Review: Kia Optima (2012 – 2016)


Priced from less than £20k and a cheap company car. Seven-year warranty as standard. Generous standard equipment.

Only one engine. Automatic transmission pushes up emissions and BIK. Pre-2014 navigation does not accept seven digit UK postcodes.

Kia Optima (2012 – 2016): At A Glance

The Kia Optima is a spacious and well equipped saloon that has plenty of appeal for families and company car drivers, thanks to its low BIK rate and sub-£20k price. However, while the stylish and comfortable Optima impresses on metal for the money, it falls short on refinement and driving pleasure. 

Just one engine is available – a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel with a manual transmission or an automatic in higher trims. With 134PS and 325Nm it is capable enough whether covering distance on the motorway or tackling a country road, but it can’t match the latest from Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia for emissions and economy. The diesel is also vocal, which means long trips can be a noisy experience. 

Even so, the manual variant has official economy of 57.6mpg and emissions of 128g/km, so it’s not all bad. Indeed, for company car drivers, it has a 23 per cent BIK rate, although the automatic 'box increases fuel consumption to 47.1mpg and raises emissions to 158g/km. As a result the BIK rate increases to 29 per cent.

The Optima is a huge car though, offering enough leg and headroom for two adults in the back. There's also a decent sized boot – though it is awkwardly shaped for larger items. Up front the cabin is attractive and well made, with a user-friendly layout and plenty of useful technology including, on top models, safety tech like blind spot warning and cross traffic assist.

The trim structure is simple, with ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’ grades. The basic ‘1’ model is anything but, getting 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, air conditioning, cruise control and a speed limiter as standard. The ‘2’ trim offers superb value for money, with leather upholstery, navigation and electrically adjustable seats among the standard equipment.

It’s really the equipment that gives the Optima its appeal. Admittedly, It isn’t as good to drive or as economical as its big-selling rivals, but the generous levels of equipment, competitive pricing, a well-made cabin and a useful seven-year transferrable warranty make the Optima a contender, rather than an also-ran.

Kia Optima 2011 First Drive


What does a Kia Optima (2012 – 2016) cost?

Contract hire from £196.49 per month

Kia Optima (2012 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4845 mm
Width 1830 mm
Height 1455 mm
Wheelbase 2795 mm

Full specifications

The Kia is as neatly styled inside as it is outside, with a smart centre stack and clear controls. There’s nothing to confuse, with sensibly placed buttons and user-friendly controls for everything from the air conditioning to the audio and navigation. It’s comfortable too, with supportive, easy-to-adjust seats.

Rear-seat passengers are well looked after even if they’re adults. The back row has plenty of leg room provided the front seat occupants aren’t much taller than six foot, plus there is a decent amount of headroom. For children or teenagers there’s nothing to complain about – there are even heated rear seats with ‘3’ trim level.

The boot is a good size at 505 litres, but the opening is small since this is a saloon rather than a hatchback. The load area is an awkward shape, too – narrower at the far end. Because of this it’s hard to load bulky items, even if you fold the rear seats down. Even so, there is plenty of room for shopping or a couple of large suitcases for trips away.

Material quality is good, with a sturdy but plush finish to most of the plastics and trim elements, like nicely finished electric window switches. ‘2’ and ‘3’ models get a classy wood-effect trim finish that lifts the ambience of the cabin and manages not to look tacky, as many wood-effect finishes do.

The equipment list for the Optima really stands out. Even basic ‘1’ models get alloy wheels, cruise control, a speed limiter, Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning – but the mid-spec ‘2’ is the best value. This includes leather upholstery, high-quality 12 speaker audio, heated front seats, navigation and parallel park assist along with plenty more.

There is also a top-level ‘3’ trim which adds safety gizmos like lane keep assist, blind spot monitor and cross traffic assist, plus niceties including ventilated and heated front seats and heated rear seats.

Standard equipment:

1 is the entry trim and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, electrically folding door mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, speed limiter, steering wheel mounted controls, four electric windows, 12v power socket, six-speaker audio system, hill start assist and a full-size alloy spare wheel.

