When a carmaker sells over 100,000 copies of a single model, it is understandably conservative when it comes to redesigns. That’s exactly what the new 2016 Kia Optima is – a conservative update on a successful sedan.
Visually, the new Optima looks a lot like the old one, and indeed the basic styling philosophy is there. It has the same wide trademark grille – which Kia calls a “tiger” grille – and the same signature roofline that made the old Optima one of the best looking midsize sedans on the market.
But on closer inspection, the differences show. The front end is redesigned, with the grille a little thinner than before. The headlights are now Bi-Xenon, high intensity lights, which could be optioned to move with the car around turns for better visibility. The whole car, in fact, is slightly longer, lower and wider than the outgoing model.
Inside, the theme of refinement continues, as the dash has been redesigned to be more functional and stylish, with a liberal use of soft-touch materials. One complaint, however, is with the console. Kia made the console wider, and in doing so, made it less comfortable for taller drivers whose knees hit the edge. The fact that it’s hard plastic adds to the discomfort and is a clue that, despite the luxury applications, the Optima is still a budget sedan.
Driving dynamics have been improved as well. Although hardly a sports car – and not quite up to the sporting levels of the Honda Accord or Mazda 6 – the Optima handles well for a family sedan and outshines other stalwarts in the class.
Under the hood is a choice of three engines. The base model Optima gets a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four cylinder rated at 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. Upper trim levels get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder rated at 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The turbo is actually down on power from last year, as Kia re-tuned the engine for better economy and mid-range torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
New for the Optima is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder making 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Available only on the LX model, the 1.6 is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.
As is becoming customary in 2016, the new Optima comes with a host of safety features like lane departure warnings, emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, among others. The new Optima is also the first Kia to have both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, allowing customers to use their smartphones to control music, messaging, voice calls and navigation.
The Georgia-built Optima will start at around $23,000 and top out at over $35,000. It will be in dealerships this month.
Check out the full report on the 2016 Kia Optima in this TFLcar video first drive review: