15 Best & Worst Kia Optima Years (With Pictures)

The Kia Optima is a midsize car that was produced for the 2001 – 2020 model years.

It’s known for being an affordable, family-friendly sedan that ticks a lot of boxes.

This article covers its best and worst years…

2020 Kia Optima

Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Kia Optima Are:

The best Kia Optima model years are 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2010, 2009, 2006, and 2005. The worst model years of the Optima are 2013, 2012, 2015, 2011, 2016, 2014, and 2004. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.

What Are The Best Years For The Kia Optima?

2020 Kia Optima

The 2020 Optima is the final installment of this nameplate, it is the most reliable model produced, has earnt excellent reviews, and has the most modern tech and safety features.

It has a generous amount of standard features, a stylish interior, and an easy-to-use infotainment system.

New for 2020 was the integration of pedestrian detection in the forward collision mitigation system.

Other noteworthy standard features are its Blind Spot Detection System and Lane Departure Warning System. 

It comes in 4 trims: LX, S, EX, and SX and the are several powertrain options.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 80 / 100

2020 Optima, Edmunds review:

“I have had my Kia Optima FE … for 6 months now and am quite happy with it. I was driving a 2005 Highlander and was not sure if I would like a sedan, but the quieter and smoother ride won me over. Apple CarPlay is great. I like all the safety features it has. Around town I get 26-27 mpg according to the dash info and on the highway, if there are no slowdowns or stops, 40-50 mpg. Update 1/23. I am still happy with this car. No problems other than the logo on the hood has peeled.”

2019 Kia Optima

The 2019 Optima is another solid choice. Its more affordable than many of its rivals and is great for commutes and highway driving.

It boasts handsome styling, plenty of storage compartments, and an abundance of safety tech.

The interior is functional and has intuitive-to-use features.

For 2019 the Optima received a restyled exterior, a revised infotainment system, and a long list of driver assistance features were made standard. 

The 2019 Optima comes in 4 trim levels: LX, S, EX, and SX. 

Engine choice include: 2.4-liter (185 horsepower), 2.0-liter (245 horsepower), and 1.6-liter (178 horsepower).

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2019 Optima, Edmunds review:

“This was such a good option. The car practically drives itself on the highway. It’s modern and turns heads. The headlights could be better and I plan on replacing the bulb with LED headlight. The seats are comfy and the car has a nice acceleration. We chose this over the Camry and wouldn’t go back. This is way better and it has better reviews than even a Honda CRV!”

2018 Kia Optima

The 2018 Optima is a great midsize car that provides lots of value for its price.

It has more features than many of its rivals, a classy interior, and hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to choose from too.

For 2018 the trim levels were simplified and a sport-themed S trim was added to the lineup.

A new standard 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system was introduced and new standard features include blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist.

There are 4 trim levels: LX, S, EX, and SX.

Fuel economy figures for the base gas-powered model are 29 MPG for combined driving, 25 MPG for city driving, and 36 MPG for highway driving.

  • Edmunds: 4.1 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2018 Optima, Edmunds review:

“This car is super spacious, great on gas, and has a great exterior look to it! I receive so many compliments on my car and I love taking it for a drive. Sometimes the USB port for ApplePlay acts a little funky but I usually unplug and plug my USB charger right back in and it works fine after that. My last car was a Kia Forte which I loved as well but the Optima was the perfect upgrade for me. Overall, Kia has treated me great”

2018 Kia Optima

2017 Kia Optima

The 2017 Optima is the second entry of the 4th generation introduced for 2016. It is another excellent choice when shopping for an affordable and reliable midsize car.

In comparison to older generations, the 4th generation is sleeker in design, offers slightly improved performance, and has notably more tech and safety features.

The 2017 model is largely a carryover but there are a few revisions, including upgraded headlights for certain trims (xenon to LED) and the addition of optional packages for most trim levels. 

This model has received far fewer complaints than many of its direct predecessors which we cover in the worst years section.

There are 3 engine options: 1.6-liter (178 horsepower), turbocharged 2-liter (245 horsepower), and 2.4-liter (185 horsepower). 

  • Edmunds: 4.2 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 83 / 100

2017 Optima, Edmunds review:

“ … 8000 miles and still would buy again. Two long road trips and daily to work. This car is so comfortable and useful. It has amenities for both front and rear passengers. Drives smooth as a top and has the pick up when you need it. There is nothing we don’t like. Nothing. To date, there is nothing we would add. It has it all!! Safety features have been useful and come into play every time we drive the car…”

2010 Kia Optima

The 2010 Optima is the final entry of the second generation, it has scored excellent reviews and received minimal complaints.

As the final entry, it did not receive many upgrades as most changes were reserved for the following model year.

The only notable change was the implementation of a standard keyless entry and ignition system for the SX trim.

The 2010 Optima only comes in 3 trim levels: LX, ES, and SX.

