2019 Kia Optima Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical, structure and engine issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

This article was written by Brian Jones, ASE Certified Master Tech and Lemberg Law Automotive Contributor

When looking for a low-cost vehicle that provides reliability, a lot of drivers turn to the 2019 Kia Optima. However, the automaker claims that “this one’s just right,” when discussing the newer model. Does that imply that previous versions have faults? Our research shows this to be the case, especially when dealing with the poor electrical system, defective engine, malfunctioning air bags and shoddy structure. Consumers hoping to find a quality mid-size car are often drawn to the style of the 2018 Kia Optima. It has a sleek design and is hailed as a reliable option. Even the automaker claims that the new models are “driven to stand out.” Research shows that this model does stand out, but not for the reasons most expect. Instead, it is riddled with engine troubles, powertrain malfunctions and the possibility of an accident.

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Problems with the Electrical System

Since the electrical system is responsible for running so much, it has to work correctly. Otherwise, owners find themselves dealing with lots of glitches. That’s precisely what is seen with the 2019 Kia Optima.

One NHTSA complaint states, “I bought my 2019 Optima brand new back in November. It is now June and I have had it back to the dealership 3 times for randomly not starting on me. I get the same answer every time. They don’t know what it is, nothing comes up on the computer when they plug it in. They say, ‘If it happens again, call us and we’ll take it in.’ Buying this car brand new and my payments being that of a Range Rover, I am extremely upset. To top it off, the back windshield is slipping down. I am over this car and I will never buy another Kia again. But, my fight is not over, sometime will have to be done. It also hesitates at times, feels as though it is struggling to go. Also two times while I was driving the car, the dash lit up with almost everything like, I was in a crash.”

It turns out that the electrical system issues become even more dangerous with the Optima. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V539000 states that there is a software error in the Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist system that can disengage the brake assist function, increasing the chance of a collision. What is the point of these sophisticated safety systems if they aren’t even going to work?

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Kia Optima Electrical Problems:

WHEN MY PHONE IS PLUGGED INTO THE CHARGER, MY SCREEN WILL GO BLACK ALL OF A SUDDEN, AND I HAVE TO TURN THE CAR OFF AND UNPLUG MY PHONE AND TURN THE CAR BACK ON FOR THE SCREEN TO COME BACK ON. ALSO, THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL OCCASIONS WHERE MY BRAKES LOCK UP ON ME, AND I ALMOST HIT THE PERSON IN FRONT OF ME. ESPECIALLY IN THE RAIN, AND I HAVE EVEN HAD TO SWERVE OFF THE ROAD TO AVOID A COLLISION. IT HAPPENS WHEN I AM IN MOTION DRIVING AND GO TO STOP. THE RADIO SCREEN THOUGH HAS TURNED OFF ON ME WHETHER I AM DRIVING OR IN PARK.

Problems with the Engine

The 2019 Kia Optima is considered a lower-budget vehicle, so no one expects that the engine will produce the same power as a supercar. However, owners do expect some level of reliability that they are not getting.

Just look at this NHTSA complaint. “The contact owns a 2019 Kia Optima. The contact stated that while driving 45 mph and merging onto the highway, the vehicle stalled without warning. The contact pumped the accelerator pedal several times and the vehicle responded. The vehicle was not taken to be diagnosed nor repaired. Neither the dealer nor the manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 74,800.”

When discussing the premature failure of the engine, it’s clear that the automaker is aware of problems. In fact, Service Bulletin #PI1805_TSB talks about the need to install a Knock Sensor Detection System to prevent excessive connecting rod bearing damage that could destroy the engine. Sadly, many owners found out about this when it was just too late.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Kia Optima Engine Problems:

2019 KIA OPTIMA, IN JULY OF 2019.1ST INSTANCE, 2/4/2020 (LATE AFTERNOON) I DROVE BACK FROM NEW ALBANY IN AND AS SOON AS I GOT OFF THE FREEWAY ON KEYSTONE, I TRIED TO TURN A CORNER AND THE CEL LIGHT CAME ON FLASHING AND THE CAR WOULD BARELY ACCELERATE (HEAVY HESITATION). THEY SAID DO NOT DRIVE, GET A TOW.I DID, THEY HOOKED IT UP. AN ERROR TO CONTACT KIA ENG. THEY INDICATED ITS 1 OF 2 THINGS, ROCK SENSOR HARNESS/ROCK SENSOR.

Problems with the Air Bags

When driving in any newer vehicle, occupants expect to be protected by the standard air bags. However, that’s not always a system one can count on with the Kia Optima.

Here’s yet another NHTSA complaint to read. “The contact’s husband owns a 2019 Kia Optima. While driving 50 mph, the vehicle crashed into a deer that jumped in the middle of the road. The air bags did not deploy. A police report was not filed. The driver sustained neck and back pain and his daughter, who was seated behind the driver’s seat, sustained neck pain. The contact mentioned that both occupants would be taken to the emergency room for their injuries. The vehicle was towed to the contact’s residence. The vehicle was not taken to a dealer or independent mechanic for diagnostic testing or repairs. The vehicle was currently waiting to be towed to a local body shop for repairs. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 3,168.”

Sadly, there aren’t any manufacturer communications related to the air bags at this time. It seems that the company doesn’t want to acknowledge that they can’t get the basic systems down. Since 1998, air bags have been standard in American cars, so this company has no excuse for the faulty system. They have had more than enough years to perfect the safety feature.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Kia Optima Air Bags Problems:

I WAS REAR ENDED ON THE FREEWAY. TRAFFIC CAME TO A COMPLETE STOP, BUT THE CAR BEHIND ME WAS GOING 40-50MPH AND DID NOT STOP IN TIME AND REAR ENDED ME AND PUSHED ME INTO THE VEHICLE IN FRONT OF ME. MY AIRBAGS DID NOT DEPLOY.

Problems with the Structure

The structure of a vehicle matters, during an accident and to reduce road noise. After all, no one wants to holler over road noise to talk to other occupants, but that’s what’s happening with the Optima.

Look at what this Edmunds review says. “Have brand new 2019 Kia Optima S. Road noise was really annoying. Dealer switched out Kumho 18″ tires for Hankook 18″ tires. NO DIFFERENCE. I then partially paid for a better tire (Continental LS). Road noise still can be heard. Something else wrong. I think the car has sport tuned suspension. Dealer says, no! Going to test another vehicle at a different dealer to compare noise. Be aware of this problem. Owned 2 Optima’s before and had no problems with road noise.”

Structure-related issues with the Optima go beyond road noise. In fact, Service Bulletin #VSC173_TSB states that some vehicles require a replacement for the front driver and passenger seatback frames. It turns out that the weld wasn’t performed correctly and it could detach. If this happens, occupants are in danger, plus could face an unusual amount of discomfort. With the air bags failing to deploy, seats falling apart, engines refusing to start and safety systems malfunctioning, is there any part of this car that works? It seems that the Optima isn’t even worth the small cost paid for it.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work aid your lemon at no cost to you. The law makes Kia pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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