The year 2011 was a watershed year for the Kia Optima.
The South Korean automaker replaced what had been a rather bland, nondescript midsize family sedan it had made for the previous 10 years with a lively, stylish, and overall attractive vehicle with lots of standard features that made it a contender in a very competitive automotive segment.
The company continues to build on that with the redesigned 2016 Optima.
The newest Optima is packed with lots of standard creature comforts and conveniences and has an air of sophistication that you might expect from entry-level luxury vehicles.
That is especially true with the top-of-the-line SXL (or SX Limited) model.
The SXL offers a range of niceties that include a dual zone climate control with rear vents, Harmon Kardon premium sound system, a navigation system with an 8-inch display and user-friendly touchscreen operation, satellite radio, Nappa leather seats with quilted seat inserts, rearview and surround view camera (you can also punch a button to get a front view that can be an aid in parking), blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof, and more.
Standard on the SXL is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission shiftable via steering wheel-mounted paddles. It drinks 87-octane fuel at a rate of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway while sending 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. Those power numbers are comparable to V6 performance in many sedans.
The SX trim also gets the 2.0 turbo while the base LX and EX get a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter as standard (185 hp, 178 lb.ft.). New for this year is a 1.6-liter turbo found in the LX 1.6T (178/195, respectively). Fuel economy is better in both the 1.6-liter turbo (28/39) and the 2.4-liter (24/35). The new 1.6 turbo also is mated to a new seven-speed double-clutch transmission that essentially acts as an automatic.
So much for numbers.
The driving dynamics of the SXL are more than satisfactory. The ride is smooth and quiet, the power is more than adequate for everyday challenges, and it’s a comfortable cruiser on highways and urban expressways. You can also set the vehicle to one of three drive modes: normal, sport, or ECO (a feature on all trim levels, not just the SXL). Sport boosts throttle response noticeably and adds to driving dynamics.
Oh. Did we mention that the driver’s seat is power adjustable 12 ways with 4-way power lumbar support? And that the passenger seat on the SXL can be adjusted 10 ways with 2-way lumbar support compared to only six ways on other trims? Well we’ve mentioned it now.
Of course, the niceties in the SXL come at a price. MSRP for the SXL is $36,615 (including $825 destination and delivery charge) compared to $22,840 for the base LX with the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine. That’s quite a spread. The LX, EX, and LX 1.6T all are under $25,000. Including the D&D charge, the SX trim also tops $30,000.
What’s good about the Optima SXL: Technological systems couldn’t be more friendly to operate. Overall high quality sedan for the price.
What’s not so good about the Optima SXL: Taller riders may find headroom a bit cramped in the back. Kia is coming up in the automotive world, but the brand still lacks some of the cachet of its competitors.
For a look at the Kia Optima SXL and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.