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Kia Optima 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.6
Kia's Optima may not have the highest profile in the Aussie new car market, but this well-equipped, well-priced mid-size sedan does so many things, so well.

It's easy to get distracted by all the exciting new models constantly being rolled out, what with carmakers now chasing niche markets so small you'd have more chance of spotting the Higgs Boson particle, but we reckon you overlook the classics at your peril.

They're classics for a reason, after all. Take the Kia Optima GT. Sure, it's competing in the mid-size sedan segment (a category that, these days, is every bit as popular as asbestos sheeting with a hearty serving of tripe), but those willing to go against the populist grain will find it serves up enough equipment, space and dynamics to give even the very best SUVs a run for their money.

Kia Optima 2018: Si
Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$18,800

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The GT-badged Optima is so close to looking and feeling truly premium in every way, but it's let down by a couple of quirks that reveal its more humble origins.

But first, the good stuff. Viewed front on, the GT looks properly sleek. The new-look Schreyer grille (it's thinner and wider) stretches all the way to the narrow and swept-back headlights, while a chrome-rimmed air vent forms the entryway to each of the swollen front wheelarches.

The new-look Schreyer grille (it's thinner and wider) stretches all the way to the narrow and swept-back headlights. The new-look Schreyer grille (it's thinner and wider) stretches all the way to the narrow and swept-back headlights.

The silver and black alloys hide red brake calipers that peek out through the gaps, too, while the curvaceous boot is perched above two exhaust pipes that book-end a chrome-rimmed rear diffuser - part of the 'Sports Package' that arrives as standard on the GT.

It's the rear three-quarter view that lets the team down a little; the sloping roofline interrupted by an extra porthole-style window that trips up the otherwise smooth and flowing lines.

The curvaceous boot is perched above two exhaust pipes that book-end a chrome-rimmed rear diffuser. The curvaceous boot is perched above two exhaust pipes that book-end a chrome-rimmed rear diffuser.

Inside, the plush leather seats are paired with a coloured panel that runs the length of the two-tone doors, while the central tunnel and main controls all look and feel nicely polished.

Downsides? The plastic edges of the central console and glove box lid feel harder than a quantum physics quiz, and the multimedia screen and its buttons (and its functionality, for that matter) is decidedly un-premium.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

At 4.85m long and 1.86m wide, it's about on-point for a mid-size sedan, sitting roughly equal with cars like the Toyota Camry and Mazda6.

And that means interior space is really a non-issue, no matter where you're sitting. Legroom in the back is fantastic - even if headroom might feel cramped for passengers taller than my 175cm. There's width enough to go three across the back, too.

  • The boot opens to reveal a 510-litre (VDA) storage space. The boot opens to reveal a 510-litre (VDA) storage space.
  • The 60/40 split rear seats fold flat to boost your load-lugging potential. The 60/40 split rear seats fold flat to boost your load-lugging potential.

There are two ISOFIX attachment points in the backseat, as well as air vents (but no temp controls), along with a power source and USB connection. The pull-down divider is home to two cupholders, and there's room for bottles (though only bottles) in the rear doors.

Up front, you'll find the seats separated by a wide, brushed-aluminium console that's home to two cupholders, and there's room for bottles in each of the front doors. The glove box is sizeable, too, and there's storage for your sunglasses in a compartment fitted to the roof. There's also an aux-in connection for your mobile phone up front, as well as power and USB connection points.

The boot opens to reveal a 510-litre (VDA) storage space, and the 60/40 split rear seats fold flat to boost your load-lugging potential.

There are two ISOFIX attachment points in the backseat, as well as air vents (but no temp controls), along with a power source and USB connection. There are two ISOFIX attachment points in the backseat, as well as air vents (but no temp controls), along with a power source and USB connection.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The GT sits atop the two-strong Optima line-up, above the entry-level Si. You'll have to find $44,490 to put one in your driveway - a sizeable $10k jump over the only model below it.

And yes, that sounds like an awful lot for a Korean mid-size sedan, but rest assured, you won't be bothering the options list. Think 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a huge panoramic sunroof and dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes outside. Inside, expect leather seats (powered, with lumbar control for the driver and passenger) that are both heated and cooled in the front, a heated flat-bottomed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and a wireless phone charger.

Interior space is really a non-issue, no matter where you're sitting. Interior space is really a non-issue, no matter where you're sitting.

Technology is handled by an 8.0-inch touchscreen that pairs with a thumping 10-speaker harman/kardon stereo, along with a second TFT screen in the dash. Oh, and there's more safety kit than you can shake a Harold Scruby at, but we'll come back to all that under the safety sub-heading.

