2016 KIA Optima SX — Game-Changer Ups the Game, Again

2016 Kia Optima SXModel Tested: 2016 Kia Optima SX LTD

Engine: 2-liter turbo gas direct injection 4-cylinder

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with active eco function

EPA Ratings: 22/city, 32/highway, 25/combined

Base Price: $35,790

As Tested: $36,615

Overview: The Optima — Kia’s game-changer — is all-new for 2016. It’s been upgraded by fine-tuning every aspect of this much-improved sedan. Styling has evolved rather than changed, while road and engine noise have been addressed.

The 2016 Kia Optima offers three 4-cylinder powerplant choices: a new turbocharged 1.6-liter, a 2.4-liter and a turbocharged 2-liter carried over from the previous model. All are front-wheel drive. The Optima boasts a stronger structure utilizing additional high-strength steel, with new active-safety features available, plus a standard 100,000-mile warranty.

2016 Kia Optima SXOptima is also among the first to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Interior: In addition to abundant space, Optima features one of the quietest and most refined interiors in the midsize sedan class. The front seats are redesigned with longer lower cushions and greater side support. Audio and climate controls are steering-wheel-mounted and manual. Instrumentation is legible and touchscreens are intuitive.

Behind the Wheel: I drove the new Optima in Colorado, from Aspen over the Continental Divide to Vail and back, as well as the usual weeklong test drive. I found it nimble and responsive. Ride quality is improved and the car is more compliant and less bouncy than previously. While not overtly sporty, it delivers an appealing ride/handling compromise.

Both test-drives featured the 2-liter turbo. The 6-speed automatic upshifts smoothly and downshifts promptly, with paddle shifters for manual changes.

Bottom Line: Besides a quiet, composed ride, buyers will also find a compelling value argument. If you’re considering a Camry, Civic, Altima or Regal, among others, do yourself a favor and test-drive the 2016 Optima.