top of car. Rides SMOOTH and quiet. Can't say enough good. Price tag was high, at least for us, but the car is certainly proving itself.

  • so far so good - 2012 Kia Optima
    By -

    I got my kia optima 2012 LX used. I thought it would make a great commute car i drive around 80 miles per day to and from work. I currently have 80,000 miles on my kia and so far it has been a joy .I do have some minor problems like the passager and rear windows cant be rolled up or down from the driver control panel ,r/s cigarette lighter does not work,inside temperature gauge quit working ,so i have to take it back to the dealer. The tires on the kia are very cheep and need to be replaced asap upon purchase. MPG is great i drive from Chicago to Indiana all highway miles and i spend no more than $ 55 per week on gas . I get complements on a look of the car all the time !!

  • Impressed - 2010 Kia Optima
    By -

    never thought of kia as a car in par with honda's , toyotas and chevys. Dealer said, take it for a ride. going from a saturn ion to this 100 % improvement. handles well, nice looks, sharp car , had less than a week and very impressed. feels alot more solid than previous cars I've had, Kia is onto a whole new audience. Look out honda, toyota, nissan.

  • 2013 KX - worth a serious thought - 2013 Kia Optima
    By -

    The inside is roomy, and comfortable. The car warms up quickly. I have yet to take it on longer then a 1 hour drive, but my commute is 30 minutes and I am quite impressed in how comfortable it is. Dealer was excellent. Is a car I love to drive. My gas mileage is good for the size, just under 26 mpg combined. I have to wonder how people are driving that complain about low gas mileage. It is NOT a hybrid, small economy car. It is a mid sized vehicle, comfortably seats 5 and has lots of room. The "no spare tire" complaint to me-well the sealant and pump i like better then being out in the cold and rain changing a tire to a donut..been there, down that. I think this is a better setup.

  • 4000 mile update - Wow!- keep being impressed - 2012 Kia Optima
    By -

    After 3 months & 4000 miles we like this car -- and Kia, more and more. As previously posted, the amplifier was replaced under warranty. I complained to Kia, the found the problem, & took care of it. Last week we received a gift card from Kia apologizing that we had experienced a problem with our Kia. Wow!! What a nice experience compared to my dealings with Ford on our other car! We get so many compliments on this car. Love driving it. Really like the 2.4L engine. The only thing we would do differently is not buy the Infinity NAV system. My $150 Garmin is a much better nav, & you give up the HD radio. Controls are frustrating!

  • I love my Kia! - 2005 Kia Optima
    By -

    I bought my car used with 84,000 miles on it, it's been a great car, currently we have to replace the blower resistor in the a/c but warranty is covering it. This car has plenty of power and handles very well.

Kia Optima Reviews By Year:
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