That is a serious amount of kit, and it would cost you a gosh-darn fortune should you be shopping for a European brand. Kia deserves kudos for chucking it all in to the retail price.

The silver and black alloys hide red brake calipers that peek out through the gaps. The silver and black alloys hide red brake calipers that peek out through the gaps.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

It might sound like a rip-snorting V8, but that's the dark wizardry of what Kia calls its 'sound enhancer'.

What's actually lurking under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that will produce 180kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm at 1400rpm.

It's partnered with a six-speed automatic gearbox (complete with flappy paddles) that sends power to the front wheels.

It might sound like a rip-snorting V8, but what's actually lurking under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It might sound like a rip-snorting V8, but what's actually lurking under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Kia claims 8.5 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, which is only a smidgeon less than Toyota claims for its biggest V6 engine. Emissions are a claimed 199g/km of C02.

Happily, the Optima's 70-litre tank will accept cheaper regular unleaded.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

First things first; forget that rumbling soundtrack - a sports car this ain't. Instead, Kia pipes a make-believe sound into the cabin via an utterly confusing mix of vibrations and frequency generators. And the question that begs to be asked is why?

Everything else about the Optima feels designed for comfort over performance - the ride is fantastic, dispatching almost all road imperfections before they invade the cabin, while the engine's torque is set up to deliver plenty of off-the-line punch, but quickly fades away higher in the rev range - which makes this roaring soundtrack feel entirely out of place. And, dare we say it, a little annoying.

There's an updated (but not all-new) model due to arrive around the middle of the year, and there has been talk of the Optima GT changing its sporty character - a role now filled by the smaller-capacity Stinger - to instead focus on being a comfortable and premium-feeling conveyance. And while Kia wouldn't confirm the plans, we're thinking that would be a good decision.

There are a lot of things I really love about the Optima.

The power delivery from the turbocharged engine is wonderfully useable in the city, though. It's not fast, of course, but the power is perfectly timed, pushing you away from lights with ease before settling back into a smoother, less-aggressive rhythm.

Where it's not so perfectly timed, though, is when you really plant your foot while rolling, with a noticeable delay that can leave you frantically checking the rear-view mirror when you pull out into an overtaking lane.

There are a lot of things I really love about the Optima. I love the ride, and the fact the seats are so soft and plush they only add to the comfort levels. I love the fact the exterior is a little more understated than we've come to expect from the recent Kia crop, lending the GT a more premium feel. And most of all, I love the options list, or lack of it.

But there are some contractions that take some getting used to. The 10-speaker stereo is terrific, but it pairs with a clunky-feeling multimedia system that - incredibly - does not offer Apple CarPlay (bizarre from a company that openly targets a younger demographic).

And while the soundtrack and sporty styling scream performance, but the steering feels slow and more than a little wooden, leaving you feeling somewhat disconnected and having to adjust your line through corners.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Safety is a true strong point of the Optima GT, with a long and impressive list of standard safety kit.

Expect six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain bags), along with hill-start assist, adaptive high-beam headlights and the usual suite of traction and braking aids.

But wait, there's more; front and rear sensors join the parking camera, as well as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane change assist, AEB, rear cross-traffic alert and cornering headlights all join the standard safety party.

The Optima received the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when asssessed in 2015.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

I've already thrown every available superlative at Kia's ownership program, so let's keep it simple this time around; a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing throughout and seven-years roadside assist (provided you service at a Kia dealership) is really and truly outstanding peace of mind. That said, six-month/7500km service intervals do sting.

Verdict

If we've learned nothing from both Two and a Half Men and Donald Trump, it's that the popular decision isn't always the right one. So, if you're in the market for an SUV, take a moment to test drive the Kia Optima GT. We've got a feeling you might be pleasantly surprised.

Is the Optima on your potential purchase list? Tell us in the comments below.

Pricing guides

$20,990
Based on 18 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$29,888
Highest Price
$34,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT NAV (black Leather) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,200 – 34,760 2018 Kia Optima 2018 GT NAV (black Leather) Pricing and Specs
GT NAV (black Leather) Sunroof 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,200 – 34,760 2018 Kia Optima 2018 GT NAV (black Leather) Sunroof Pricing and Specs
GT NAV (red Leather) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $29,888 – 34,990 2018 Kia Optima 2018 GT NAV (red Leather) Pricing and Specs
Si 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,800 – 26,180 2018 Kia Optima 2018 Si Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety9
Ownership8
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$19,800

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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