2 trim gains 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front foglights, LED rear lights, auto wipers, auto lights, black leather upholstery, power adjusted driver’s seat, heated front seats, woodgrain effect trim details, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Infinity 12-speaker audio system, USB and AUX inputs, 7-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth, reversing sensors, reversing camera and parallel park assist.

3 is the top trim and gains blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitor, keyless entry, start button, auto defog system, power adjusted passenger seat, ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats and xenon headlamps with washers. 

Child seats that fit a Kia Optima (2012 – 2016)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the Kia Optima (2012 – 2016) like to drive?

Kia only offers the Optima with a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine. Power is 134PS and peak torque is 325Nm, so it’s a perfectly capable engine that works well in all environments, whether in town, on a country road or on a long-distance motorway cruise. The entry-level trim gets a six-speed manual as standard, while upper trims get the option of a six-speed auto.

Capable though it is, the engine does have a few issues, the most immediately apparent of which is the noise. It isn’t a loud engine by any stretch of the imagination, but it does grumble away noticeably, particularly when pushed hard for overtakes or accelerating up a motorway slip road.

It isn’t the most efficient engine either. The manual manages a 57.1mpg, which is fine, but behind the latest engines from Vauxhall and Ford, which manage upwards of 70mpg. This has a knock-on effect for emissions, which at 128g/km push up the BIK rate to 23 per cent for company car drivers - good but not great.

This is even higher if you opt for the automatic transmission, which has official economy of 47.1mpg, emission of 158g/km and has a 29 per cent company car BIK rate. On the plus side, the automatic is easy to get along with, offering smooth gear changes and three driving modes - eco, normal or sporty.

If you can get past the on-paper figures there is a lot to like about the way the Kia Optima drives. The suspension gives impressive ride comfort even on rough British roads, yet there isn’t much body roll through corners. It isn’t fun like a Mondeo, but it is relaxed and capable. Steering is light enough not to be a chore in town but is accurate enough for driving on country roads.

On the motorway the Optima is a comfortable long-distance companion, helped by standard fit cruise control. Those who opt for the top ‘3’ trim level also get lane keep assist, which nudges the steering gently to keep the car in its lane – useful should you get distracted by tuning a radio station, for example.

Lane Keep Assist is one of several handy technologies to appear on the Optima. Mid-grade ‘2’ models get a reversing camera and an automated parallel parking system, while ‘3’ trim gets blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, which monitors left and right behind the car when reversing out of spaces, warning of cars, motorcycles and pedestrians with trolleys. 

7-3-2014: During a 1,250 mile drive to Geneva and back in a 2014 '3 Spec' Optima, the numerous improvements were much appreciated.

Ride is better and road noise is greatly reduced on the 225/45 R18 NEXEN NFERA SU1 tyres. The lights dip down so do not dazzle oncoming drivers heading towards you on your left or your right. And the once very average satnav is now brilliant. Not only did it find our way across France to Switzerland without putting us on a 'Peage' toll road, back in the UK it took a 7 digit UK postcode very quickly and intiutively without having to select letter and figure keyboards, and even when taking a different route from its suggestion, it picked up the new route almost immediately. Overall economy worked out at 45mpg.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.7 CRDi 58 mpg 10.2 s 128 g/km
1.7 CRDi Automatic 47 mpg 11.5 s 158 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Optima (2012 – 2016)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

39–55 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Kia Optima (2012 – 2016)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Kia Optima - is it any good?

I owned a BMW 325i for 12 years and I loved it. I'm now looking to buy a new car, and I recently test drove a Kia Optima. I loved it too and all the extras that would cost a fortune to have in other cars. I know your review is a positive one, and I ask therefore is this a good car for me? I'm looking for a good looking car, with a great range of extras, that is comfortable, rides well, and is fast when needed. Should I buy the Kia? It's been improved since then, but still important to go for Tech spec with 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/55 R17 tyres rather than the harder riding 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 R18 tyres.
Answered by Honest John
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What Cars Are Similar To The Kia Optima (2012 – 2016)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Diesel engine and Large family.

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