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2016 Kia Optima: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

When Kia unveiled the radically redesigned Optima in 2011, the public and press went wild. Given the car's success, it should come as no surprise that the all-new 2016 Kia Optima is more an evolution of that design rather than a complete remake. We think that's a good thing, because with so many midsize sedans looking like clones of one another, the Optima remains a dynamic, head-turning sedan. The new Optima's silhouette is still easily recognizable, but the shape is a bit more refined, highlighted by a wider tiger-nose grille and elongated headlamps. The wheelbase and track have been extended, pushing the wheels farther toward the corners to give the Optima a more aggressive look.

Inside, the Optima delights with its modern styling, improved interior room and impressive list of standard and available features. Small changes, such as the available 10-way power passenger seat, make a big difference, as do luxury options, including the massive panoramic glass sunroof, heated rear seats and the 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Three new gasoline engines give the Optima more powertrain choices than most competitors, although there is still no all-wheel-drive (AWD) or manual-transmission option.

What's New for 2016?

The 2016 Optima receives a makeover this year, offering more room, more power, a quieter cabin and more standard features. A new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is offered, attached to an equally new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Optima Hybrid will return later in the year as a 2017 model.

What We Like

Standout styling; good safety scores; impressive standard and optional equipment list; choice of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines; good fuel economy; great warranty

What We Don't

Limited rear-seat headroom; handling not as precise as in a Mazda6 or Ford Fusion; no AWD option; advanced collision-avoidance technology only offered on most expensive trims

How Much?

$22,840-$37,500

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Optima offers a choice of three gasoline-powered engines. Standard on the LX and EX trims is a 2.4-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder good for 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is also standard. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

New this year is an available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine offered only on the LX trim. This engine produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 1.6T earns an impressive 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy.

Finally, there is the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine available only on the top-level SX and SXL trims. This engine produces a healthy 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates for the 2.0T are a respectable 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Kia Optima is offered in five trims and three engine choices: LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX and SXL.

The Optima LX ($22,840) brings a 2.4-liter engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, power mirrors with integrated turn signals, air conditioning, cruise control, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with a 5-in LCD rear backup display, satellite radio, an iPod/USB port, Bluetooth, a tilt-telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, a manual 6-way driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and Audi drive select adjustable steering settings.

The Optima LX 1.6T ($24,840) adds the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels with a unique light-gray finish, power-folding heated outside mirrors, acoustic front-door glass, auto up/down power front windows and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, plus push-button starting with a smart key and smart trunk.

The Optima EX ($25,840) retains the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic but adds to the 1.6T's features, including the addition of 17-in alloy wheels, LED taillights, dual projection headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, two rapid-charge USB ports, wood-trim interior accents, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, a 12-way power driver's seat with 4-way power lumbar support and 2-position memory for the driver's seat and mirrors.

The Optima SX ($30,640) adds the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, an upgraded steering and suspension setup, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, 18-in alloy wheels, chrome dual exhaust tips, red brake calipers, sport front and rear bumpers, HID Dynamic Bending headlights, a rear spoiler, a 4.3-in LCD display panel, UVO eServices infortainment with a voice-activated navigation radio and 8-in monitor, satin chrome interior accents, metal pedals and rear-door sunshades.

The Optima SXL ($36,740) adds additional chrome trim, auto high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio, an electronic parking brake, Nappa leather seating, a 10-way power passenger seat with 2-way power lumbar support, ventilated front seats, heated rear-seat cushions, rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and the Surround View monitor.

Optima options are separated into packages by trim.

The LX Convenience package adds power-folding heated side mirrors, rear park assist, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic detection, plus a 12-way power driver's seat with 2-position memory.

The LX 1.6T Technology package adds navigation with UVO, dual-zone automatic climate control, two fast-charging USB ports, rear park assist, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic detection, a rear-seat 12-volt outlet and LED rear combination lamps.

The EX Premium package includes a panoramic sunroof, navigation, ventilated front seats, a 10-way power passenger seat and LED interior lighting. The EX Premium Audio package adds the Harman Kardon audio system, heated rear-seat cushions and rear-door sunshades.

The SX Technology package adds the panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon audio, high-beam assist, rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and ventilated front seats.

Safety

Every 2016 Kia Optima comes standard with a full complement of airbags, including front-seat side, full-length side-curtain and driver's-knee airbags. Electronic traction and stability control are standard, as is Kia's Vehicle Stability Management system, hill-start assist and a tire-pressure monitor.

The Optima earned five out of five stars in every test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2016 Optima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all crash tests, including a Superior rating in crash detection and mitigation (when equipped with optional crash-avoidance equipment).

Behind the Wheel

We only had the opportunity to drive a model equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine at the launch event in Aspen, Colorado. Despite the thin air, the 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that the Optima packed under the hood delivered spirited performance, with a manageable, predictable level of turbo lag. Still, we found the performance to be every bit as satisfying as the Optima's best V6 rivals, and its fuel economy was more than acceptable. 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.

On the road, our Optima was exceptionally quiet, though the ride was somewhat firm. If you're looking for comfort over performance, the smaller wheel/tire packages and more compliant suspension settings of the LX and EX trims might make a better choice. We found the Optima's new seats to be a big step up from the previous generation, with better support and -- finally -- 10-way adjustable settings for the passenger.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Honda Accord -- The Accord offers the option of a V6 engine and slightly higher resale value, but it's not as sporty or luxurious as the Optima. However, you can get advanced collision-avoidance systems on all Accord trims.

2016 Toyota Camry -- The Camry is the sales champ in this segment, offering excellent reliability and resale figures. However, the Optima offers more luxury features, more engine choices and a better warranty.

2016 Subaru Legacy -- The Legacy isn't as powerful or fun to drive as the Optima, but its standard AWD makes it superior in winter driving, and even the affordable Premium trim can be equipped with collision-avoidance technology.

Used BMW 5 Series -- A 2012-2015 BMW 5 Series will offer more power and exceptional ride and handling abilities, although earlier models lack some newer safety features.

Autotrader's Advice

Surprisingly, we think the base LX offers everything you need in a family sedan. The value prospect for more-upscale buyers is probably an EX with the Premium package, but if you want features such as adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, you'll have to spring for the more expensive SX or SXL.

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2016 Kia Optima: New Car Review - Autotrader