2016 Kia Optima

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Key Specs
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2016 Kia Optima. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • New interior materials
  • Roomier cabin
  • More-comfortable seating
  • 360-degree camera system
  • Available height-adjustable front passenger seat

The Bad

  • Relatively unchanged exterior styling
  • Interior design has large, blank spaces
  • Interior materials disappoint in a few instances
  • Performance with 1.6-liter engine

Notable Features of the 2016 Kia Optima

  • Redesigned for 2016
  • Longer wheelbase
  • Longer and wider body
  • New interior materials
  • Available turbocharged engines

2016 Kia Optima Road Test

Bill Jackson

The newly redesigned 2016 Kia Optima, with its blend of driving dynamics and a well-thought-out interior, remains competitive in the absolutely cutthroat midsize sedan field.

The redesigned Optima's major improvements are under the skin: chassis tuning and an additional engine offering. For a newly redesigned car, though, the 2016 Optima doesn't look hugely different from the previous year's car. You can run through the rest of the changes here.

I drove a 2016 Kia Optima SXL for several hours around Aspen, Colo., over the Continental Divide and through Vail on a mix of winding mountain roads and interstate highway stretches. The Optima competes with similar body-type vehicles like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, among others, in the midsize sedan class.

Exterior & Styling
Park a 2016 
Kia Optima next to the 2015 model, and it's not glaringly obvious what the differences are. This isn't bad, though, because I thought the previous Optima was a good-looking, if understated, car.

The grille finishes are different on the 2016, and they vary depending on trim. The SXL I tested had a satin finish; other trims get a black grille. Sharper-eyed observers will note that the new Optima has slightly different dimensions: The wheelbase is almost half an inch longer and the vehicle is 1.1 inches wider.

How It Drives
For most of my drive, I put the 
Kia Optima in Sport mode in response to the high altitude, though I did switch between Sport and Normal to get a se...

The newly redesigned 2016 Kia Optima, with its blend of driving dynamics and a well-thought-out interior, remains competitive in the absolutely cutthroat midsize sedan field.

The redesigned Optima's major improvements are under the skin: chassis tuning and an additional engine offering. For a newly redesigned car, though, the 2016 Optima doesn't look hugely different from the previous year's car. You can run through the rest of the changes here.

I drove a 2016 Kia Optima SXL for several hours around Aspen, Colo., over the Continental Divide and through Vail on a mix of winding mountain roads and interstate highway stretches. The Optima competes with similar body-type vehicles like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, among others, in the midsize sedan class.

Exterior & Styling
Park a 2016 
Kia Optima next to the 2015 model, and it's not glaringly obvious what the differences are. This isn't bad, though, because I thought the previous Optima was a good-looking, if understated, car.

The grille finishes are different on the 2016, and they vary depending on trim. The SXL I tested had a satin finish; other trims get a black grille. Sharper-eyed observers will note that the new Optima has slightly different dimensions: The wheelbase is almost half an inch longer and the vehicle is 1.1 inches wider.

How It Drives
For most of my drive, I put the 
Kia Optima in Sport mode in response to the high altitude, though I did switch between Sport and Normal to get a sense of the differences between the modes. Sport mode changes the transmission and steering response. Steering becomes heavier, but it's not a workout; I preferred how it felt in this mode. I wouldn't put the Optima in the same league as a luxury performance sedan, like a BMW, but it's good for the non-luxury, non-performance class. The transmission also holds on to lower gears longer, providing more immediate response in Sport mode.

In Normal mode, the transmission quickly kicks down gears. Because it's a six-speed, as opposed to an eight- or nine-speed transmission, downshifts happen quickly. The transmission doesn't hunt like eight- and nine-speed models typically do, and it also doesn't produce the odd, non-mechanical/elastic feeling of a continuously variable automatic transmission, which other models in this class use. The Optima's power steering is much lighter in Normal than in Sport mode; it's a touch overboosted for my liking. It's almost like a video game, in that you don't get the same feel that you get from the best steering setups.

Kia said the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was retuned for 2016 with a smaller turbo and a torque curve that produces more lb-ft of torque at lower engine speeds. The old engine's tuning, Kia said, provided its most power in a sudden surge higher in the rev range. The new model uses a smaller turbo and feels "gruntier," with a broader power range. It's a good change. Winding through tight roads was not when I wanted a sudden surge of anything.

For 2016, Kia added a new engine to the Optima mix. It's a 178-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that's paired with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. I briefly drove an LX 1.6T with this engine for just a quick jaunt up and down a hilly route. I didn't have enough time in the vehicle to pass judgment on the powertrain, but I wasn't bowled over.

