Review: Kia Optima (2016 – 2019)

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Well-equipped as standard. Spacious cabin. Low emissions. Excellent motorway cruiser. PHEV from September 2016. New 1.6 CRDi and 1.6 T GDI from 2018.

Engine choice initially limited to 1.7 diesel. Expanded to include 2.0 GDI, 2.0 T-GDI and 1.6 T-GDI in 2018.

Kia Optima (2016 – 2019): At A Glance

The Kia Optima is one of the best saloons you've probably never heard of. But that doesn't mean you should overlook it. After all, this is an incredibly smooth and spacious saloon that's well-equipped and well-finished. While crossovers may rule the roost, there's still lots to like about the Optima.

Until September 2016, Kia sold the Optima with just one engine – a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel that is surprisingly punchy and smooth. It could be quieter - but with 141PS and peak torque output of 340Nm, it picks up speed effortlessly, particularly when paired with the seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox.

As a car for covering distance on the motorway the Optima is very good. The seats are comfortable, cruise control is standard and the ride quality is mightily impressive, making long journeys relaxing. Long drives are even easier in top trim Optima models which have lane keep assistance and adaptive cruise control, taking the hard work out of busy motorways.

On A- or B-roads, the Optima is not quite as satisfying, with comfort clearly prioritised over agility. The steering is light and body roll is noticeable at higher speeds. On this front the Optima lags behind competition such as the Skoda Octavia. It's economical though with an official average of more than 60mpg.

Passengers should find it easy to get comfortable even in the back, where there is ample leg room for adults and a reasonable amount of headroom. The boot has a decent capacity of 505 litres and the Sportwagon estate a class leading 552 litres, or 1,686 litres with the rear seatbacks folded.

Standard equipment levels are generous though and include dual-zone climate control, cruise control, touchscreen with navigation, DAB radio and a reversing camera. Upper trims gain luxuries like leather upholstery, a larger touchscreen, wireless phone charging and an autonomous parking system that works on parallel and bay spaces.

Kia Optima 2016 Road Test

Kia Optima PHEV 2016 Road Test

Kia Optima Sportwagon 2016 Road Test

Looking for a Kia Optima (2016 - 2019)?
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What does a Kia Optima (2016 – 2019) cost?

Contract hire from £196.49 per month

Kia Optima (2016 – 2019): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4855–4868 mm
Width 1860 mm
Height 1465–1485 mm
Wheelbase 2805 mm

Full specifications

The Optima has a very well-finished and comfortable cabin. Quality is excellent, with plush yet durable materials and very good fit and finished – there are no creaks or rattles. The layout is sensible and user-friendly, with intuitive minor controls and an easy-to-use touchscreen, which is standard on all versions.

Space in the back row is ample. Adults won’t struggle for leg or head room in the two outer rear seats but the middle seat is raised and better suited to smaller occupants. There is ventilation for back seat passengers too, so even on a longer journey they should be able to stay cool. Or warm.

The boot is large at 505 litres, but the saloon body style limits access – a hatchback like the Skoda Octavia is more practical, since getting bulky items in and out is far easier. That said, it is still a sizeable load area and it’s perfectly easy to get things like suitcases in and out. The rear seats split fold 60/40 for longer items.

The basic ‘2’ trim level comes with a manual transmission only and has cloth upholstery, but it still has a good standard specification. Navigation, cruise control and dual-zone climate control are all standard, while upper trim levels gains luxuries including leather, seat ventilation and safety technology.

One of the most convenient features on top ‘4’ models is the autonomous parking system, which can park the car into parallel and bay spaces semi-autonomously. The driver merely needs to control braking and throttle inputs – which is incredibly easy since the ‘4’ comes with an automatic transmission as standard.

Standard Equipment:

2 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto lights, auto wipers, power lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, electric windows, cruise control, speed limiter, DAB radio, seven-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, front and rear USB ports and Aux-in.

3 adds 18-inch alloy wheels, part faux-leather upholstery, four-way power lumbar support, power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, upgraded audio system, eight-inch touchscreen and lane-keep assist.

4 adds DCT automatic transmission, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, automated parking, wireless mobile phone charging, 360-degree parking camera, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, rear door window blinds and a smart keyless system.

Child seats that fit a Kia Optima (2016 – 2019)

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.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Kia Optima (2016 – 2019) like to drive?

The Kia Optima only comes with one conventional engine – a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel producing 141PS and 340Nm of torque. That may only sound adequate for a saloon this size, but it’s surprisingly capable, since peak torque is available from just 1750rpm.

You'll rarely be left wanting for power but the engine is not without its flaws. For instance it’s quite a loud engine, especially when pushed hard.

But running costs are low. Official economy for the manual version is 67.3mpg, while the auto isn’t far behind, with a claimed 64.2mpg. Emissions are 110g/km or 116g/km respectively, meaning a low company car tax bracket. It’s certainly a sensible choice of large family car for business users. 

Opting for the dual-clutch automatic does a lot to help matters though, since it changes up quickly and seamlessly, keeping noise to a minimum. It’s a great fit for the Optima, especially on a long motorway drive, where the car is most at home. It’s smooth, comfortable and relaxed, with impressive ride quality.

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite so good on a country road. The steering is overly light and lacks the precision you get in, for example, the Ford Mondeo. That said, around town it’s very easy to get on with, making light work of speed bumps, while a standard fit reversing camera takes the hard work out of reverse parking.

Opting for a higher trim level brings plenty of driver assistance. Automated parking, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assistance are all available, although if you want all of those technologies you will need to go for the top ‘4’ variant, which is quite pricey at almost £29k and only comes with the DCT automatic.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.6 CRDi 63 mpg - 117–118 g/km
1.6 CRDi Automatic 64 mpg - 117 g/km
1.7 CRDi 67 mpg - 110 g/km
1.7 CRDi Automatic 64 mpg - 116 g/km
2.0 GDi PHEV - - 37 g/km
2.0 T-GDi Automatic 34 mpg - 191 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Optima (2016 – 2019)

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

36–92 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 (2016 – 2019)?

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

What's the best secondhand car for lots of motorway commuting?

I'm opting out of the company car scheme so need to buy my own, secondhand preferably. I'm going to do lots of miles - over 25,000 a year - so need something big, like an SUV or Estate. My budget is up to £15,000. I'd keep for five years. What are the best options?
Buy a Kia Optima diesel. It's easy to drive and smooth on the motorway. The 1.6 T-GDI will return 50+mpg. It also comes with a huge seven-year/100,000 mile warranty and mid-spec models are generously equipped as standard: A budget of £15,000 will get you a 2019 model with 10/15,000 miles on the clock:
Answered by Dan Powell
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