2008 Kia Optima Sedan Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Kia Optima Sedan

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Kia Optima Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.4 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 162 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 21/31 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2008 Kia Optima

  • Once a forgettable entry in the family sedan segment, the 2008 Kia Optima is now a solid choice thanks to many features, strong interior quality and impressive value.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Excellent crash scores, plenty of standard features at a low price, spacious backseat, generous warranty, surprisingly involving to drive around town.

  • Cons

    V6 offers little advantage over the more efficient inline-4, styling by the witness protection program, ABS not available on manual-shift LX model.

  • What's New for 2008

    An auxiliary audio jack is added to the 2008 Kia Optima.

Full 2008 Kia Optima Review

What's New for 2008

An auxiliary audio jack is added to the 2008 Kia Optima.


The 2008 Kia Optima boasts an amazing feature normally restricted to Romulan warbirds and James Bond's Aston Martin from "Die Another Day." Yep, it comes with a cloaking device. Capable of rendering this Kia midsize sedan almost invisible to the naked eye, the Optima's anonymous styling allows it to blend seamlessly into any automotive crowd without the use of futuristic plasmonic materials or whatever the Romulans use. OK, so it's not really invisible, but the Kia's inconspicuous styling cloaks an otherwise admirable car from most of the car-buying public. With strong crash test scores, a lengthy features list and a well-crafted interior, the Optima deserves more attention than its designers saw fit to elicit.

Like most Kias, the name of the game is value, and the Optima delivers it in droves. Both trim levels offer an impressive level of standard equipment at a low price. In fact, a fully loaded EX V6 with leather, heated seats, premium audio and sunroof doesn't crack $25,000. That undercuts similarly equipped competitors like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. Of course, those models, as well as every other vehicle in the midsize class, offer a more powerful V6 engine than the Optima. At a mere 185 horsepower, the six-cylinder not only offers little advantage over the many four-cylinders in its class (including the Optima's own) but it produces as much as 85 fewer horses than competitor V6s.

With such modest power, the 2008 Optima is obviously not intended to be a sport sedan, but around town, it can feel a bit like one. Relatively quick steering, tight suspension tuning and an unexpectedly generous helping of road feel are rather surprising in a car styled with nuns in mind. It's not quite a wolf in sheep's clothing, though, as more serious twisting-and-turning driving quickly shows this Kia's humble family sedan intentions.

Overall, the 2008 Kia Optima ranks pretty high with us in arguably the most competitive automotive segment. It's cheaper than top choices like the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, but it lacks their levels of refinement, excitement and competitive V6 power. However, against second-tier four-cylinder models like the Ford Fusion, Saturn Aura and gradually slipping Toyota Camry, the Kia is a well-made, well-rounded candidate at a low price. For those who are seeking those attributes with a lot more visual excitement, though, the all-new Chevy Malibu is probably the better choice.

All these quality competitors go to show the difficulty in choosing a car in the family sedan segment these days and the importance of standing out in a crowd. The Optima literally doesn't, but if you couldn't care less (or you've just joined the witness protection program) this Kia is a clever, value-conscious buy. And besides, what other car comes with a cloaking device?

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Kia Optima is a midsize sedan offered in LX and EX trim levels. Standard equipment on the LX includes 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, tilt steering column, and a six-speaker sound system with single-CD player and auxiliary audio jack. LX models with the V6 engine or automatic-equipped four-cylinder gain keyless entry, cruise control and tilt-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls. The LX V6 also has alloy wheels. The LX Appearance Package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, trip computer, and upgraded exterior and interior trim.

The Optima EX comes standard with these items while adding automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink and further upgraded interior trim. The EX Appearance Package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, black leather seats and many of the LX Appearance Package's trim upgrades. The EX Convenience Package adds a four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, manual rear window sunshade and power-adjustable pedals. The EX Premium Package adds a sunroof and an upgraded Infinity sound system with subwoofer, cassette player and a six-CD/MP3 changer.

Powertrains and Performance

The base engine on the 2008 Kia Optima is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes a competitive 162 hp and 164 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the four-cylinder LX. Optional on the LX and standard on the four-cylinder EX is a five-speed automatic transmission. Optional on both trim levels is a 2.7-liter V6 that produces an unimpressive 185 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque; the five-speed auto is standard with this engine. Acceleration is sluggish with either engine, as the V6 produces a leisurely 0-60 sprint of 9.1 seconds. That's the same time needed for a much heavier four-cylinder Honda Accord. Fuel economy estimates for 2008 are 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for the four-cylinder and 20/28 for the V6.


The Optima's standard safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags and 5-mph bumpers. Available on all but four-cylinder LX models with the manual transmission is the Electronic Stability Control Package, which includes antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. Crash test scores for the Optima are quite simply excellent. The government gave it a perfect five stars for front- and side-impact protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset crash test.

Interior Design and Special Features

Like the exterior, the 2008 Optima's cabin is hardly a vibrant environment. However, it counters any lack of character with a no-brainer control layout and very good interior materials. On both counts, it outdoes better-known competitors like the Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion. There's plenty of legroom up front, and the seats are well-shaped and supportive with nicely padded bottom cushions. Legroom is good in back as well, but the seat bottoms are a little short, offering less support for long-limbed occupants than many rivals' accommodations. Trunk capacity is 14.8 cubic feet, and all Optimas have a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.

