Last fall, Editor-in-Chief Judie Lipsett Stanford introduced you to the all-new 2016 Kia Optima sedan, a vehicle that leads the brand in sales numbers and is largely responsible for Kia’s improved perception. Recently I got my turn behind the wheel of the midsize sedan to see if her first impressions resonate with others.
The Optima arrived in SX Limited (SXL) form powered by the 245hp 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The vehicle itself sits on a lengthened, widened, and stiffened chassis and features front-wheel drive with seating for up to five adults. We received the Kia on the heels of testing the newest Accord sedan from Honda and this was a great back-to-back pairing for midsize sedans. The Accord was powered by a normally-aspirated V-6 so it was a great way to see just how well this turbo four could compare with the larger displacement Honda motor (as well as seeing if Kia could truly hold its own against an industry standard in the segment).
After a week behind the wheel of both updated sedans, we found the Kia Optima every bit as capable as the newest Accord from Honda. And that turbocharged powertrain from Kia was a blast to drive, giving the grandkids a newfound appreciation for “Turbo Power.” Alas, even the fuel economy of the turbo four matches – and even falls short of – that of the V-6s on the market in this segment, but this is a consequence I can live with. Overall the new Optima truly stands up to the comparison providing a very comfortable, capable, smooth, well-handling midsize sedan for families or individuals alike.
The turbo engine is mated to a smooth six-speed automatic gearbox with Sportmatic and paddle shifting and active eco-system, and the SXL rides on stylish 18-inch alloy wheels. The Optima features a host of safety and driving technologies including traction control, stability control, vehicle stability management system, hill start assist, and the full complement of airbags, of course. The SXL model also includes front collision warning, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, advanced smart cruise control, and surround view monitor. Occupants are literally bathed in safety technologies in the new Kia.
Styling has been updated and after seeing the Accord and Optima back-to-back I swear one of them was spying on the other when the designs were being drawn up as they share some very nice updates but Optima has the corporate “batwing” front grille that is seen across the brand showroom this year.
Pricing for this 2016 Optima SX Limited is $35,790 (before freight and handling), which is on par with the new Honda and fuel economy is 22 mpg city (better than Accord V-6) and 32 mpg highway (not as good as Honda V-6). As with the Honda midsize sedan, Optima is assembled in the U.S. as well and more than half its parts are sourced from North America.
For those of you wondering which vehicle I would choose were I purchasing one for myself or my family I would probably give a slight nod to the Optima. I prefer the turbo motor (and so do the grandkids) and the instrument and control layout is easier to use and understand in the Kia. I was not a real fan of the dual display screens in the center dash of the Accord. And personally, I preferred the Harman Kardon audio system in the Optima over that in the Honda. And diamond-tuck in the seat patterns? Forget about it…