Has it really been almost four years since we last took at the Kia Optima? Going back through our review archives, the answer is yes with the 2012 Optima Hybrid. Since this time, we have driven the full gamut of midsize sedans that have impressed us (Honda Accord EX) or ended up to be a big dud (Chevrolet Malibu Eco). The Optima hasn’t been resting on its laurels during this time either. Kia has been improving the sedan over time with new features and trim levels. Last year, the company introduced an all-new Optima which looks similar to the previous one. So we wondered what changes had been made and if it still remains one of our favorite midsize sedans.
Compared to the last-generation Optimas, the 2016 model looks the same at a glance. But there are some key differences that set the new model apart from the old one. The most apparent one is around back where there is a new trunk lid design with a higher decklid. A set of LED taillights finishes it off. The front also sees some changes, but you’ll need to look closely. The grille is slightly narrower and there are new headlights. Some will be disappointed that Kia didn’t do any drastic changes, but I’m ok with it. It is still one of the best looking midsize sedans on sale.
The interior is where you’ll begin to see some major changes. The dashboard is all-new with a design borrowed from the Cadenza and K900 with more soft-touch materials and a revised center stack. We like the new center stack as it is easier to find to various functions at a quick glance. The 2016 model also gains an updated version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system with eServices. eServices allow you to do various functions such as run diagnostics on the vehicle and schedule a service appointment. It will also call 911 if the airbags deploy. Like in previous Kia models we have driven, UVO is towards the top of our favorite infotainment systems as it is simple to use and offers a lot of features for the money.
Overall comfort in the Optima hasn’t changed much since we last checked it out. The front seats still offer excellent levels of comfort and support. Opt for the Premium Package on the EX and you’ll gain power adjustments for the passenger, and heated and ventilated seats. In the back, there is plenty of legroom for any sized passenger. Headroom is a different story as tall passengers will be hitting the headliner due to the sloping roofline. If you get the optional panoramic sunroof, this cuts headroom even further.
Our EX tester came with 2.4L direct-injected four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The 2.4 provides enough power for most people with decent acceleration and a smooth delivery of power. The engine, for the most part, keeps to itself it terms of noise. But this changes during hard acceleration as the engine begins to sound very gravely. The six-speed automatic goes about its business with delivering smooth shifts. As for fuel economy, we got an average of 30.2 MPG for the week.
One item we wished Kia would work on is the Optima’s ride. We found it to be a little bit too harsh with many of bumps and imperfections making their way into the cabin. We know Kia is trying to set itself apart from Hyundai by having an edge of sportiness. But you can have good handling along with a comfortable ride. Noise isolation isn’t great as a decent amount of road and wind noise come into the cabin. In terms of handling, the Optima doesn’t embarrass itself. Body motions are kept in check and the steering feels slightly heavy when turning.
The 2016 Kia Optima does bring some improvements to already good sedan. But a couple of items keep the Optima back from being towards the top in the midsize class, mostly the ride and noise isolation. If Kia can address both of these issues, then the Optima will be a true threat.
Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Optima EX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 2.4L GDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/35/28
Curb Weight: 3,362 lbs
Location of Manufacture: West Point, GA
Base Price: $24,890
As Tested Price: $30,615 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)
EX Premium Package - $3,700
EX Premium Audio Package - $1,200