Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kia's Optima moves up in class for 2016

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review first appeared in the February 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When you compete in the midsize sedan class – the equivalent of being in the same division as the Golden State Warriors in the NBA – you have to offer up something special.

Otherwise, you’re going to get trampled.

Kia thinks it has the answer in its extensively reworked-for-2016 Optima.  Having spent a week recently in the 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo, I have to give Kia kudos for effort.

The new Optima is a pretty serious step up from Optimas past.  It just feels more regal, and its sporty exterior styling with a strong dash of Euro flash is an improvement.

The tester started at a reasonable $23,990, but the standard features went a little beyond what you’d expect for that price, all part of the plan to have the Optima step up in class among its rivals.

Standard features included leather interior surfaces, power/folding exterior mirrors with LED turn signals and a crystal-clear LCD rear camera display.  A long list of standard safety features included hill-start assist control.  Adding $2,600 to the bottom line was a Technology Package with a navigation system, blind spot-detection system and a rear cross-traffic alert.

Even with the extras and freight, the tester’s price was a still-reasonable $27,415.

My ride was equipped with the new 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine rated at a max 178 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque.  Accelerations and other chores were handled strongly and efficiently with that engine, although I did experience a couple of instances of brief turbo lag on hard accelerations.   Noise from the turbo is definitely produced, but not at an annoying level.

The tested Optima rode on a tighter, sportier chassis than I remember previous Optimas having.  It now has a decidedly sporty feel, but not so stiff to prompt complaints from the driver and volunteer passengers.  Rear-seat room is good but not cavernous by any means.

The seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission was a seamless performer on the tester, and I found the Optima to be stable and grippy in all conditions, including sharp corners taken at high speed.

Be advised that you can trade up to the Optima SX and SXL models and get the 2-liter turbo 4 rated at 245 horsepower.  Given the brisk performance of the 1.6-liter engine on the tester, I can only imagine what the 2-liter bomb feels like.  I’m imagining a trip to the drag strip.

Alas, there’s always a price to pay.  If you opt for the stronger engine, you’ll not only pay more for the car but fuel mileage ratings come in at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway…both pretty fair numbers.

However, the tested Optima LX Turbo has fuel mileage ratings of 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.  And those are pretty fantastic numbers from a perky power source.

Overall, I’d give this new Optima a B-plus.  It should attract more eyes in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan sector.

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