If you’re looking for a competent new midsize sedan, you probably have the 2016 Kia Optima and the 2016 Toyota Camry on your shopping list. If you don’t, you should, as both the Camry and the Optima offer impressive engine choices, lots of standard and optional features, strong fuel economy and comfortable, roomy interiors. But which one is better? And which one should you get? In order to find out, we’ve created a close comparison of both models, but first let’s see what’s new with the Optima and the Camry for the 2016 model year.
2016 Kia Optima
The Optima is fully redesigned for 2016. In addition to a new interior and exterior design, the latest Optima offers several new features and a new Eco turbocharged powertrain for drivers who don’t want to upgrade to the pricy Optima Hybrid. See all 2016 Kia Optima models available near you
2016 Toyota Camry
After extensive changes last year, the Camry is largely unchanged for 2016. See all 2016 Toyota Camry models available near you
According to reliability ratings from industry experts at J.D. Power, the Camry offers better-than-average reliability. The Optima, meanwhile, earned a below-average reliability rating — though it’s worth noting that the below-average score applies to last year’s Optima. While mechanically similar, the 2016 Optima isn’t identical, so its score could still improve.
As for warranty coverage, the Optima beats out the Camry by a mile. While the Camry offers 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain protection, the Optima’s warranty includes 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and an amazing 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage.
The result: This category is a toss-up. While the Camry easily defeats the outgoing Optima in terms of reliability, we can’t yet be sure about the new model. And the Kia’s warranty is far better than the Toyota’s.
Both the Camry and the Optima offer several engine choices. Base-level Optima models use a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, which returns up to 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the base-level Camry offers a 178-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that touts 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy.
If you want to optimize your efficiency, you’ll want a hybrid version of either model. Although the 2016 Optima Hybrid isn’t out yet, it will be soon, and it should improve on last year’s fuel economy numbers of 36 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. The latest Camry Hybrid, meanwhile, boasts up to 43 mpg city/39 mpg hwy.
When it comes to fuel economy, the latest Optima also has another trick up its sleeve: a new fuel-efficient Eco model designed for shoppers who don’t want to pay the premium for an Optima Hybrid. The Eco uses a 178-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, and it touts up to 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy — better than any other gas-powered version of the Optima or the Camry.
So which one do you pick? For overall fuel economy, the Camry Hybrid is the top choice, but if you’re looking to save money at the pump and on the car itself, the Optima Eco provides a compelling alternative to an expensive hybrid.
Although the new Optima hasn’t yet been crash-tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the latest Camry earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. The outgoing Optima also earned a 5-star score that we suspect will carry over to the new model. It’s the same story in testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: The new Optima is not yet rated, but the Camry scored the firm’s highest possible designation of Top Safety Pick+.
As for safety, both cars come standard with everything you might expect, including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and a backup camera. Both models also offer virtually every modern safety gadget as optional equipment, including automatic forward-collision braking, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. The Optima also offers an available 360-degree parking camera, which gives it a slight edge over the Camry. Otherwise, these two models are virtually identical when it comes to safety.
Because they’re so new, both the 2016 Toyota Camry and the 2016 Kia Optima are among the most technologically advanced midsize sedans on the market. Both models offer an amazing array of modern features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, 10-speaker premium sound systems and the aforementioned excellent safety features.
With that said, both the Optima and the Camry offer a few advantages over one another. For example, only the Camry touts available wireless-device charging, while only the Optima offers a 360-degree parking camera; and only the Optima boasts an available panoramic sunroof, while only the Camry offers a hands-free trunk-opening system. If you want a specific feature, you’ll have to check the Optima and Camry options lists to make sure both models offer it. Otherwise, these two cars are roughly neck and neck at the top of the technology game.
When it comes to value, the Optima has an advantage over the Camry. One reason is the midsize Kia’s base price — $22,800 — which is considerably less than the Camry’s starting price of around $24,000 with shipping. That price difference continues through the trim levels, giving the Optima an advantage even when the two cars are fully equipped.
We also see the new Optima Eco as a value leader in the midsize-sedan segment. While it doesn’t quite offer hybrid fuel economy, it does come relatively close, boasting 32 mpg in combined driving to the Camry Hybrid’s 41 mpg combined. More importantly, pricing is far more affordable: A base-level Optima Eco starts at just $24,800 with shipping — a $3,000 discount compared to the base-level Camry Hybrid.
Choosing between the Kia Optima and the Toyota Camry is difficult because both models are so highly competent. In the end, however, we’d pick the Optima by a hair. In addition to offering more appealing pricing and a longer warranty, we also like the available Eco model — something the Camry lineup doesn’t have. And while we appreciate recent changes to the Camry’s driving experience and styling, we still think the Optima boasts a more engaging road feel and a sharper look.