You know, Kia should probably look at getting a new slogan. Their “Power to Surprise” is kinda wearing thin. It’s really not surprising anymore that the quality of recent Kia offerings are impressive all around, from the utilitarian Sedona to the quirky Soul.
The mid-sized sedan market has plenty of power players and the 2016 Optima (sharing a platform with its cousin, the Hyundai Sonata) illustrates that Kia’s quite serious about offering high quality at an affordable price point. Which of course, is what we’re all in search of, right?
Appearance wise, the new Optima maintains the “tiger nose” grill and has grown a touch, specifically 30 mm wider and 10 mm longer. There’s a sleek, handsome stance that’s enhanced by available 18” wheels (SX & SXL trims) and they’ve offered both a modern look (LX & EX) and an elegant sporty look (SX & SXL). While it’s not easy to make a mid-size sedan stand out in a crowd, Kia’s design team has performed well in giving consumers an attractive product.
As a side note, my SXL trim had the huge red brake calipers, which I’m iffy on. Yes, they stand out but I’m not sure that’s the best way to do so. Old fashioned Jay would be happy with any color, as long as it’s black.
The Bi-Function Xenon HID headlights and the LED tail lights and dual exhaust pipes bookend the car, giving it a classy look.
A cool factor is that the highest trims offer directionally adaptive headlights, which makes me immediately think of the Tucker 48.
There are 3 engines offered in the Optima, all featuring four cylinders:
1.6L Turbo, via a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox giving 178 HP and 195 lb-ft. of torque (LX ECO Turbo)
2.4L six-speed gearbox with 185 HP and 178 lb-ft. of torque (LX EX)
2.0 Turbo with a strong and healthy 245 HP and a healthy 260 lb-ft. of torque (SX SXL)
The fuel ratings for my SLX tester comes in at 7.4 highway and 10.9 city for a combined 9.3 L/100 km, which is respectable given the size and strength of the motor.
The kind folks at Kia have all engines run on regular gasoline, which is a nice treat, given that they’ve turbocharged two of their engines. Usually, there’d be a premium fuel rating accompanied.
Acceleration is quick, especially when put into Sport mode and really opens up the engine for a sporty driving experience. The Eco and Normal drive settings also function well depending on your driving style and situational preferences.
The overall drive feel and quality is strong in the Optima and while it won’t win any races, there’s a sense of serenity in the cabin (unless you crank the 10 speaker, Harman Kardon system) a sharp and responsive driving feel and an overall sturdy aura that I felt during my test week.
Inside is where the Optima shines, specifically the top of the line SXL trim, via a beautifully designed interior, starting with the flat bottomed, leather heated steering wheel, heated and cooled premium quilted Napa leather 12 way power seats that are delightfully comfortable. A huge panoramic sunroof, spacious and comfortable interior (rear passengers, rejoice!) and an 8 inch and easy to use infotainment system, which is slightly angled towards the driver all contribute towards this gem of an interior.
If there wasn’t a Kia badge on the steering wheel, it could easily be mistaken for a luxury offering.
There’s 450 L of cargo space, which is good enough for suitcases, a trip to Costco, golf clubs or groceries…maybe not all at once, though but still plenty.
There’s a wireless cell phone charger where you’d usually put your change, lip balm, charging cables, etc in front of the gear shift. Sadly, it didn’t work on my iPhone 6 but it’s still a very cool idea.
The wide array of safety features offered are becoming increasingly common, which to me, is a great thing. The Optima’s list includes available rear view and 360 surround camera, autonomous braking, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitors, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and high beam assist.
Mind you, you’ll have some “ticking” to do on the option sheet if you want the entire suite of options.
Overall, I’m impressed with the refreshed Optima and can say that it’s been one of the more impressive mid-size sedans I’ve driven. It looks and feels great, is jammed full of luxury options and has a sporty feel.
Of the seven trim models, prices range from the mid 23K’s (LX AT trim) to the mid 37K’s (SXL Turbo).
Yes, there’s something for nearly everyone and I imagine most folks will opt for the LX mid-level trim.
It’s a bold move for the Optima to go after the heavyweights in the Accord and Camry. A few years ago, it would’ve been laughable to put those three in the same grouping but now, not at all.
Kia continues to do many things right and it’s not surprising anymore that they’ve become a contender in many markets, the mid-size one being its latest one.
While there’s still a ways to go to knock the big guys from the consumer castle, the Optima is a solid option if you’re in the market for an affordable car that has a high end feel to it.
2016 Kia Optima
$23,495 LX AT
$27,295 LX ECO Turbo
$31,795 EX Tech
$34,995 SX Turbo
$37,595 SXL Turbo
Yay: Styling, value for money, great cabin space, driving feel, Turbo motor runs on regular gasoline
Nay: Could be a couple of fewer trim options, not a fan of the red brake calipers and it’s a long way to the top to dethrone the perennial leaders.