Kia Optima Tuning

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The Kia Optima is a mid-sized sedan that has evolved over the years to meet changing consumer demands and technological advancements.

The Optima is recognized for its blend of style, comfort, and affordability, making it a popular choice among consumers seeking a well-rounded and value-driven option in the mid-sized sedan segment.

With multiple generations and a range of engine choices, the Optima has endeared itself to drivers seeking a well-rounded and reasonably priced vehicle that offers comfort, style, and practicality.

We see people often wasting money on their Optima doing the wrong mods and then having to start over. When you get so much for your money to start with, it makes sense to get the best base to work on, so choose your model carefully. The turbo engines are a positive dream as project cars.

Follow our advice to avoid making the common mistakes we frequently see. The Kia Optima are great bases for a tuning project and with the ultimate modified upgrades like ECU maps, turbo upgrades and camshafts you will certainly increase your driving enjoyment.

Kia Optima Model History

The Kia Optima was first introduced in 2000 and has undergone several revisions and generational changes over the years. The Optima has seen four main generations, each with its own set of updates and improvements:

  1. First Generation (2000-2005): The original Optima was introduced in 2000 as a compact car. It underwent a facelift in 2003, receiving updated styling and minor enhancements.
  2. Second Generation (2006-2010): The Optima grew in size for its second generation, moving into the mid-sized sedan category. This generation featured a more modern design and improved interior quality.
  3. Third Generation (2011-2015): The Optima underwent a significant redesign for its third generation, adopting a more dynamic and sleek exterior styling. This generation also introduced various advanced features and technology upgrades.
  4. Fourth Generation (2016-2020): The fourth-generation Optima continued the trend of modern design and incorporated further technology advancements, including infotainment systems and driver-assistance features.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are high on most peoples lists for the Optima.

We found that most Optima factory suspension setups need tweaking, a few degrees of toe (set some toe out to improve cornering or use toe in for better stability) and you only need around 0.9 to 1.5 degrees, and a bit of negative camber will dramatically improve your cornering and handling.

Drop the car optimally somewhere in the region of 27mm - 40 mm. and fit performance stiffer dampers, bigger drops will need other modifications in most instances.

Fitting better brake discs and better performance pads should make for greatly improved braking.

Please note that motorsport pads can grind and will need to be hot before they bit.

In every day driving the brakes are only used rarely, therefore will not be effective so choose brake pads which work well in daily use.

Don't just look at the peak power figures, you need to see the whole torque curve when determining if a mod is right for you Optima.

Keep it looking standard and remove the badges to make an awesome sleeper!

Smaller engines do not provide much of a return in terms of power so start with a bigger engine. Engine swaps are a good option if you have a small engine size.

Tuning modifications.

These are the performance mods are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to go before you get going.

Engine Choices

Let's look at the engine options.

Throughout its various generations, the Kia Optima has been offered with a range of engines to cater to different preferences and performance needs. Engine options have included a mix of gasoline and hybrid powertrains:

  • Gasoline Engines: The Optima has been available with a variety of four-cylinder gasoline engines, including naturally aspirated and turbocharged options. These engines aim to balance power and fuel efficiency, providing a responsive driving experience.
  • Hybrid Powertrains: Kia introduced hybrid variants of the Optima to cater to eco-conscious drivers seeking better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. These hybrids combined gasoline engines with electric motors for improved fuel economy.

First generation

  • 2.4 L Sirius II I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.5 L Delta V6 (gasoline)
  • 2.7 L Delta V6 (gasoline)


  • 2.0L Theta 143hp I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.4L Theta 138-162hp I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.4L Theta II 175hp I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.7L Delta V6 170hp (gasoline) (2005–2006)
  • 2.7L Mu V6 185-194hp (gasoline) (2007–2010)
  • 2.0L CRDI VGT 140hp I4 (diesel)


  • 2.0 L Nu MPI I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.0 L Theta II MPI I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.0 L Theta II GDI turbo I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.4 L Theta II MPI I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.4 L Theta II GDI I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.0 L Nu LPI I4 (LPG)
  • 2.0 L Theta II LPI I4 (LPG)
  • 1.7 L U II CRDi TD I4 (diesel)


  • 1.6L Gamma II T-GDI I4 (turbo gasoline)
  • 2.0L Nu GDI HEV I4 (hybrid gasoline)
  • 2.0L Nu MPI I4 (gasoline)
  • 2.0L Theta II T-GDI I4 (turbo gasoline)
  • 2.4L Theta II GDI I4 (gasoline)
  • 1.6L U II CRDi I4 (diesel)
  • 1.7L U II CRDi I4 (diesel)


Getting the correct grade of motorsport upgrade kits for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 (competition) mods just won't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Engine Tuning/Remapping: Engine tuning and remapping involve recalibrating the vehicle's Engine Control Unit (ECU) to optimize fuel delivery, ignition timing, and other parameters. This can result in increased horsepower, torque, and improved throttle response. Aftermarket tuners or professional tuning shops can adjust the ECU settings to suit performance goals.

