When it comes to car manufacturers each brand seems to have at least one car model that turns out to be a total lemon, and for Kia, it’s the Optima. There are significantly fewer complaints about newer model years, but the 2011 and 2013 Optimas are the worst Kia cars you should never buy.
Some serious problems
The Kia Optima isn’t just the worst car because of its looks or features, there are some serious mechanic problems with the car even when they were purchased brand new. Starting around $20,000 and stretching just over $30,000 when its fully loaded with options, the Kia Optima we designed to be an affordable sedan for the average consumer but it was anything but reliable.
What started out as an affordable car quickly racked up repairs costs. Among many mechanic issues, the worst and most common for 2011 in total engine failure. That might be something you expect from a 300,000 mile 1998 Honda Accord but definitely not what you want to happen to your newer Kia. Many reports of the engine seizing while driving, leaving drivers and their families stranded on the side of the road eventually called for Kia to make several recalls. Before Kia made these recalls, however, consumers would have to pay thousands of dollars to completely replace the entire engine or buy a new car altogether.
The 2011 model wasn’t the only year with expensive engine problems either. The 2013 model year also suffered from catastrophic engine failure, even on cars with less than 75,000 miles. The problem was so bad and so expensive to fix that it ruined the Kia brand for more than a few owners, and they are very vocal about the problems they faced, even as the car’s first owners.
Even on the higher models Optima
If you’re still thinking about buying these years old Kia Optima with the excuse that a higher trim package may be the solution, you’d be wrong. The Kia Optima also came with a turbocharged engine if you purchased the SXL option, and the motors weren’t any less likely to break. Now, instead of having to worry about your engine seizing regardless of strict maintenance, SXL owners also had to worry about the turbochargers breaking.
A damaged or failing turbocharger may not cause catastrophic damage to your engine and most cars can continue being driven with a blown turbocharger. However, a failing turbocharger can make a lot of concerning noise, sometimes cause more engine problems and can make the car a lot less fun to drive. Many Optima owners have complained of failing turbochargers on their SXL trim, and they can cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace.
If you’re looking to buy a used Kia, the Optima should be avoided at any model year, and for some very valid reasons. While other Kia cars have been notably more reliable, the Optima is just bad news.