Review: Kia Optima Sportswagon (2016 – 2019)


Great looking, spacious. High quality. Well-equipped. Good to drive and very reasonably priced. Three petrol engines as well as new diesel from 2018.

More expensive to buy new than previous generations of the Optima. GT versions provide a firm ride quality.

Kia Optima Sportswagon (2016 – 2019): At A Glance

In the fine tradition of sexing up the estate car, Kia calls the Optima-based estate a ‘Sportswagon’. It evokes an exotic lifestyle choice rather than reflecting your basic need to carry a lot of stuff. Fortunately, in a basic sense the Kia Optima Sportswagon is an estate that carries a lot of stuff. Mission accomplished.

If the story ended there that would do, but in fact the Optima Sportswagon has plenty of appeal beyond simply being a very long hatchback. It’s a very stylish one for a start, but it also continues another fine tradition: of Kia models being high quality, generally lovely to drive and thoughtfully designed.

They’re also, of course, reasonably priced too – though not the ‘cheap’ option they perhaps once were. Prices for the Optima start at more than £22,000 - a couple of thousand pounds more than an entry-level diesel Toyota Avensis Touring Sports or Skoda Octavia Estate. And not far short of a Volkswagen Passat.

Kia will point to the Optima’s superior standard equipment roster though, which in the company’s own words is 'unashamedly targeted at business users'. It includes touchscreen navigation, a reversing camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, DAB radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and one-touch folding rear seats.

Three trim levels make up the range, named simply 2, 3 and GT-Line S (‘1’ obviously sounds a bit too entry-level), though (at launch in 2016) the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel with 141PS was the only engine choice. In 2017 a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) was added with up to 38 miles of all-electric range with CO2 emissions of 33g/km.

In 2018 the 1.7 turbodiesel was replaced with a smaller and more efficient 1.6-litre CRDi. A 180PS1.6-litre T-GDi was also added, with a petrol particulate filter and seven-speed DCT transmission.

The diesel comes with a dual-clutch automatic option as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual gearshift, but regardless, the Optima drives with a smoothness and solidity that's close to a Volkswagen. The manual gearshift may be a little on the light side, but the ride quality on non-GT cars is generally smooth (big wheels make it a little fussier over road surfaces) and ergonomics are fantastic. Anyone will find a comfortable driving position and there is no shortage of head or legroom in the rear. 

Aside from that the interior build quality is excellent – squishy surfaces in abundance – and another Volkswagen-like quality the Optima shares is a simple, intuitive cabin layout. Add to that reams of safety equipment along with Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty and you have an estate – sorry, a Sportswagon – that’s extremely easy to recommend.

Kia Optima PHEV 2016 Road Test

Kia Optima Sportswagon 2016 Road Test

What does a Kia Optima Sportswagon (2016 – 2019) cost?

Contract hire from £196.49 per month

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

Length 4855 mm
Width 1860 mm
Height 1470 mm
Wheelbase 2805 mm

Full specifications

For the main part, there’s no difference between this and the Optima saloon, meaning the same qualities apply – there’s plenty of headroom all around and more than enough leg space for adult rear passengers. 

The dashboard is intuitively designed and the switchgear is chunky, well damped and clearly marked. When oftentimes dashboards can sacrifice usability for aesthetics, Kia has managed to make a good-looking cabin that’s also self-explanatory. Nice work.

Of course the main difference is the boot, which is not only 42 litres bigger than the saloon’s by volume (552 litres against 510 litres), but is far more useful by virtue of the load deck being 1090mm long and 1010mm between the wheel arches. It widens out to 1380mm behind the arches for carrying bulky items, like golf clubs. 

By size it’s smaller than a Skoda Superb Estate’s boot, but then pretty much everything is and the Optima is on the large size for luggage space in its class. A Mazda 6 Estate has a 506-litre boot, for example, and a Ford Mondeo 500 litres.

