2009 Kia Optima Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Excellent crash scores, plenty of standard features at a low price, spacious backseat, generous warranty, surprisingly involving to drive around town.
  • V6 offers little advantage over the more efficient inline-4, automatic sometimes slow to downshift.

Once a forgettable entry in the family sedan segment, the updated-for-2009 Kia Optima stands as a recommended choice, thanks to its respectable driving dynamics, value-packed features list and welcoming interior.

Vehicle overview

Like Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, the 2009 Kia Optima is an out-of-the-spotlight player that's fully capable of delivering the goods when need be. Rather than dazzle those in the stands with either a deep-center homer or a struck-out-swinging-for-the-fences at bat, Lowell is more apt to hit a single or double and get a few runners across the plate. And though the Optima isn't capable of making a great catch and starting a double play like Mr. Lowell, it likewise boasts a subtle, well-rounded character that's easy to like -- for those willing to take notice.

Previously, we described the Optima as being "styled by the witness protection program." Kia actually listened to our criticism, and some visual tweaks have been made to the 2009 Optima to make it look, well, less inconspicuous. But under the generic yet attractive enough styling is an admirable car that offers a lot to the midsize-family-sedan shopper, such as strong crash test scores, a lengthy features list and a well-crafted interior.

Following the Kia philosophy of offering maximum value, the Optima comes well-equipped for such a low price. In fact, a fully loaded EX V6 with leather, heated seats, premium audio and sunroof doesn't crack $24,000, which is about five grand less than similarly equipped rivals such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. Of course, those competitors, as well as every other car in this segment, offer a more powerful V6 engine than the Optima. Although the Optima's V6 has been upgraded to 194 hp for 2009, it's still down by as much as 76 horses compared to the strongest entries. On the upside, the standard four-cylinder has also been improved and boasts class-competitive power and fuel economy.

Overall, we think pretty highly of the 2009 Kia Optima. Though lacking the higher levels of refinement and performance found in the Accord, Altima and Hyundai Sonata, the Kia shines as a well-made, well-rounded choice at a low price, especially when compared to four-cylinder models like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and gradually slipping Toyota Camry. As with the Red Sox third baseman, the Optima may not be the most ballyhooed player in the game, but considering how competent this Kia is, it certainly belongs on your scouting list of top prospects.

2009 Kia Optima models

The 2009 Kia Optima is a midsize sedan offered in LX, EX and SX trim levels.

Standard equipment on the LX includes 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering column, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary and USB audio jacks. LX models with the optional automatic transmission gain keyless entry, cruise control and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls.

The Optima EX adds (to the LX) 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, chrome door handles, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and further upgraded interior trim. The SX adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a blacked-out grille and headlight trim leather and cloth seating, aluminum cabin accents, and sport pedals.

A handful of optional, trim-level-specific packages can add equipment. Those for the EX and SX trims offer luxuries such as a power sunroof, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, a manual rear-window sunshade, power adjustable pedals and an upgraded audio system with a subwoofer and a six-CD/MP3 changer. A navigation system is a stand-alone option on the EX and SX trims.

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2009 Highlights

A face-lift for 2009 makes the Kia Optima slightly longer and more aggressive, while a new SX trim level lends a sporty flair with blackout accents and 17-inch alloy wheels. In addition to the visual tweaks, the Optima gains some muscle: the 2.4-liter inline-4 now makes 175 horsepower while the V6 puts out 194 ponies. Inside, the Optima has a new base audio system with satellite radio and a newly available navigation system. Last, standard safety equipment grows as antilock brakes and stability control become standard across the board.

Performance & mpg

The base engine on all 2009 Kia Optimas is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes a competitive 175 hp and 169 pound-feet of torque. Available on the EX and SX trim levels is a small-for-the-segment 2.7-liter V6 that produces 194 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the LX. Optional on the LX and standard on the EX and SX is a five-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel mileage estimates are 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for the four-cylinder (both manual and automatic) and 20/28/23 for the V6.


Standard safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control.

