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The now-discontinued Kia Optima offered a competitive midsize sedan while in production until 2020. Today, the Kia model is an affordable prospect for potential owners seeking a used car. However, is the midsize sedan a reliable option compared to its competitors? Or will the Kia Optima’s most common problems keep it from being a reliable preowned package? 

What are the cons of a Kia Optima?

Like any other car, the now-discontinued Kia Optima has its issues. For instance, RepairPal says the Kia model has three common problems that over 200 owners have reported:

  • Door lock failures
  • Faulty throttle position switch
  • Transmission issues (software correctable) 
A reliable, used red Kia Optima parks next to a large building.
Kia Optima | Kia

Regarding the Optima’s finicky door locks, over 450 owners reported that the latch assembly on the doors is faulty. As a result, the doors could become challenging to open. However, it’s an easily remedied problem, as replacing the latch assembly often results in regular door operation. In addition to door issues, some model years of Kia Optima might exhibit a check engine light or loss of power courtesy of a faulty throttle position switch. 

Furthermore, some Optima models might experience an issue with the transmission control module that results in abnormal shifting. Fortunately for fans of the model, all of these issues are relatively innocuous and easily fixed. For instance, Kia issued a software update that could effectively resolve the transmission issue, especially in newer models. 

What are the worst model years of Optima?

Regarding reliability, says the worst model year of the Kia Optima is 2011. That model year has many owner-reported engine problems, including engine failure at as little as 102,000 miles on average. 

However, the 2011 model isn’t the only one; the 2015 and 2013 models have a large number of complaints related to catastrophic engine failures. The average cost to replace the motor is even more disheartening than the typical mileage for an engine failure. For instance, the average cost to remedy could be between $4,600 and $5,300, depending on the model year. 

On a more easily-remedied note, the door latch issues affect up to 15 model years of the Kia model, from 2001 to 2015. Furthermore, the faulty throttle position switch and transmission issue cover 16 model years, from 2001 to 2017. RepairPal did not include the 2015 model year in the list.  

Do Kia Optimas last a long time?

A Kia Optima has the potential to last longer than 200,000 miles with proper care and maintenance. However, the model did not join iSeeCars’ top scorers in terms of lifespan. Instead, the Optima lost out to competitors like the Toyota Camry.

However, the Optima Hybrid secured a spot on the longest-lasting hybrids list. Specifically, it claimed the No. 6 position, just ahead of the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. 

A white Kia Optima has no problems cornering on a back road without other cars.
2016 Optima SXL | Kia

Is The Kia Optima a reliable car?

Despite the owner-reported issues, the Kia Optima is a reliable car. RepairPal gives the model a 4.0 out of 5.0 on its five-point reliability scale. As a result, the Kia model boasts above-average dependability in the segment. 

Moreover, the Optima’s average annual repair cost of about $471 undercuts the midsize sedan market average of $526. The Kia Optima might have problems, but it makes up for it in affordability and simplicity.


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