Midsize car; Built in South Korea
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,200 – $14,000*

2006 Kia Optima

2006 Kia Optima

2006 Kia Optima

2006 Kia Optima

  • Control layout and materials
  • Front seat room and comfort
  • Quietness
  • Ride
  • Acceleration (4-cyl)

Like the related Hyundai Sonata, Kia’s Optima delivers a high level of features per dollar. On the whole, though, it falls short in overall refinement and materials quality, versus such class benchmarks as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Promising a more sporting character than Hyundai’s Sonata, the Optima had lower starting prices when new. But ABS cost extra, as did traction/antiskid control–important safety features that we strongly recommend. Kias tend to depreciate considerably faster than their major competitors, so used-car prices can be appealing.


Midway through the 2006 model year, Kia issued a redesigned version of its Optima midsize sedan as a “2006.5” model; we’ve rounded that up to a 2007 to avoid confusion with the earlier generation, which ran from 2001 through 2006. The new Optima shared its basic front-wheel-drive design with the Sonata produced by Kia’s corporate-parent Hyundai, which was redesigned for 2006.

Lengthened in wheelbase, the new Optima had a wider track (distance between left and right wheels) and short overhangs. Kia claimed more interior volume than most midsize sedans, including the Accord, Camry, and Altima.

Competing against the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry, Optimas came in LX and uplevel EX models. Each offered a choice of a 161-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 185-horsepower V6. Both engines gained power and promised improved gas mileage. Output of the four-cylinder was 15-percent greater than in the prior Optima model. A five-speed manual transmission was standard on the four-cylinder LX. Five-speed automatic with a gated shifter and Sportmatic operation was optional for that model, and standard otherwise.

All Optimas included front side airbags and curtain side airbags. EX sedans added alloy wheels, foglamps, solar glass, an eight-way power driver’s seat, automatic temperature control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Antilock braking and traction/antiskid control were available in an option package for LX V6 and EX models.

Leather upholstery and heated front seats were optional for EX models, as were power-adjustable pedals. A new Appearance Package included Michelin 17-inch tires, a blacked-out grille and headlights, aluminum interior trim, and Supervision meter cluster.

Yearly Updates

2008 Optima
The 2008 Kia Optima was largely unchanged.
2009 Optima
The 2009 Kia Optima got fresh styling, a new trim level, and more power. Optima came in LX, EX, and new-for-2009 SX trim levels. Each was available with a 175-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine; a 194-hp 2.7-liter V6 was offered on the EX and SX. These represented gains of 13 hp and 9 hp, respectively, over the 2008 Optima.
2010 Optima
The 2010 Kia Optima was largely unchanged, though base LX models no longer offered a V6 engine.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Optima offered a choice of two engines: a 161-horsepower four-cylinder or a 185-horsepower V6. A five-speed manual transmission was standard on the four-cylinder LX. A five-speed automatic was optional for that model, and standard with V6 power. For 2010, base LX models no longer offered a V6 engine.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 161
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 163
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/163
Engine HP 185
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 182
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



Road Test

Four-cylinder acceleration matches the feel of the V6 in around-town driving, but strains to provide highway-passing power. A test four-cylinder with automatic transmission accelerated to 60 mph in a rather leisurely 8.6 seconds. Kia’s V6 offers stronger passing power. With either engine, the automatic transmission’s upshifts are occasionally lazy, and downshifts tardy.

Fuel economy is adequate but less than frugal. Test four-cylinder LXs averaged 19.5 mpg with either transmission. A test EX V6 averaged 19.7 mpg overall, or 24.8 mpg in mostly highway driving.

Optimas capably absorb most road imperfections, though sharp bumps may trigger some float and wallow. Expect a slight ride penalty with 17-inch tires in the optional Appearance Package.

No sport sedan, the Optima is a bit more athletic than Hyundai Sonata. Mostly composed in quick directional changes, but Optima suffers some body roll. Steering is responsive, but feels numb on-center. Some testers have called it overboosted. Available 17-inch tires provide slightly sharper moves than the standard 16s. A tight turning circle enhances parking-lot maneuverability.

Wind rush is well muffled, but intrusive rough-surface tire roar occurs at highway speeds. Four-cylinder engines emit a thrashy groan at full throttle. The V6 is noticeably quieter, but less refined than the Toyota Camry’s V6. Both engines are subdued while cruising.

Gauges are legible and unobstructed, and the large, well-marked controls fall readily to hand. Optional leather upholstery lacks richness, but looks nicer than standard cloth. Other interior materials are serviceable and attractive, but otherwise nothing special.

Expect sufficient legroom up front, with adequate headspace for tall drivers. Seats are comfortable, but offer little lateral support in turns. The driving position is pleasant and upright, though telescopic steering-wheel adjustments would be a welcome addition. Visibility is fine in all directions. Backseat room and comfort are adequate for two adults, but knee space grows tight if front seats are more than halfway back. Mediocre headroom is diminished further by the optional sunroof’s housing.

Trunk space is decent, and lid hinges don’t intrude. Split folding rear seats release via trunk-mounted handles. Sufficient cabin storage includes an ample glovebox, door map pockets, and an armrest console.


Model Tested: Kia Optima LX 4-cyl. w/auto.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 8
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 6

Total: 58


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.1 186.4 71.1 58.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.8 16.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.8 38.0 43.7 37.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2007 Optima 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: The airbag warning light may illuminate due to corrosion in the electrical connector under the driver’s seat. (2005-07)
Engine misfire
Description: Stumble on acceleration and other drivability problems due to fuel tanks rust causing clogged fuel injectors. (2006-09)
Hard starting
Description: The 2.0L or 2.4L engine may be hard to start, or may not start at all, due to throttle stuck shut from deposits. (2006-09)
Electrical problem
Description: The CD changer may malfunction and not play, load or eject requiring resetting the audio system. (2006)
Electrical problem
Description: Hesitation under light load or upon acceleration on vehicles with 2.5L or 2.7L engines caused by faulty throttle position sensor. (2006)
Check-engine light
Description: Some early production cars with the 2.4L engine may illuminate a check engine light and set a trouble code for an oxygen sensor that does not exist requiring reprogramming of the engine control module. (2006)
Software problems
Description: Poor shift quality on vehicles with the 2.4L engine requires updating software for engine control module. (2009-10)

Recall History

2006-2008 Optima
Description: There is a possibility that the shift cable may have been installed incorrectly, causing tension in the cable. If present, this condition could cause the cable to detach from the shifter assembly’s dowel pin preventing the transmission from being shifted. The shift lever can then be moved into the park position while the vehicle’s transmission is still in the last used gear before detachment. If the driver leaves the vehicle without engaging the parking brake, there is a possibility that the vehicle can roll, injure a person in its path, or cause a crash.
2006-2008 Optima
Description: Clock-spring contact assembly could become damaged by use over time and could prevent the driver’s airbag from deploying.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.