While it looks very similar to the previous generation Optima, it is all-new from the ground up for 2016 with a chassis that stretches slightly longer, taller and wider than before. It has a longer wheelbase now at 110.4-inches and is now 1.2-inches wider.
Styling continues Kia’s European theme of late with an extended array of detailing that comes off as more premium than before. Up front is a grill with deep chrome details and HID headlamps that feature Kia’s “light bending” technology. This means they auto-level and turn with you at night.
Our fully loaded SX Limited has larger machined 18-inch wheels that highlight red painted brake calipers. At the rear dual-exhaust outlets highlight the high-performance theme as does the subtle rear deck spoiler.
Of note with the 2016 Optima is that its trademark chrome roof strip still extends over the back like the frames on fashionable sunglasses, but the silhouette gains an additional window in the C-Pillar that makes it look a bit longer than before.
Those larger dimensions provided by its longer and wider stance have gone straight to the cabin where passengers in the rear and up front are now afforded more generous leg room and head room. The SX-Limited features diamond stitched Nappa leather hides on its chairs seen here in the rich shade of Auburgine.
Front seats are both power adjustable with the driver getting memory settings, and they feature both heating and ventilation. I found them very comfortable and easy to adjust to the right place, with the steering wheel also tilting and telescoping.
The wheel features a full boat of controls for both the infotainment system and the instrument cluster information display which is well laid out and easy to use. The center stack is clean in its design with logical layout of controls for both HVAC and the infotainment.
The rear seats can fold down in a 60/40 split to enable more cargo area to its trunk which is already sizable at 15.9 cubic feet and lined with materials of a decent quality. The lift over height is low and opening size not too small. Under the trunk floor is a temporary spare tire.
The interior as you can tell I thought was well executed with class leading if not above class quality and design. The best part is that what’s good here even filters down to the base trim grades which contributes to my scoring it at 5 of 5 stars.
Technologies here includes Kia’s latest generation UVO touch-screen infotainment and navigation system which is very easy to use whether you tap into its hard controls or the touch-screen. Menus are thoughtfully designed and easy to learn.
Audio quality from the Harmann-Kardon top-end system is downright phenomenal and worth the step up to this trim level just to get it. And I will add, almost worth choosing this car for it over some competitors. Technologies score in at 5 of 5 stars.
Under the hood of the SX and SXL is the 2.0 liter direct-injected and turbocharged engine which for 2016 offers up 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that loves manual shifting and features steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Fuel economy was one of the reasons Kia elected to re-tune this turbocharged engine for 2016. It now has an EPA rating of 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. The best part however is that I easily over shot these with a 28 mpg combined city and highway in my week with it. I was impressed, scoring this powertrain at 5 of 5 stars.
Much of the goodness found in its chassis comes from a 58% stiffer body structure this year that uses more high-strength steel than ever. Details like new four-bushing sub-frames, larger rear lower control arms and rack-mounted electric power steering all contribute to its improved ride and drive, bringing chassis score to 5 of 5 stars.
Quality believe it or not isn’t the strong suit of some of the best sellers in the mid-size sedan class, some simply get away with being mediocre. Here, the fit and finish of the interior, the body fit and the overall feel is top of the class with cars like the Honda Accord. Quality feel comes in at 5 of 5 stars.
As to safety, the IIHS has not yet tested the 2016 Kia Optima, though last year’s model was rated as a Top Safety Pick. With the improved structure and available crash prevention systems for 2016, it has a good chance of scoring just a well when it is tested.
With an MSRP of $35,790 this Optima is near the very top of what you can spend here. With all the features and quality it brings, it does offer more than some of its competitors in the area of value, putting it at 5 of 5 stars.
In total we have a very well put together sedan that competes against many rivals that make do with mediocrity. In all we score it at 5 of 5 stars.