Driving Impressions

Between stoplights the 2008 Kia Optima V6 feels plenty powerful, but that engine runs out of steam as the rpm climb. Passing power is adequate but unimpressive for a V6 in this class, and the five-speed automatic is reluctant to downshift. Thankfully, there is a manual mode when you want some extra punch. Given the V6's disappointing performance, we'd recommend that budget-minded buyers stick with the base four-cylinder engine, as it provides fully adequate performance while keeping the price tag and fuel consumption low. Thanks to its tightly tuned suspension and relatively communicative steering, the Kia Optima has a somewhat sporty feel around town. The trade-off is that this Kia ultimately doesn't feel as luxurious as other midsize sedans. In addition, if you start making considerable cornering demands on the car, that sportiness goes away quickly. Used as a daily commuter, though, the Optima can be more entertaining than its exterior would suggest.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Do not get a kia

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)

I bought my car brand new in June '08. The main reason I bought an Optima is because all the safety airbags on it. it really did seem to be a safe car on the market at that time. Since then I have seen a main complaint that the airbags DO NOT deploy when there is an impact. That gave me a really big concern. Well, now my car is cutting off with me as I start down the road and I have been told it is because I have used aftermarket oil filters. BULL!!!!! They put Kia oil filter on and guess what? It is still cutting off with me. I came to a T-intersection one day and it desided to cut off. When it did NO BRAKES, No Power Steering and I had to pull out IN FRONT of another vehicle that was coming and just luckily there was noone coming in other lane so that vehicle could go around me. And I guess that I forgot to mention that my 10 yr old SON was in the car with me. I have taken my car down to the Kia shop in Myrtle Beach, SC every Tuesday for the last 2 months and it also stayed there for 1 full week during that time. NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE EXCEPT A KIA OIL FILTER PUT ON... I"m considering this car to be a LEMON and I have told Kia that it will be on them if this car kills me and my son until it is fixed or replaced. I have been dealing with Wes and Bob at the Kia Service area in Myrtle beach, SC which has been very nice to me but something has to give. I am fixing to list this car under the Lemon Law with my lawyer. The safety of this car SUCKS!! I need help with this. Someone else higher up the ladder needs to step in on this case. Wes has a case number already out with the Technical staff but something has got to be done. I can not have mine and my son's life in jeoperdy like this. THIS CAR IS DANGEROUS. I have dropped it off AGAIN at the Kia Service area this evening (09/03/12) for the ump-teenth time so it can be checked out again tomorrow. I will travel ANOTHER 45 min to check on it tomorrow. My days off from work should NOT be spent at the Kia Service area.

Reliability could get 6 stars

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima EX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)

I've had this car, as second owner, for three years. It has never been a problem. All I've done is replace the brakes and tires. It's still got less than 35K miles, but so far this is the best around-the-town car I've ever had. It is surprisingly fun to drive, handles great. Downsides: I don't get the mileage I thought it would get - seems like I fill up a little too often. At about 30, I can feel the gear shift. There is absolutely no style to this car - it is super generic. These things don't detract from how good the Optima is.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

Stay away from kia

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima EX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)

1 BAD EXPERIENCE , I will never buy another , motor locked up with only 46,688 miles , they piece together another new engine because kia was to cheap to send a complete motor it runs for 10,00 miles and the oil light starts coming on at ideal. I ended up letting the dealer buy the car back and bought a Toyota camry, almost forgot car was out of service for 47 days the first time and the next time well its been 3 weeks today and its still not fixed 1/11/12 VERY BAD EXPERIENCE

One thing after another

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)

iv had my car for just over a year, i bought it off my dad and he got it new in 08! in the last year i have had nothing but problems with it, first it was struts and sway bar links and bushings, then wheel bearing, and now the newest thing is my headlights like to burn out, replaced the passenger one 4 times now, at $25 a bulb for h11b its getting expensive, had it to the dealership and they want me to spend a bunch of $ to replace the headlamp assembly! iv been reading up on this and it seems it was a real issue in some of the older optimas, 02 especially! oh yeah, when i had it in there to look at headlight they told me the shift module had to be replaced, at $700 i passed, NOT IMPRESSED!!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

A fair car for the

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima EX 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 5A)

We've had our car for 3 1/2 years now, For the last few months our car has really bad road noise like a wheel bearing is going out or somethings wrong with the new tires we just put on the car. tom. we're going to get it checked out a kia dealership maybe they can fix it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Awesome optima lx

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Optima LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)

I've had my '08 Kia Optima LX for nearly 3 years, I bought it new when gas went to $4/gal back in '08. I got rid of my Hemi Ram and bought the Kia thinking I'd keep it for a little while and trade up later. It now has 107,000 miles on it and has proven itself an EXTREMELY reliable little car. I've done nothing to it except change the oil and filter religiously every 5k miles, had one brake job done at 75k miles, replaced the battery at about 60k miles, put on a set of new tires at 72k miles (I put on Kumho KH16's since that's what it came with), and flush/fill the radiator every 45k miles. I did almost all the maintenance myself. IT'S THE MOST RELIABLE CAR I'VE EVER OWNED and I love it!

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Gas Mileage


  • 21
  • cty
  • 31
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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