Kia’s 2016 Optima EX optimizes value and amenities. Case in point, it offers such niceties as adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, blind spot monitoring/cross traffic alerts, speed/curfew alerts, heated/cooled leather seating, panoramic sunroof and 360-degree camera to make parking easier and safer. These features are customarily only found on more expensive sedans.
Optima is offered in LX 2.4, LX 1.6T, EX 2.4, SX 2.0T and SXL 2.0T trim levels. We tested the EX that was nicely equipped with a host of standard features and amenities. Along with these trim levels are three powerplants. The LX and EX get a 2.4-liter four cylinder that puts out 178-hp and 195 lb/ft of torque and routs power to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The combination gets EPA mileage estimates of 24 city, 35-highway mpg.
For the LX 1.6T, it houses a 1.6L, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 178-hp and 195 lb/ft of torque. It couples to a 7-speed automated clutch transmission (28/39 mpg) that is essentially an automatic.
Then there’s a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder for the SX 2.0T and top line SXL 2.0T. Both are rated at 245-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque. This power transfers via a 6-speed automatic for EPA estimates of 22/32 mpg. To better all of these EPA numbers, Optima is also available in hybrid form that’s rated at 35/39 mpg.
The EX’s combination and with two adults aboard provides lively acceleration from a standing stop and during highway passing manuevers. It would seem reasonable that that the 2.0L turbo would be the better performer with only slightly less fuel economy. But then that would require an upgrade to the more expensive SX or SXL models.
For 2016, Optima has a sturdier frame, is longer and wider and more spacious inside than the 2015 model. And with Kia’s UVO touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is offered and along with its sister car, Hyundai’s Sonata, are the only vehicles (as of this review) to feature both systems. The Apple and Android systems allow the use of selected apps from iPhone and Android smartphones through the cars 8-inch touch screen system.
While on the touchscreen, the remainder of Optima’s interior is stylish. The seats fore and aft are soft and comfy. The leather front seats are heated/cooled and offer comfortable lateral support meaning they are not confining. The overall layout of the dash and vertical stack is clean, uncluttered and all instrumentation easy to use.
The back seat has ample legroom and the doors open wide. But the sharply sloping roofline may require a head duck for tall folks. The seats themselves are of sofa quality and the outboard portions are heated.
With a new chassis, Optima is tighter and especially quiet and smooth on highway drives. Sharp turns taken at speed exhibit some body lean that is controllable. Steering effort is a bit light but increases somewhat when selecting Sport mode (there’s also Eco mode), which is turn tightens things up a bit with a tad more road feel. This sedan is not intended to be a sports car by any means. It’s a family car for five and it excels at being one.
Trunk space is fairly spacious (15.9 cu. ft.) and can handle one large roll-a-long or two golf bags when flipping the 60/40 rear seatbacks. And it’s a Smart Trunk in that you need only stand by it with the keyfob in pocket and it automatically opens. One not so nice feature is the Tire Inflator Kit instead of a spare. More carmakers are going this route to save weight and money.
While the standard feature list is lengthy, important features include a driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring and many more. On the options list there were only two on the test car. Their EX Premium package adds $3,700 to the base price and includes a panoramic sunroof, nav system, blind spot alert, cross traffic alert, rear parking assist and more. Then for another $1,200, you get a Harmon Kardon audio with 10 speakers, outboard heated rear seats and rear side window shades, good for when a baby in a baby seat is trying to nap while driving.
All of this brings the base price of $24,890 to $30,615 with delivery. Of course this price comes with Kia’s generous warranties of 10 years/100K powertrain, 5/60K limited, 5/60K roadside assistance program. The only way the Optima could be better is if it was offered with AWD for here in the Snowbelt.