2002 Kia Optima Review

Used Optima for sale
List Price Estimate:$826 - $2,063
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Competitive price, solid build quality, loaded with standard features, pleasant highway ride, super warranty.
  • Unproven newcomer in a cutthroat market, some low-grade interior materials, ABS isn't available for four-cylinder models.

The Optima may trail its Japanese competitors when it comes to overall polish, but those seeking a well-equipped "out-of-the-box" sedan will find this Kia appealing.

Vehicle overview

Kia has the bottom of the car market cornered -- its Rio sedan is the nation's cheapest car, and its competitively priced Spectra offers a fresh-smelling alternative to those who might otherwise settle for a used Japanese compact. But with the introduction of the midsize Optima in late 2000, it was clear that the Korean automaker desired a place at the ever-lucrative family sedan table. Unfortunately, the VIPs in this class -- Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford and Chrysler -- had already taken the best seats. And what's this? Nissan's Altima and Toyota's Camry are riding high on wildly successful 2002 redesigns. So how can an underdog like the Optima stick around until dessert is served? By finding buyers who would rather drive a generously equipped Kia than a stripped-down Toyota.

The base four-cylinder Optima LX starts at just over $15,000 (with destination charge) and includes front and side airbags; air conditioning; power windows, door locks and mirrors; a first aid kit; variable intermittent wipers; a cassette player and 15-inch wheels -- an impressive array of features in this price range. The SE trim adds alloy wheels, heated exterior mirrors, a power antenna, auto-on/off headlights, foglamps, moonroof, remote keyless entry and alarm, cruise control, a 120-watt audio system with CD (optional for the LX), wood trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an eight-way power driver seat. Should you opt for the LX V6, Kia will throw in the alloy wheels and cruise control; the latter is available as an option for base LX models. Additionally, SE models are eligible for the optional Leather Package, which includes leather seating surfaces and a four-way power passenger seat.

One possible annoyance for buyers is the limited availability of ABS -- if you want it, you have to get one of the V6 models and buy it as an option. Four-wheel disc brakes are also exclusive to the six-cylinders, but at least you don't have to pay extra for them.

The Optima's standard 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission pumps out a credible 149 horsepower and boasts fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 28 highway (20/27 with the four-speed automatic). The upgraded 2.7-liter DOHC V6 engine now delivers 178 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque; this still isn't best in class but should be fully adequate for most buyers. The V6 model is offered only with an automatic transmission, but it does come with a Porsche-designed Tiptronic automanual shifter to allow up- and downshifts without a clutch. Its fuel economy is 19 mpg city and 25 highway.

All Optimas are fitted with four-wheel independent suspension, front and rear anti-roll bars, and rack-and-pinion steering with power assist, which combine to provide a responsive, supple and comfortable ride, especially on the highway. We could do without some of the Optima's body roll during cornering, but this behavior is to be expected from a non-sporting sedan with a softly tuned suspension.

Company officials readily admit that the Optima isn't going to steal any sales records from the leaders in this class, but the Kia's solid build quality, exceptional fit-and-finish, excellent standard suspension system, jackpot of features and low price could make it a welcome addition to families on a budget. Got an open mind? Want to drive something a little different? Go test-drive an Optima.

2002 Highlights

Now in its second year, Kia's midsize sedan gets an upgraded V6 engine. Four-cylinder LX models trade their 14-inch wheels for standard 15s, while SE models get auto on/off headlights and two keyless remotes. The optional Leather Package for the SE now includes a four-way power passenger seat.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2002 Kia Optima.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.38 out of 5 stars
The Car that will surprise you
LX V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
Just a note to those thinking of buying this car. I owned my KIA Optima for 4 years. I recently was rear ended by a full size truck traveling 40+ miles per hour, totaling my KIA. I was amazed at how it reacted. The rear completely crumpled leaving the passenger compartment intact. Even the police officer was shocked at how well it handled and that I was able to walk away. This car has been the safest, lowest cost of ownership, and most fun sedan I have owned. I never had any problems with my car, I put on 96,000 miles on it, and tearfully will have to say goodbye to it. I recommend this car to anyone looking. I am going to purchase the new KIA Optima this week. Enjoy!
2.13 out of 5 stars
Dangerous car
LX V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
As soon as I bought this car I started having electrical problems with the car. I would lose all lights, steering, brakes, and air bags for the vehicle. Kia was no help in finding the problem with my vehicle and I totaled the car in July 2005. The only good thing that saved my life was the seat belt installed in the car. There was a burning smell that came from the car and the dealership had a hard time duplicating the problem. They changed many items on my car but they were not sure they had fixed the problem and in some cases were scared to drive the vehicle themselves. Please report your car to the NHTSA if you have this problem so it can be fixed
4.63 out of 5 stars
NO regrets
SE V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
I bought this car used in '03. It had 27,000 miles on it and was a rental. Before the Kia I had a Mitsubishi Galant. I traded in @ 120,000 miles and 2 transmissions. The KIA is a very well made car, seats are very comfortable, very solid feeling for a mid-size and economical car. Have had no major issues and have 143,000 miles on it now. Even though I did not get the 100,000 mi warranty because I bought it used, no regrets. Would buy another. Think they are well made and a great value. Wish it had a sunroof though!
5 out of 5 stars
SE V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
My aunt purchased this car new, and i have always wanted it. I got it and love it. My car has 154,000 miles on it with many more to come. NEVER has left me stranded, the only thing ever replaced is 02 Sensor which is normal to go out after 100,000 on any make or model car.


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2002 Kia Optima

Used 2002 Kia Optima Overview

The Used 2002 Kia Optima is offered in the following submodels: Optima Sedan. Available styles include LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 4A), SE V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A), LX V6 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 4A), LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5M), SE 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 4A), and SE 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Kia Optima models are available with a 2.4 L-liter gas engine or a 2.7 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 178 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2002 Kia Optima comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic, 4-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2002 Kia Optima comes with a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 10 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Kia Optima?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2002 Kia Optimas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2002 Kia Optima for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2002 Kia Optima.

Can't find a used 2002 Kia Optimas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Kia Optima for sale - 11 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $22,576.

Find a used Kia for sale - 10 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $18,026.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia Optima for sale - 3 great deals out of 8 listings starting at $7,746.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia for sale - 6 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $9,568.

Should I lease or buy a 2002 Kia Optima?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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