The model’s standard engine is a 2.4-liter engine (175 horsepower) paired to either a 5-speed manual transmission or 5-speed automatic transmission.

EPA estimates are 25 MPG for combined driving, 22 MPG for city driving, and 32 MPG for highway driving. 

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2010 Optima, Edmunds review:

“I purchased my 2010 KIA Optima a year ago and I couldn’t be happier. It was one of KIA’s rentals with 12,000 miles on it and in pristine condition inside and out. I’m getting about 30 mpg around town. It handles beautifully and I feel safe and secure driving it. My mechanic was very impressed with it when I took it in for an oil change. Said I made a smart purchase. I’m an old woman now, 67, and this will probably be my last car but if I ever have to buy another car I would buy this one in a heartbeat.”

2009 Kia Optima

The 2009 Optima may not have the most modern technology, but it is one of the most reliable model years to have ever been produced.

It boasts excellent crash test scores, numerous safety features, a spacious backseat, and responsive driving characteristics.

This model year was given a facelift with a new front end, revised rear end and a revamped interior. 

Other than visual tweaks, the car also comes with an upgraded audio system that is equipped with a satellite radio and a navigation system.

In the safety department, anti-lock brakes and stability control have become standard across the board.

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2009 Optima, Edmunds review:

“Had for 6 months and have put 4,000 miles on it. Had a 2006 sportage and saw the optima and had to have it. I am blown away at the attention it gets. People are always telling me they love its looks and the red color is sharp. I just smile when I pull up beside a accord or Camry and think to myself I saved thousands and have an equal car. The optima feels smooth and plenty of power from the I-4 it only has a few less horse power than the v-6, save a few bucks and buy the I-4. The trunk really holds a lot and the car is comfortable on long trips. The gas mileage is as advertised which many cars do not match up. So we are very pleased. We do recommend kia to everyone we know.”

2009 Kia Optima

2006 & 2005 Kia Optima

The 2006 and 2005 Optima’s make an excellent choice for those on a very tight budget. They are the final installments of the first generation and whilst they are a bit dated in terms of design and features they have proven to be very reliable cars.

These models have been praised for their athletic handling, spacious cabin and comfortable seats.

These models come in 2 trims, LX and EX and there are 2 engine options a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 2.7-liter V6.

EPA estimates are 23 MPG (combined driving) for the 2.4-liter engine and only 21 MPG (combined driving) for the 2.7-liter V6 engine. 

2006 Kia Optima

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2005 Kia Optima:

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.1 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2006 Optima, Edmunds review:

“This car replaced a Buick Century and I must say it has many better features than my GM auto did. It is roomier, much better protection for all riders, handles like a dream, and has the very best finish I’ve every seen on a new car. I’ve owned many new cars in my lifetime (I’m 75 years old) and this KIA is the best!”

2006 Kia Optima

Consumer Scores For Best Kia Optima Years

Model YearEdmunds
Consumer Rating
Kelley Blue Book
Consumer Rating
JD Power
Consumer Rating
2020 Kia Optima4.4 / 5.04.2 / 5.080 / 100
2019 Kia Optima4.4 / 5.04.2 / 5.082 / 100
2018 Kia Optima4.1 / 5.04.2 / 5.082 / 100
2017 Kia Optima4.2 / 5.04.2 / 5.083 / 100
2010 Kia Optima4.6 / 5.04.6 / 5.0NA
2009 Kia Optima4.6 / 5.04.6 / 5.082 / 100
2006 Kia Optima4.4 / 5.04.6 / 5.0NA
2005 Kia Optima4.4 / 5.04.1 / 5.0NA

Related: How Long Do Kia Optima Last? (Solved and Explained)

What Are The Worst Years For The Kia Optima?

2013 & 2012 Kia Optima

According to NHTSA data and consumer feedback, the 2013 Kia Optima is the most problematic model produced, closely followed by the 2012 Kia Optima – both shared similar issues.

The most widespread and significant problems were engine related.

Owners reported that the car would stall, lose power, go into limp mode and this was often accompanied by engine warning lights on the dash. Engine knocking and complete engine failure was common too.

Here’s what the owners had to say:

“Started with oil light flashing, then the other lights came on. Started losing speed, then lost all power to the engine, will not start back up with the engine, when trying to start it, the engine started smoking.”

“I was driving on the highway, and knocking noise came out form the engine. The engine began to lose power, and I had to immediately to pull over the car. This car has a theta ii engine, and had gone bad due excessive connecting rod bearing damage.”

“I was driving down the road and my car started smoking. I pulled over and got out of my vehicle and within 5 minutes my engine was in flames.”

Clicking noises coming from the steering wheel and the steering column shaking was another widely reported issue.