    Aftermarket ECUs and Piggyback ECUs: Upgrading to aftermarket ECUs or using piggyback ECUs can provide greater control over engine parameters, allowing for more precise tuning adjustments. These solutions are popular among enthusiasts seeking maximum performance gains.

  2. Fast Road Cams: This is doubtful to offer much of a gain on modern Kias equipped with variable valve timing, so it generally applies to the early engines, or people wanting to create a track oriented car. Upgrading to fast road cams can significantly improve engine airflow and power delivery. Properly selected and installed cams can enhance mid-range and top-end power, but installation should be performed by experienced professionals.
  3. Intake and Exhaust Upgrades: While intake and exhaust modifications may not always provide substantial power gains on their own, they can complement other upgrades by improving airflow.

    A less restrictive intake and exhaust system can help the engine breathe better and contribute to overall performance improvements. Turbo engines seem to spool up better and the improved sound is a big draw to many for intake mods.

  4. Upgrades to Turbochargers and Superchargers: Forced induction upgrades, such as larger turbochargers or superchargers, offer significant power gains by increasing air supply to the engine. These upgrades require careful tuning and supporting modifications but can result in substantial performance enhancements.
  5. Head Work and Porting: Porting and flowing the cylinder head involve reshaping and optimizing the intake and exhaust ports to improve airflow. This reduces restrictions and turbulence, allowing the engine to breathe more efficiently and potentially leading to power gains.
  6. Forced Induction and Nitrous Oxide: For enthusiasts seeking extreme performance gains, forced induction systems (such as turbochargers or superchargers) and nitrous oxide kits can provide substantial power increases on naturally aspirated engines. These modifications require careful planning, tuning, and engine reinforcement to handle the added stress.

Typical stage 1 mods often include:
Alloy wheels, Suspension upgrade (drop 27mm - 40 mm.), Sports exhaust, Lighter flywheel, Panel air filter, Remap.

Typical stage 2 mods often include:
fuel pump upgrades, Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch, high flow fuel injector, Fast road cam.

Typical stage 3 mods often include:
Engine balancing, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Sports gearbox, Competition cam.

Peak power is all well and good but for a daily driven car you need a wide torque band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give your a good starting base to the best performance parts for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance upgrade.Fast road cams offer one of the biggest power gains for your money as far as a solitary tuning parts goes on a NA (naturally aspirated) engine.

The intake & exhaust flow play a large part in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car challenging to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a camshaft upgrade with other mods and finish with a performance chip to fully realise your gains.

When pushing up the power you will need to ramp up to the fuelling. More power needs more fuel.

Most power losses, flat spots and erratic idling after uprated mods are done can usually be traced to fuel delivery or timing issues. Upgraded injectors will enable you to supply sufficient fuel to the engine.

A fuel pump will only deliver a finite amount of fuel, so you may need to uprate this if your injectors are demanding more fuel.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Now we move on to the intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. Please note that WE DO NOT FIND IMPROVEMENTS WITH INDUCTION KITS, unless you have tuned your car with over 30 percent more power and are finding that the standard air intake has become limited.

Maximum power gains come from a full induction kit with a cold air feed on heavily tuned engines, this can be sited within an air box but a panel filter should suffice for most applications. TorqueCars suggest you use a panel air filter as these are easy to clean and maintain and generally perform better than paper ones.

Sports exhausts can usually air flow from the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

Airflow through the head can be dramatically increased with some professional gas flowing. These should match and be setup to take into account any other engine mods. A good heavy duty fast road uprated clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never cut corners or think that your standard clutch to cope. The best mods we recommend for your Optima are Remapping or piggy back ecu, fast road cam and air intake and exhaust.

NA (naturally aspirated) engines do not achieve big power gains if you tune/remap them, unless you have done extensive modifications. With turbocharged engines this is another story. A tuned/remapped turbo will give phenomenal power gains and take full advantage of the strength of the block.

We've also come across some owners playing with twin charging conversions and making some seriously high power hikes.

The most significant power gains for NA (naturally aspirated) engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Turbos are often harder to add than a supercharger. Turbos increase power in increasing proportion to rising engine speed and this can make mapping difficult.

The nice steady boost and rpm characteristics of the supercharger make them simpler to map. Decreasing the engines compression ratio will allow you to add forced induction, water injection may also help prevent detonation.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling. If you are serious about performance then you will need to carefully choose your tires - ideally with a directional tread pattern tire. Please note although they can look cool on the Optima large alloy wheels will actually decrease your performance. The larger you go the lower your acceleration will be - this to the change in your effective final drive ratio.

Although some people have gone larger than this we would restrict ourselves to a 18 inch rim size as the maximum.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss Optima options in more detail with our Optima owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Kia tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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