New Car Review

2016 Kia Optima: First Drive Review

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,991
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima EX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$14,450
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,950
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,998
RELATED READING
See all Kia Optima articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Jason Fogelson October 2015

Kia has made enormous strides over the past decade -- from cheap import to genuine competitor in the United States. Those strides have been achieved with vastly improved quality and design, led in particular by its midsize sedan, the Optima. The 2016 Kia Optima continues the trend, with further powertrain development, an improved interior and a refined exterior design.

Think Globally, Build Locally

The Optima is assembled in West Point, Georgia, and designed in California. For 2016, Kia has further evolved the Optima's elegant exterior. The signature tiger-nose grille has been enlarged and accentuated, and the wheelbase and track have been extended by inches in each direction, pushing the Optima's wheels toward the corners. The sleek profile retains a simple muscularity, with strong shoulder lines and a sweeping cabin. A chrome line defines the top of the greenhouse, giving the Optima an easily identifiable look. In an age when the line between coupe and sedan has been blurred by marketing folk, this 4-door sedan shows off aerodynamic lines from front to rear. The Optima's already-successful exterior has been improved without losing what made it so good in the first place.

Technology Finds a Home

Inside the Optima, the small exterior tweaks increased the available space for passengers, resulting in the biggest interior volume in the class. The feeling of space is enhanced by the available panoramic sunroof (optional on EX and SX; standard on SXL). Front legroom for both the driver and passenger is exceptional, and a reasonable compromise can be made between front and rear occupants to allow for comfortable seating for five adults. Kia touted new seats for the Optima and added an optional 10-way power seat for the front passenger. Heated and ventilated front seats are available (standard on SXL), and heated seat cushions are even available for outboard rear seats (standard on SXL). Rear seats fold 60/40 to expand trunk capacity beyond the already roomy 15.9 cu ft.

The Optima's redesigned dashboard does a good job of emphasizing the horizontal, making the cabin feel even wider. Most of the buttons and switches reside below a horizontal trim line, with the instrument panel and touchscreen display (5-inch or optional 8-in) living above the line. The effect is to reduce visual distraction for the driver while keeping key information within the line of sight. An electric parking brake frees up center-console space, and paddle shifters behind the wheel give direct access to the transmission.

Kia's telematics and infotainment system continues to evolve. A new version of UVO is included with the Optima, giving tech-savvy owners another tool to communicate with their vehicles. Kia has partnered with Harman Kardon for a high-end audio system (available on EX and SX; standard on SXL), while the standard audio system is a pretty good Infinity unit. Connectivity is great, with two USB outlets and Bluetooth streaming capability. Push-button starting with a proximity key is standard on all but the base model. The level of equipment that's available on the Optima is impressive, easily matching the best in class.

On the Go

Three new 4-cylinder gasoline direct-injection powertrains get matched with the Optima, each one set up for front-wheel-drive operation. The base LX 2.4 and midrange EX 2.4 come with a naturally aspirated nonturbo 2.4-liter unit hooked up to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The LX 1.6 gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, and the SX and SXL get turbocharged 2.0-liter engines with the 6-speed auto.

We only had the opportunity to drive the 2.0-liter-engine-equipped model at the launch event in Aspen, Colorado. Despite the thin air, the 245 horsepower/260 lb-ft of torque that the Optima packed under the hood delivered spirited performance, with a manageable, predictable level of turbo lag. Fuel economy estimates for the 1.6-liter engine are 28 miles per gallon in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined. For the 2.4-liter engine, the estimates are 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. For the 2.0-liter turbo, estimates are 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

Three drive modes are selectable via a center-console switch (Normal, Eco and Sport), affecting the electric power steering, throttle response and transmission shift points. Steering was noticeably better in Sport mode, killing some of the numbness that cropped up on center in the other modes. Handling on the whole is better than before, regardless of mode.

The Optima's available suite of active and passive safety features includes radar cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning, a surround-view camera and other sophisticated systems.

Is the Optima Optimal?

The midsize sedan is the heart of nearly every popular brand's lineup, and no manufacturer ceded the battle. Honda's new Accord and Toyota's Camry continue to lead. The new Chevrolet Malibu has its fans, as do the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. Drivers often cite the Mazda6 as the fun-to-drive choice, and the Subaru Legacy quietly accumulates fans, as well. Smart buyers also cross-shop the Hyundai Sonata before making a selection from this crowded field.

Kia's ever-improving quality and excellent powertrain warranty (10 years/100,000 miles) may help tip the scales for some buyers, while others will be seduced by the Optima's elegant design and abundant available features. Base prices for the 2016 Kia Optima start at $21,840 for the LX 2.4 and rise to $35,790 for the high-end SXL 2.0T. A hybrid version should follow in early 2016. Expect to see a lot more of the Kia Optima on the road this year.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,991
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima EX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$14,450
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,950
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Used 2015 Kia Optima
$13,998
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Kia Optima: First Drive Review - Autotrader