Here’s what one owner had to say:

“Steering wheel started clicking when turned right or left. When I drive over bumps or holes, steering column clanks and clunks loudly. Steering wheel vibrates at times and feels loose. Possible issue with steering coupler or steering column and I’ve read that this should be a recall.”

  • The 2013 Optima had a total of 157 problems at CarComplaints.com and 1,363 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
  • The 2012 Optima had a total of 79 problems at CarComplaints.com and 1,035 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Engine blown
  • Steering pulls to the side
  • Oil sludge
2012 Kia Optima

2016, 2015, 2014 & 2011 Kia Optima

The 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2011 Kia Optima’s were plagued by serious engine problems with many owners requiring a new engine.

Symptoms included burning oil, leaks, engine not running properly at highway speeds, knocking noise from the engine, stalling and shuddering noises coming from under the hood.

Owners widely reported that they would suddenly lose power whilst driving and in several cases the vehicle would smoke and catch fire.

Paint chipping and peeling was another common complaint.

Here’s what one owner had to say:

“Have a white pearl paint that is completely chipping off by the pillars, windshield sides, top of the trunk, roof, around the gas tank and some car door edges. Have read an excessive amount of kias with major white paint job problems. It is also obvious the paint is thin as water which is contributing to this issue.”

Steering column shaking and making a rubbing noise was also widely reported.

A large number of owners also filed complaints due to window regulator failure, as described by the owner below:

“Two of the four window regulators failed. The rear windows fell down within weeks of each other. The car has 46000 miles and the rear windows are rarely used. It appears to be a known defect according to the internet. I contacted kia and they said to notify NHTSA.”

  • The 2016 Optima had a total of 78 problems at CarComplaints.com and 553 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
  • The 2015 Optima had a total of 76 problems at CarComplaints.com and 764 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
  • The 2014 Optima had a total of 60 problems at CarComplaints.com and 545 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
  • The 2011 Optima had a total of 115 problems at CarComplaints.com and 675 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Engine failure
  • Steering wheel sticks
  • Window regulator failure
  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Hesitation during acceleration
  • Stalled while driving
  • Dim headlights
2015 Kia Optima

2004 Kia Optima

The 2004 Kia Optima didn’t amass as many complaints as the previously mentioned models however it received significantly more complaints than many of the less problematic models.

Owners reported locks jamming which prevented them from entering and exiting the car, some owners were forced to climb in and out via the window.

The report below explains the problem perfectly:

“The driver’s side door will not unlock from inside or out. Only way in/out of the car is through 3 other doors. Cannot use key to manually get in door. Latch mechanism will not disengage. If you are inside the car and try to unlock the door and open it, it will make a sound like the door has been unlocked, but then will relock almost immediately.”

The 2004 Optima had a total of 13 problems at CarComplaints.com and 298 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Horn blowing on its own
  • Loud and squeaky belts
  • Grounding is poor

Related: How Long Do Kia Optima Hybrids Last? (12 Important Facts)

What Years Have The Most Complaints?

Model YearComplaints
2020 Kia Optima240
2019 Kia Optima696
2018 Kia Optima10160
2017 Kia Optima4196
2016 Kia Optima78553
2015 Kia Optima76764
2014 Kia Optima60545
2013 Kia Optima1571,363
2012 Kia Optima791,035
2011 Kia Optima115675
2010 Kia Optima1492
2009 Kia Optima17164
2008 Kia Optima19182
2007 Kia Optima25209
2006 Kia Optima19207
2005 Kia Optima22180
2004 Kia Optima13298
2003 Kia Optima16185
2002 Kia Optima3162
2001 Kia Optima10227

What Problems Do Kia Optimas Have?

  • Engine failure
  • Dim low beam
  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Poor acceleration
  • Sunroof blew out
  • Engine blown
  • Steering pulls to the side
  • Oil sludge
  • Car wanders
  • Stalled while driving
  • Steering wheel sticks
  • Engine locked up
  • Window regulator failure
  • Hesitation during acceleration

What Are The Best Alternatives To The Kia Optima?

Make & ModelScoreMSRPFuel Economy (MPG)
Honda Accord8.4$27,295 – $29,610City: 29 /Highway: 37
Kia K58.3$25,290 – $31,690City: 24 – 27 /Highway: 32 – 37
Toyota Camry8.2$26,220 – $36,645City: 22 – 28 /Highway: 31 – 39
Hyundai Sonata7.9$24,950 – $34,975City: 23 – 28 /Highway: 33 – 38
Subaru Legacy7.8$24,395 – $37,695City: 23 – 27 /Highway: 31 – 35
Nissan Altima7.4$25,290 – $34,990City: 25 – 27 /Highway: 34 – 39
Chevrolet Malibu7.0$25,000 – $31,500City: 22 – 29 /Highway: 33 – 36

Source: cars.usnews.com, edmunds.com

Related: 6 Best & Worst Kia Amanti Years (Facts & Stats)










  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...