Crash test scores for the Optima are top notch. 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. The IIHS side impact test resulted in a second-best "Acceptable" rating.


Between stoplights the 2009 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 boost in power it received this year, we'd therefore recommend the base four-cylinder engine for most buyers, as it provides fully adequate performance while keeping the price and fuel consumption low.

Thanks to its tightly tuned suspension and relatively communicative steering, the Kia Optima has a somewhat sporty feel around town, especially the new SX model. The trade-off is that this Kia ultimately doesn't feel as luxurious as more plush-riding midsize sedans. In addition, if you start pushing it harder in the corners, that sportiness goes away quickly, something that might be cured with a set of performance tires. However, most folks won't be looking for all-out sport sedan athletics in this segment. Used as a daily commuter and family car, the Optima provides more entertainment behind the wheel than one would rightly expect.


Like the exterior, the 2009 Optima's cabin isn't a standout in terms of visual presentation. However, it counters any lack of character with simple control layouts and good interior materials. On both counts, it outdoes better-known competitors like the Toyota Camry, but not the Accord and Sonata.

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 those seat bottoms are a little short, offering less support for long-limbed occupants than many rivals' accommodations. Trunk capacity is 15 cubic feet, and all Optimas have a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2009 Kia Optima.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
KIA needs to make a better transmission. This is the second Kia Optima I have owned and the transmission always seems to go out. The service department will always say you need a transmission flush, but then after the warranty runs out the transmission will quit working and I have to pay for the transmission to be replaced. When I apply my brakes the transmission will down shift hard.
5 out of 5 stars
4th kia
LONG TIME KIA FAN!,08/24/2009
LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
Had for 6 months and have put 4,000 miles on it. Had a 2006 sportage and saw the optima and had to have it. I am blown away at the attention it gets. People are always telling me they love its looks and the red color is sharp. I just smile when I pull up beside a accord or Camry and think to myself I saved thousands and have an equal car. The optima feels smooth and plenty of power from the I-4 it only has a few less horse power than the v-6, save a few bucks and buy the I-4. The trunk really holds a lot and the car is comfortable on long trips. The gas mileage is as advertised which many cars do not match up. So we are very pleased. We do recommend kia to everyone we know.
5 out of 5 stars
Good Choice
1st Time Kia Owner,07/27/2010
LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
Traded in a gas hogging Ford Windstar. It served us well for 8 yrs. but it started to have electrical problems at 90K miles. I told the wife that I was going to buy her an import this time because everybody knows they are more reliable, last longer, and you generally get a fair trade in value. I took a long time shopping on the internet and this Kia Optima was by far the best value for the money. As others have stated the standard equip. is very generous. But that was not the main reason I purchased this vehicle. It was safety. Here's a quote from the carconnection.com: " When it comes to crash-test ratings, you won't find many better than that of the Kia Optima's. 10/10 crash test."
5 out of 5 stars
kia optima
LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5M)
I never thought I would buy a kia product but I am glad I did. I hit a home run, when I purchased my Kia Optima. This vehicle is much better than the Accord or Camery. I have owned both other vehicles and there is no comparison. The warranty and safety is 3 times better. I only paid $13,9000 (new) and I jump on the deal. This has got to be the best deal I have ever made on a vehicle. Last I would say this vehicle is so under-rated.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
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
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2009 Kia Optima

Used 2009 Kia Optima Overview

The Used 2009 Kia Optima is offered in the following submodels: Optima Sedan. Available styles include LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A), EX 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 5A), SX 4dr Sedan (2.7L 6cyl 5A), EX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A), LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5M), and SX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A). 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 194 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2009 Kia Optima comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2009 Kia Optima comes with a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 10 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2009 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 2009 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) 2009 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 2009 Kia Optima.

Can't find a used 2009 Kia Optimas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Kia Optima for sale - 1 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $14,608.

Find a used Kia for sale - 5 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $8,423.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia Optima for sale - 10 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $18,070.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia for sale - 2 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $15,683.

Should I lease or buy a 2009 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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