The Kia Optima is a four-door saloon or estate car that battles it out with the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat for buyers’ attention. Kia’s key weapon in the fight for saloon supremacy – oodles and oodles of standard equipment. This approach did an admirable job of boosting sales - until it went off sale in 2019. A used Optima is well suited to families and couples who want maximum metal for their money.
It’s not hard to see why Kia has performed so well in the UK. Its cars are very good-looking and the Optima is no exception. Its purposeful front end comprises a stylish grille, swoopy headlights and LED daytime running lights.
There are alloy wheels on every car and the rear gets LED lights and either a saloon or hatchback-style boot lid. In fact, it shares many of its oily bits with the Hyundai i40, although you’d be hard-pressed to know just by looking at it.
This version of the Optima first appeared in 2010 and was facelifted in 2018 – most of the changes were made under the skin, with very superficial styling tweaks.
Its purposeful front end comprises a stylish grille, swoopy headlights and LED daytime running lights.
What’s it like to drive?
Most Optimas for sale at cinch have the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine, although you may find some examples of the 2.0-litre petrol plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the 1.6-litre diesel, which was introduced with the facelift.
All engines have more than enough punch for use on the motorway, let alone in town, although the PHEV is more refined and has more pep than the diesels at lower speeds – thanks to the assistance of an electric motor.
The Optima’s natural habitat might be on the motorway, where it soaks up rougher surfaces nicely. It also handles itself pretty well when you turn off on to twisty country roads.
The Optima’s natural habitat might be on the motorway, where it soaks up rougher surfaces nicely.
Let’s start with the Kia Optima’s best bit - the amount of space on offer. As you’d expect, those in the front seats are able to stretch out. There’s also plenty of room in the rear, where even tall adults will be happy – including a 3rd passenger in the middle.
There are three trim levels: 2, 3 and GT Line S, with 2 bringing front and rear parking sensors, digital radio, reversing camera, climate control, leather steering wheel and gear lever, cruise control and a height-adjustable driver’s seat (it’s easy to find a good driving position).
Higher trims swap the standard six-speaker sound system for a Harmon Kardon set-up, heat the part-leather front seats and steering wheel, adding an electric adjustment to the driver’s seat, display the current speed limit on the dashboard and alert you if the car wanders out of its lane on the motorway – basically, everything to make you, the driver, happy and cosy.
The top GT Line S covers the seats in leather instead of cloth and in later cars – heating and cooling the front seats, with rear-seat heating too.
The dashboard design isn’t as stylish as the Optima’s exterior, especially on pre-facelift cars. Yet it’s well laid out, with a seven-inch touchscreen on 2 trim and an eight-inch screen on other specs – both are responsive and easy to use. All versions get sat-nav and Android Auto, and there’s wireless charging for compatible smartphones.
A large, cooled glovebox, bins in all doors, a tray in front of the gear lever, cup holders between the front seats, a bin under the front armrest, pockets in the backs of the front seats and cup holders in the rear armrest will keep everyone and their nik-naks happy in the Optima.
The Kia Optima’s boot is equally as impressive as its passenger space. The saloon’s is a good shape and comparatively deep, with rear seatbacks that are split 60/40 and fold at the pull of boot-mounted levers.
The Optima Sportswagon is the one for you if you need a more accessible boot. It’s not as large as the Skoda Superb estate’s or the VW Passat estate’s, but has room for several suitcases, there’s extra storage beneath the floor, and cargo nets and even rails are in the floor of some cars.
Running costs and reliability
Most Kia Optimas you’ll see on cinch come with the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine. Officially, it’ll average 67.3mpg. In the real world, you’re likely to get economy in the 40s.
You may well scrape 50mpg with the 1.6 CRDi engine. The 2.0-litre PHEV is likely to be the star of the show, as long as you stick to mostly urban motoring and keep the battery charged up – it can run for around 30 miles on electric power alone.
What we love
We love the amount of equipment you get on every Optima – yes, even in the ‘base’ 2 trim. We also love that everyone has room to stretch out and the half-dozen airbags, Isofix points for child seats and stability control that’ll keep them safe. Then there’s the supple ride, especially at motorway speeds, which gives the Optima serious country-crossing ability. Combine all of that with the economical 1.7 diesel engine and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
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Every Optima looks great and is bursting at the seams with goodies. Some rivals are even better to drive but very few offer so much for so little – and that includes Kia’s transferrable seven-year warranty, which is the joint-best you’ll find in the UK.
This review was