Kia Optima Problems: 4 Common Issues (Explained)

Kia vehicles are known for providing elegance and reliability at a budget-friendly price.

That said, there is no such thing as a perfect car. Consider these issues commonly found in the Kia Optima when you’re considering a new car purchase.

Before we dive in, you should check out our article about how long the Kia Optima typically lasts.

1. Door Lock Malfunctions

Kia Optima owners can sometimes experience issues getting the doors of their vehicle to lock or unlock as needed.

This is an issue that can really vary. Sometimes it’s just one lock that is experiencing the problem, while in other situations the problem is with all the doors.

Some may also find that a lock may work correctly from the outside of the car, but not from the inside.

Issues with locks won’t stop the car from driving, but they can be troubling. Especially if the malfunction results in your car doors becoming unlocked unexpectedly.

Potential Solutions To Door Lock Malfunctions

Although frustrating, the issue with malfunctioning door locks is often simple to fix.

Typically, the issue is caused by the relays, actuator, or dampener.

Those who are familiar with working on cars can often get to the source of the problem themselves, while others may need to rely on a mechanic.

In either case, the solution is likely to be inexpensive.

At most, one of the previously-mentioned parts may need to be replaced. In many cases, they can simply be adjusted and the doors will begin working properly again.

2. Faulty Transmission Software

Another common issue that can occur in the Kia Optima is related to the software that regulates the transmission.

When this problem occurs, drivers may notice the vehicle lurching or slowing suddenly while they are slowing the car down.

Most often, this tends to happen around the 20MPH range.

Essentially, the car downshifts at this range without the control of the driver. The result is a sudden jerk that may feel as though the driver quickly stepped on the brakes.

In many instances, this issue has been due to a known issue with the transmission software.

The manufacturer released a software update in order to fix the issue.

Ultimately, solving the problem comes down to visiting a mechanic so that they can perform the software update and conduct any resets that need to occur.

The fortunate aspect of this is that it typically doesn’t require any expensive repairs or replacement.

You can probe into the best and worst Kia Optima years.

3. Inefficient Battery Charging

No vehicle is built perfectly. From time to time, there may be issues with certain parts that are used within them.

For the Kia Optima, there can be alternator issues that result in struggles with getting the car to start.

In many cases, the problem can appear to be caused by a failed battery.

For example, a driver may go to start their car only to find it won’t turn over. Instead, the driver is left listening to a clicking sound.

Cars experiencing this issue may need a jump from another vehicle in order to start properly.

Essentially, what happens in cars with this problem is that the alternator is unable to provide enough power to maintain the battery level.

Fixing The Alternator Issue

Because these issues became a known problem, Kia released a new alternator that has been determined to work correctly.

Many Kia Optima models may have already had the alternator replaced, but not always.

Consequently, any issues in a Kia Optima that appear to be caused by the battery should be checked for alternator problems as well.

Once the alternator is replaced, the car should be able to start without any problems.

4. Stumbling While Accelerating

While some Kia Optima drivers may have experienced sudden downshifts while slowing down, others can have problems with stumbling while accelerating.

Some of the symptoms that can come with this issue include the check engine light coming on, misfiring, and losing speed when the car is supposed to be gaining speed.

This can be a particularly troubling issue, especially when you’re on a busy highway with few places to go when your car decides to slow down.

Often, many common fixes don’t work in this situation. Things like replacing wires and gas caps won’t solve the problem.

This is because the issue is actually caused by a throttle position switch that isn’t working correctly.

The good news is that Kia is aware of the problem and released a newer throttle position switch that is designed to work more effectively.

General Pros And Cons For The Kia Optima

Take a look at these pros and cons of the Kia Optima.


These are the benefits that come with the Kia Optima:

1. High Value For Low Cost

It’s easy to purchase a high-quality car when you have money to spend, but not everyone can afford to go out and buy a $50,000 vehicle when they need it.

One of the benefits of the Kia Optima is that it provides a high level of value at a price that is more friendly to those on a budget.

With a comfortable ride and the appearance of luxury, the Kia Optima doesn’t give away its budget pricing through its design.

Instead, this vehicle focuses on efficiency. That means providing reliable, sturdy cars that work well for people in their day-to-day lives.

The Kia Optima, as well as other Kia vehicles, is considered to be a great option for those who get where they need to go without a fuss.

It gets the job done and it doesn’t drain your wallet in order to do it.

2. Riding In Comfort

Some drivers want a car that can give them an exciting ride, while others just want to get where they need to go reliably.

The Kia Optima is for the latter group.

With many options to customize, the Optima can offer a comfortable interior with a lot of room to stretch out and enjoy the ride.

Additionally, the steering is easy to control. There won’t be a lot of fighting with the wheel to get around difficult corners.

Speaking of corners, the suspension system in the Kia Optima is made to handle them smoothly and easily.

The only thing to be aware of is that this isn’t a car that is made for pushing the limits. Don’t try to handle it as you would a sports car.

3. Decent Fuel Economy

The fuel economy for the Kia Optima may not be groundbreaking, but it does tend to be comparable to similar types of vehicles.

The Kia Optima also provides a few different options to allow drivers to get the experience they are looking for.

Those who want to stick with the tried-and-true can choose regular gasoline options and get anywhere from 24 to 31MPG.

Meanwhile, hybrid drivers can get 40 to 41MPG, and plug-in hybrids can achieve up to 103MPG.

Considering the top plug-in hybrid vehicles are able to offer anywhere from about 80MPG up to 133MPG, what the Kia Optima offers is pretty decent.

Especially considering most vehicles that use gasoline only won’t be able to get anywhere near that kind of fuel economy.

4. Eye-Catching Exterior Design

We all know there are cars out there that look cheap because they are cheap.

The Kia Optima is not one of those cars.

While many people are aware that Kia is often viewed as a budget brand, the cars they create just keep getting more and more attractive.

In fact, some are even reminiscent of something like a Mustang.

The Kia Optima may not quite reach that level, but it does have a luxurious appearance.

In addition, drivers have the ability to choose from several trim levels, including the LX, S, Special Edition, EX, EX Premium, and Optima SX.

With each option comes a new layer of comfort and class.

There are few who will deny that the Kia Optima is a vehicle that appears more expensive than it actually is.

5. Tech-Friendly

Technology is a huge part of our lives these days. Many would view a vehicle that can’t connect to your smartphone as a setback.

The Kia Optima engages with technology through the use of the UVO system.

This system allows you to use your smartphone to connect to your car using the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay apps.

With the app in use, you can make use of the following features with the help of your smartphone::

  • Temperature control
  • Door locking and unlocking
  • Navigation
  • Access to phone calls
  • Music


Here are some downfalls to the Kia Optima:

  • Door lock malfunctions
  • Faulty transmission software
  • Inefficient battery charging
  • Stumbling while accelerating

What Do The Reviews Say?

“Kia does an excellent job of making both hybrids drive like normal cars, so the unobservant passenger might never notice a difference between an Optima with an electric motor and one without.”

“The redesigned 2016 Optima midsized sedan packs a lot of substance and value. It drives nicely, with a firm yet absorbent ride and responsive, secure handling.”

What’s The Resale Value On The Kia Optima?

Year Mileage Price ($)
2020 62,384 $19,999
2019 76,169 $19,990
2018 57,049 $15,995
2017 65,869 $16,969
2016 86,074 $15,968
2015 84,877 $14,995
2014 86,141 $15,590
2013 68,793 $13,497
2012 75,415 $15,590
2011 78,530 $14,990
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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.