With so many advances in the industry, it’s hard to find a dud on a new car lot these days. The launch of the all-new Kia Optima midsize sedan improves the selection even further.
The brand’s bestseller for the last three years, Kia ramps up the 2016 version with a more refined exterior design, new technology, and creature comforts offered at the same starting price as the outgoing model.
At the launch in Aspen, Colorado, the longer, wider and stiffer Optima hugged the road nicely. Its increased dimensions also translate into a roomier and more comfortable cabin with more head, shoulder, and rear seat legroom. Plus the trunk expands to 15.9 cu. ft. and the 60/40 split rear seat also folds flat for even more room.
There will be three available four-cylinder engines to power the Optima distributed among five trim levels. We drove the top-of-the-line SX and SXL trims powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic simulated manual shifting. This is not the most fuel efficient of the three engines but it is the most powerful with 245 horses and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. The sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters improved performance on the launch models, though the throttle response on the turbo was a little hesitant.
The lower level trims will come with a 2.4-liter or an all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, matched to a six-speed automatic or seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission, respectively. While all three engines include the Active Eco System and Driver Mode Select with an Eco option to conserve gas, the most fuel-efficient will be the 1.6-liter earning an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon. Plug-in and hybrid models will also be introduced this year.
The sleeker and contoured European-inspired exterior is matched to a super plush interior on the SX and SXL that included diamond-quilted and heated leather seats plus metallic accents. The base model will come with cloth seats.
Standard features include chrome accent door handles, air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/MP3 audio unit with satellite radio, a five-inch LCD rear-camera display, three USB jacks, Bluetooth, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Push button start, a rear spoiler, heated steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, and Bi-Function Xenon HID headlamps with a self-leveling feature are standard on the SX. The SXL adds a panoramic sunroof with power shade, advanced smart cruise control, Harman/Kardon Quantum Logic Surround
Premium Audio System, and ventilated front driver and passenger seats, among other features. The major advantage of the SXL, however, is a suite of standard safety features that includes a rear parking sensor, blind spot and rear cross traffic detectors, and front collision warning system.
For the digitally astute, Kia’s UVO connectivity system comes standard with four additional eServices not previously available on the Optima, it’s also Kia’s pilot vehicle for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (late availability) that connects drivers to functions on their smartphones.
Packing more content at a lower price has helped establish the Korean carmaker in the United States. Competing in one of the most competitive and crowded segments, the 2016 Optima should remain a top-seller.
Built at Kia’s plant in West Point, Georgia, the Optima’s pricing starts at $22,840 while the SX and SXL start at $30,640 and $36,740, respectively.