Kia Optima review
The Kia Optima is a good-looking saloon that's comfortable, well equipped and offers great value for money
The Kia Optima is a stylish saloon aimed at the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. It sits proud in a segment destined for decline, offering space, kit and quality, wrapped up in a reliable Kia-branded package. If you're after an economical and good value family car, the Optima should be on your list.
If you’re not too worried about the badge on its nose, there’s a lot to admire about the latest Kia Optima. Its striking looks are complimented by sharp LED daytime running lights and a rakish profile, while inside the dash is competently presented too, with decent looks and a high quality feel. But it’s the specification that impress the most; the Optima is groaning with luxury toys and gadgets, even if you can only stretch to the entry-level 2 trim.
There's only one diesel engine and one hybrid to choose from, but the latter offers a usable electric range as well as silent EV commuting. It's an impressive set-up, and beats the diesel hands down if you have regular access to a charge point. A more practical Optima SW estate model is also available, with both diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains available here too.
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With a spacious cabin and decent luggage space, the Optima saloon is a great choice for families who will appreciate the model’s safety credentials. Factor in the low running costs, and the only real fly in the ointment is a driving experience that’s less than inspiring – but that won't matter a jot to the practically minded motorist.
Family cars are falling out of favour with the public, but cars like the Kia Optima still have their merits. They are practical, spacious and will return better fuel economy than a similarly sized SUV. Even better is the fact they look stylish and subtle, without the brash in-your-face looks of a high-riding 4x4. For some people, that matters.
The Optima has been part of Kia's model range for nearly 20 years, although the first two generations went on sale in the UK under the Magentis name plate. The Optima Mk3 was launched in the UK in 2010, but it was replaced by the Mk4 in 2016. This fourth generation car was a subtle evolution of the last car, but featured a more distinctive grille, more kit, and was also offered in SW Sportswagon estate guise for the first time.
Power comes from a choice of two engines, either a 139bhp 1.7 CRDi four-cylinder diesel or a 202bhp 2.0-litre petrol plug-in hybrid. The diesel engine comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while a seven speed auto is also on offer. The diesel Optima comes in a relatively narrow range of trims - 2, 3 and GT Line S - with the auto box offered as an option on 3 trim, and as standard on the GT Line S. However, while the trim levels are limited, all models are generously equipped. Prices start from around £22,000.
The Optima PHEV is considered a standalone model, so there's only one version on offer. Like the rest of the range, your only choice is whether you want a saloon or SW estate. The PHEV gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 68kW lithium-ion battery pack that's connected to an electric motor. The electric system is good for a range of around 35 miles, although the amount of charge and fuel you use will be entirely dependent on how often you can charge the battery. The plug-in model is the most expensive version of the Optima, and carries a £4,000 premium over the next most expensive Optima, at around £34,000, although it does qualify for the Government's Plug-in Car Grant.
Rivals for the Optima include the standard family car line-up, including the Skoda Superb, Vauxhall Insignia, Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, Mazda 6, Toyota Avensis and Peugeot 508, while the Hyundai i40 is closely related to the Optima.
If you're looking at the Optima PHEV, then plug-in rivals include the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the expensive VW Passat GTE, while there's a closed-hybrid version of the Mondeo available, and the Lexus IS 300h is also worth considering.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Kia Optima is a good-looking saloon that's comfortable, well equipped and offers great value for money
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe Optima is a competent cruiser, but out of its depth if you want driving thrills
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Kia Optima is cheap to buy and run, and even holds on to its value quite well
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Kia Optima is blessed with good looks and a very high specification
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Kia Optima scores well for cabin comfort and luggage space, but it’s not the best in class
- 6Reliability and SafetyTried and tested engineering and sound safety credentials make the Kia Optima a reassuring package