The 2016 Kia Optima is all-new this model year, although you might not catch the changes at first glance. Kia did change the outside of the car, but the big differences are on the inside. The layout is improved and the comfort and quietness of the cabin are far better than the previous model.
An all-new anything runs the risk of being too different and sending customers scurrying away, or too much the same and not attracting anyone’s notice. The Kia Optima stands right on the edge of being too much the same.
It’s slightly longer, wider, and taller, but not enough to significantly alter its first impression. The most noticeable difference, if you pay attention, is a more aggressively sculpted grille and airdam. It’s good-looking, but not a big change.
The Optima does still manage to differentiate itself from the mid-size sedan blahs that afflict other cars in the class. The lines are aggressive without being over-the-top, with enough angles to keep it from looking like a boring bar of soap. It’s a stylish and sporty car.
Inside, it’s a whole different story with a markedly improved interior layout. The cabin feels more spacious with less of a cockpit-like design. This makes it cleaner and less busy. The quality of the materials, which was already good, is even better with an improved look and feel that gives it luxury appeal. The top-of-the-line SX Limited we drove came in at $35,790 but easily felt like it should have been $10K more.
The SX Limited comes with plenty of comfort and convenience features. It’ll keep you warm with a heated steering wheel and seats that are also power adjustable with Nappa leather trim. The stuff is even quilted, just like a pricier car, and there’s dual zone automatic climate control with rear vents. It looks and feels wonderful.
The standard entertainment system across the line includes AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM with 5-speakers. A 10-speaker Harman/Kardon QuantumLogic Premium surround sound system with 630 watts and 10 speakers is standard on the SX Limited and fills the cabin with rich sound. There’s Bluetooth wireless hands-free connectivity, cruise control, and steering wheel mounted audio controls to make staying focused on the road easier.
The ride in that lush cabin is smooth and supple with a noticeable decrease in cabin noise over the previous model. Acoustic laminated glass, new engine mounts, and more body insulation all contribute to the quieter interior. Road, wind, and engine noise are minimal, even in poor weather, making the cabin something of an escape from the real world.
Powered by a 2.0-liter turbo direct injection 4-cylinder, the Optima is no slouch. It’s paired to a 6-speed automatic transmision and has 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Thsoe numbers are down slightly from last year, but the upside is fuel economy that improves slightly.
Lightning starts are not its thing, but the engine is responsive and capable when you need a burst of speed. The transmission is well-timed and shifts nicely, but you can override it with paddle shifters for a more responsive drive. There’s also a drive mode select with Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Normal is where it’s at with Eco being too sluggish and Sport only feeling truly sporty at higher speeds.
The Optima has an impressive list of modern safety technologies. Unfortunately, most are optional and only become standard on the SX Limited except for a rearview camera which is standard on every Optima. The available features include rear park assist, surround view monitor, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking.
Kia was once a bargain-basement brand that was seen as a cheap but boring way to get around town. They’ve mostly shrugged off that reputation as newer Kias prove to be well-designed with some of the best interiors in their segments and plenty of features. They do this at a price that is much lower than expected making them a great value. The 2016 Kia Optima continues to up the brand’s growing reputation.
2016 Kia Optima SX Limited
Base Price: $35,790
Price As Tested: $35,790 (not including destination charge)
- Luxurious Interior
- Long List of Available Features
- Reduced Horsepower
- Too Mild of a Redesign