2016-2020 Kia Optima: Pros and Cons, Problems

By Vlad Samarin, January 12, 2024
2016 Kia Optima interior 2016 Kia Optima Interior
The 2016-2020 Kia Optima is a midsize sedan that combines sleek styling with a comfortable interior. The Optima provides a balance between practical features, fuel economy, and a pleasant driving experience, making it a popular choice in its segment. Here we focus only on the non-hybrid model.

Pros:

  • Attractive Design: The Kia Optima is a good-looking sedan with sleek lines.
  • Good Safety Ratings: The Optima scored a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA and 'Top Safety Pick+' from the IIHS.
  • Comfortable Interior: The Optima offers a comfortable and spacious interior with supportive seating.
  • Advanced Technology: The Optima comes equipped with optional advanced tech features, such as smartphone integration, and available driver-assistance systems.
  • Fuel Efficiency: The Optima delivers pretty good fuel efficiency. The 2018 Kia Optima with the 2.4-liter engine is rated at 24/34 mpg city/hwy.
  • Driving Experience: It's not a sporty car, but the driving experience is overall pleasant and comfortable.
  • Warranty Coverage: Kia is known for its extensive warranty coverage, that can be helpful in some cases.

Cons:

  • Engine Problems: The number of reported engine problems is quite high. We don't have much trust in the longevity of the Optima's engine, potentially leading to expensive repairs later on or the inconvenience of being stranded.
  • Road Noise: While generally comfortable, the Optima's ride is on the firm side and not very quiet.
  • Material Quality: The interior materials are less luxurious compared to some competitors.
  • Resale Value: The Optima will not hold its value as well as, for example, the Honda Accord.

2016-2020 Kia Optima Problems:

At the time we wrote this review (January 2024), the majority of the complaints on the NHTSA website for this Optima Generation were about the engine. The 2016 Optima received much more complaints than later model years. These include stalling, oil consumption, and complete engine failure. Some owners report that they are on the second or third engine. Other common problems include oil leaks, bad window regulators, issues with the air conditioner, failing brake calipers, and electrical issues. Examples are included below.
The service bulletin BOD 300 for the 2016-2017 Optima describes the problem with an inoperative window regulator. The service bulletin recommends replacing the window regulator drum gear as a solution. Here is the link to the bulletin. It's a fairly simple repair. We also found several Youtube videos describing window regulator repairs and replacement.

The service bulletin ENG 158 for the Check Engine light with the trouble code P200A00 recommends replacing the VCM Actuator and reprogramming the ECM if the failure is confirmed following diagnostic steps. Here is the link to the bulletin. We found this video showing the replacement of the VCM actuator/motor.
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A bad starter motor can cause the vehicle not to start. The problem could be intermittent. You might hear a single click or nothing at all. Replacing a starter motor is a common repair that will cost several hundred dollars. Here is a video showing the replacement of the starter motor, however, it's best to leave it to professionals.

Kia has issued several recalls. Check at the NHTSA website.

Summary: Is the 2016-2020 Kia Optima a good car to buy?

No, in our view, it's cheaper than some other comparable cars for a reason. The pattern of Kia / Hyundai engine failures starting from 2011 cannot be attributed to manufacturing errors or a lack of maintenance. As of January 2024, Consumer Reports rated the 2016-2018 model years of the Kia Optima 'below average' for the overall reliability, marking 'Engine Major' for these model years as the trouble spot - 'worse than average'.
2016 Kia Optima 2016 Kia Optima

Even a used engine for this car is quite expensive in case it will need to be replaced outside of the warranty coverage. Yes, Kia has issued several recalls and, in most cases, does provide pretty good warranty coverage. However, we would advise to look for something more reliable, such as the Toyota Camry or Mazda 6.

In case you decide in favor of the Optima, research the engine problems and warranty ahead of time and keep all the maintenance receipts. Having a warranty that will cover a potential engine failure is a must. Check with Kia if all the outstanding recalls and software updates have been completed before buying a car.

Related reviews:
Mazda 6 2014-2021
Honda Accord 2013-2017
Toyota Camry 2012-2017