The Optima was finally on the map and could stand up to the cut throat competition for midsize cars. For 2016, Kia offers the redesigned fourth generation Optima. At first glance, the new Optima does not seem all that different in appearance from the outgoing car, but I had the opportunity to park side by side with the older car. Kia designers have definitely softened the look a bit. Sharp, crisp lines have given way to a softer, more relaxed look, which in my opinion is not as exciting to look at than the older car. Put another way, Kia hung up the chiseled look of an Armani suit in exchange for a more relaxed Ralph Lauren. As a side, Kia offers a handsome Optima wagon everywhere but North America, where crossovers rule the roads.
Under the hood, Kia offers three choices. Standard is a 2.4L four rated at 185hp on lower end models, while a 245hp 2.0L turbo four is standard on higher end Optimas. Both engines are paired to a six-speed automatic. Interesting to note both of these engines are down on power from last year in the name of improved fuel economy. While this news may be disappointing to gearheads, the typical midsize car buyer is usually more interested in fuel economy figures than 0-60 times. New for 2016 is a 1.6L turbo four, rated at 178hp mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. Available as an option on the base model only, the 1.6 offers the best fuel economy.
Our test car had the 2.4L engine. The last Optima we drove was a turbo, and at first the dramatic difference in power was noticeable but I quickly adjusted my expectations. EPA fuel economy is rated at 24/35 MPG city/highway. Kia claims a lot of effort was put into improving the Optima’s handling, but the emphasis is still on comfort, not sportiness. The Optima is deceptively quiet, so for highway cruising you would be wise to keep an eye on the speedometer.
The Optima is offered in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX, and SX Limited. Our test car was an EX. Standard equipment includes 17″ alloys, dual zone auto climate control, power driver’s seat, leather seats, heated front seats, push button start, SiriusXM radio, and heated steering wheel. Options on our car included the EX Premium Package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, power passenger front seat, navigation, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist, auto dimming rearview mirror and LED interior lighting. Finally, the EX Premium Audio Package added Harmon Kardon premium audio, heated rear seat and rear side window sunshades. Including destination, our Optima has an MSRP of $30,615USD. A top of the line turbo Optima will add about $6,000 to that figure, so if you if you want the essential high end features but can forgo the turbo and flashier interior appointments, this is the way to go.
To say the Optima has come a long way from its humble beginnings is an understatement. In 2010 Kia broke the mold, and with this new Optima, further steps have been taken to refine and broaden the car’s overall appeal. Buyers will applaud the larger cabin and improved fuel economy. While I lament the softer styling and the loss of the fighter pilot interior, Kia will likely appeal to an even broader audience than before.