The Kia also has a 40/20/40 split folding rear bench as standard, which as anyone who has ever been to Ikea with a child or two in tow will know, is an extremely handy feature. Other furniture stores are available.

The boor floor is flat and is available with all manner of accessories (nets and such), though one criticism we’d level is the rear suspension eats into the space more than we’d like.

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, Apple CarPlay support, navigation, Bluetooth, front and rear USB ports, roof rails, luggage partition and one-touch folding rear seats.

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.

GT-Line S gets LED fog lights, 18-inch aluminium alloy wheel, black mirror caps, side sills and air intake grille, twin exhausts, ambient cabin lighting and black leather seats with red stitching.

Child seats that fit a Kia Optima Sportswagon (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.

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

‘Smooth’ is the main word that comes to mind when driving the Optima Sportswagon. Despite the name, Kia has engineered this estate with motorway miles in mind – at higher speeds the Optima settles into a lovely calm cruise.

The seats are comfy, the driving position is designed for all shapes and sizes with lots of adjustment in the seat and wheel, while on the standard 17-inch wheels, it flows over the motorway tarmac like a gondola down a Venetian stream. Well, not quite, but it’s distinctly non-bumpy.

Bigger wheels - those of the GT version, for example - will unsettle things and it’s worth noting that an involving drive the Optima Sportswagon is not. The steering is weighted for comfort rather than feel, meaning it’s light and largely ‘disconnected’ from the road, while the diesel engine really doesn’t like being pressed.

On one hand, the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel has plenty of torque low down - 340Nm at just 1750rpm - which makes it feel nippy at low speeds, but on the other it’s not an engine that likes to go above 3000rpm. It’s noisy and lacks punch from thereon.

For that reason the twin-clutch automatic is a good option to go for. It changes gears smoothly and its software is instructed to keep the engine at low revs – where it works best. In this configuration the Optima is impressively refined, which comes not only from the engine but from the basics like minimum wind and road noise, even at motorway speeds.

The 1.7-litre diesel was replaced with the 1.6 CRDi in mid-2018. On paper the 1.6 provides similar performance with 135PS and 320Nm of torque at 2000rpm. However, on the road, the engine is smoother, more refined and less strained over 3000rpm. 

Company car drivers can opt for the Sportswagon PHEV, which combines a 155PS 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with a 50kW electric motor. When working together, the combustion engine and electric motor generate 205PS and 375Nm of torque, while CO2 emissions range from 33-37g/km. 

The petrol range features two powerful four-cylinder turbos, with the 180PS 1.6-litre T-GDi and 245PS 2.0-litre T-GDi powering the high-performance Optima GT. The 180PS unit is paired with the seven-speed double-clutch transmission as standard.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.6 CRDi 61 mpg - 121 g/km
1.6 CRDi DCT 61 mpg - 122 g/km
1.7 CRDi 64 mpg - 113 g/km
1.7 CRDi Automatic 61 mpg - 120 g/km
2.0 GDi PHEV 202 mpg - 33 g/km
2.0 T-GDi Automatic 31 mpg - 191 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Optima Sportswagon (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

35–100 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 Sportswagon (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

I have £12k to replace my aging E-Class Estate - what reliable, diesel Estate do you suggest?

I currently have a 2011 Mercedes E250 CDI Estate, which has nearly done 100,000 miles. I do around 24,000 miles a year, mainly commuting on B roads to my business. I use it to carry stock between two shops I own and also as a family car, two kids and black Labrador. It really comes into its own on holidays as it can carry huge amounts of luggage without the need for a roof box. However, it's not the best for the types of roads I mainly drive on and I am looking to change the car next year with a £12k budget. It never seems to go more than two or three months without needing to go the garage for some fault (mostly minor ones) either. I'm looking for a reliable, used estate - probably diesel due to the number of miles I do and I would prefer a manual gearbox. What do you suggest?
I'd recommend a Skoda Superb. It's very practical, offers excellent value for money and is very comfortable for covering high miles in. It'll be cheap to run, too. Also consider a Kia Optima.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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