The Most Common Kia Optima Problems All Have to Do With the Engine

For those who may be in the market for a pre-owned, midsize sedan, the Kia Optima is a strong contender. Kia blends the best of comfort, fuel economy, and safety with this popular model, and with it comes a budget-friendly price tag. The Optima might be on your shortlist to buy used this year, and you would be smart to do so.

However, as with many brands and vehicle models, there are a few years that proved to be a hassle for owners. The Kia Optima struggled with complaints of engine problems over three model years. We wanted to uncover more about which years were plagued, to help you avoid making a costly purchase.

What other Kia Optima owners say is often a fantastic resource for car buyers looking to see how other vehicle owners feel about their rides. The site pulls actual complaints, reports of mechanical failures, and average costs to repair. The site also shows any recalls or technical service bulletins, initiated by the automakers.

The data is in for the Kia Optima. According to the collected surveys, the 2013 model year has the most number of overall complaints. However, the site claims 2011 is the worst model year, based on the severity of problems reported, higher average costs to repair, and the average mileage of the vehicle when the issues arose. The most significant problem is worrisome as it relates to engine failure.

The 2013 Kia Optima has the most number of complaints

Although not deemed the worst year for the Optima, 2013 models certainly have the most reported complaints. The biggest issue with owners, with 26 complaints, are problems that result in a blown engine.

Most of these owners were forced to replace the engine entirely, to an average cost of $4,950. Considering these issues presented around the 78,000-mile mark, it’s a severe occurrence that caught many of these Kia Optima owners by surprise.

Why 2011 is the worst year of all calculates a variety of reported failures and details and evaluates each vehicle’s worst model year. For the Kia Optima, 2011 takes the cake, and with over 50 complaints of engine failures, it’s serious. These owners, much like the owners of the 2013 models, shelled out an average of $4,670 to replace their engines. The problem became so widespread that Kia issued a recall on all 2011 through 2014 model Optima sedans.

Wait, there’s yet another bad engine year

If you’re considering a used Kia Optima that happens to be a 2012, you’re not out of the woods. There were engine failure reports for another 21 sedan owners of that model year, too. Based on the ownership experience data collected by, these failures resulted in over $5,000 repair bills, requiring owners to replace their engines altogether. Most experienced their engine issues around 92,000 miles.

What Consumer Reports says about the Kia Optima

Not all Kia Optima models are engine repair traps. In fact, Consumer Reports shows consumer confidence in surveys with vehicle owners. They offer predicted reliability ratings, based on the ownership experiences of years past, and for the Kia Optima, it earns a modest three out of possible five.

Most of the feedback for those parking Kia Optima sedans in their garages is favorable. It’s a smooth and responsive ride, with impressive fuel economy and plush extras on the higher trim levels.

What’s new for the 2020 Kia Optima?

In case you were interested in buying a new Kia Optima this year, you’ll have plenty to get excited about with this one. The 2020 model is the fourth in the generation, initially introduced in 2016. So, it’s well beyond those problematic years of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

This year, there are a few enhancements to features at the various trim levels and tons of standard equipment. Safety gets a boost as forward collision mitigation systems now include pedestrian detection.

If you want tons of extras, without the hefty MSRP, the Kia Optima is worth a look. If you’re considering a used model, it may be in your best interest to steer clear of those three model years with reported engine problems.