Kia Optima review by andrew frankel for the sunday times driving
Way off the pace of its rivals, but cheap and well equipped.
Affordable pricing
Sensible diesel engine
Plenty of interior space and equipment
Has nothing to offer the driver
Style-free interior
Disappointing ride

Kia Optima Mk 3 review (2011-on)

These days we expect Kias and Hyundais to compete against their class rivals on pure merit. However, Kia’s large Optima saloon reminds us how things used to be.

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What is the Kia Optima?

The time when Korean car manufacturers used to stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap seems to have passed. These days we expect Kias and Hyundais to compete against their class rivals on pure merit. However, Kia’s large Optima saloon reminds us how things used to be. Whether it’s a time many will care to recall is another question.

The drive

Sensibly, given the lack of interest in petrol engines in this part of the market, Kia doesn’t provide any in the Optima. Indeed a 1.7-litre turbodiesel is the only available powerplant. This is not such a bad thing, as it produces a good amount of torque, is reasonably refined and endows manual-transmission Optimas with respectable acceleration and impressive economy. Avoid the auto, however, unless you are happy to lose what performance there is and take a fuel economy hit of more than 10mpg.

The chassis is less satisfactory. Nobody expects exquisite handling from a D-segment saloon, and the soft and slushy Optima isn’t about to spring any surprises here. Less easy to forgive are its inconsistent ride quality and ability to inform you of everyday lumps and bumps despite the squidginess of its springs. We’re not that taken with the light and unengaging steering either.

The interior

If you’re hoping for something a little designer, with a cool touch and a hot look, you’ve knocked on the wrong door. Inside and out, the Optima is a style desert. If, however, your sights are set at a rather less lofty altitude and you’re happy with something simple and spacious, step this way.

The driving environment is reminiscent of what we used to find in Korean cars: all the information is there and clearly displayed, but the presentation is lacking. There’s nothing attractive about the dash design, and the minor controls seem to have been scattered around the steering wheel and fascia.

But forget the quality and look at the quantity, be that the amount of legroom for back-seat passengers or the long list of equipment that comes as standard in even the lowest of the four trim grades. In terms of metal (or plastic) for your money, if in no other regard, the Optima takes some beating.

What to look out for

Optima owners are generally very happy with their purchase, although we have heard a few grumbles about sat nav issues and difficult iPod controls. With a solid seven-year warranty and helpful dealers, these issues were resolved quickly and efficiently. There are currently no recalls for the Optima.

The one to buy

Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 2 Luxe


£21,695 (correct at first publication)
1685cc, 4 cylinders
134bhp @ 4000rpm
239 lb ft @ 2000rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 10.2sec
Top speed:
57.6mpg (combined)
Road tax band:
L 4845mm, W 1830mm, H 1455mm



Kia Optima used car rivals for similar money

See prices of Mercedes E-class 
See prices of Volkswagen Passat 
See prices of Skoda Superb