Perhaps because of the hills, the Kia Optima with the 1.6-liter four cylinder seemed sluggish off the line. Once it got moving, though, it got with the program and provided better response. The shifts felt pretty smooth, but didn't happen as quickly as I was expecting. My driving partner described it as lazy, and that echoes my initial impression of the powertrain. Further testing is warranted, because other Cars.com staffers who tested the same engine in a less hilly region had the opposite impression.

The ride in either model I tested is impressive. Our drive consisted of some fairly bumpy roads in alloy wheels, and the Optima always felt composed and predictable. It did a good job isolating the ripples and undulations of the road and dealt with all but the biggest bumps well. Kia said it reworked the chassis to include a different mix of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, and it altered the Optima's suspension geometry and components to improve the chassis dynamics. The work has paid off.

The Kia Optima is also a quiet car. Wind noise was negligible, and little road noise came into the cabin. Kia said the chassis changes that helped improve the car's dynamics also aimed to reduce cabin noise, vibration and harshness. Here again the work seems to have paid off.

There are three engines available in the Kia Optima. In addition to the two engines I tested, there's also a 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. That engine gets 24/35/28 mpg. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gets 22/32/25, while the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder gets 28/39/32 mpg.

Compared with the Fusion, Accord and Altima, the Kia Optima's mileage is competitive. The best mileage the 2016 Ford Fusion gets is 28 mpg combined. The 2016 Honda Accord with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine tops out at 31 mpg combined, while the 2015 Altima tops out at 31 mpg combined as well (the EPA hasn't yet rated the 2016).

To look at other differences between the competitors, check out this comparison.

Interior
Front-seat passengers can rejoice, because they now can have basically the same seat controls as the driver, including height adjustment, so those of short stature can see down the road better. And that's not just for the highest trim levels: In an Optima LX I took for a quick jaunt, the passenger's manually adjusting seat also had height adjustment. I did notice, however, that the lumbar support on the passenger side in the SXL isn't height-adjustable as it is for the driver.

The center controls are canted toward the driver, but not so far that I couldn't easily adjust the climate controls or read the navigation screen from the passenger seat. (In fact, if Kia hadn't told me the controls were angled toward the driver, I doubt I would have noticed.) There's good room for the front-seat passenger; I never felt pinned in or bumped elbows with my driving partner.

Overall, the interior's design is OK, but it's let down by an element I just don't think works. Kia's designers used a trim piece to create a distinct horizontal line across the dashboard. Above the line is a touch-screen, below it are physical controls. It almost works, except that passengers are then faced with a broad expanse of empty dashboard that I just didn't find pleasing. I also didn't like the graining or texture of the dashboard. This was less of an issue when I was driving, but as a passenger I wasn't impressed.

In terms of materials, the top-of-the-line SXL has padding where you want it; in general, it felt like it measured up to its class. A nit I have to pick is that I didn't like the horn button. Something about the plastic graining and its round shape stuck out in a bad way. It just didn't look as rich as I wanted it to.

While I wasn't able to spend as much time in the lower LX 1.6T trim, I can say the cloth seats felt supportive and high-quality. I wasn't as sold on how the cloth looked. It's not terrible, but I wouldn't put it at the top of the segment. The overall look of the interior — including the stitching and horizontal segmentation of the dashboard — remains in the lesser trim. While it's not as opulent as the SXL, it looks presentable.

In terms of interior room, the 2016 Kia Optima offers more legroom up front and more headroom front and rear than the Fusion, Accord or Altima, but it offers the least legroom in back. Compare interior specs for the SXL trim I tested with the other models' high-end trims here.

Practically, though, backseat room is competitive with the class. With the driver's seat set where I'd want it, I had plenty of room for my legs in the seat behind it. My knees were raised slightly, but I don't think it'd be intolerable even on a longish drive. It certainly didn't feel worse than other midsize vehicles I've been in lately. Headroom is also good, even with the panoramic moonroof on the SXL I drove.

Ergonomics & Electronics
Ergonomically, the 
Kia Optima is a very sound vehicle. The controls are easy to find and use, nothing felt awkward, and everything was laid out in a straightforward manner. The only control whose location I kept forgetting was the button that switched between Sport, Normal and Eco modes. Experience tells me that's not a button I use with any great frequency in my day-to-day driving, though, so that doesn't bug me.

Overall, the electronics worked well, allowing for easy changes between menus. The graphics, while not as crisp as those found in Ford's MyFord Touch setup, were good for the non-luxury segment.

An especially good electronic feature Kia offers is an around-view camera setup that gives you a 360-degree surround-view around the Optima. I found Kia's system to be the best of any such system I've tested; it seemed to offer the widest view around the Optima. Some systems — particularly the first ones on the market — gave a sense only of what was within 6 inches of the side of the car. The Kia system stretches the field of vision to show a much larger area. Other carmakers should take note of how well this system works.

Cargo & Storage
The new 
Kia Optima's slightly larger dimensions result in a slightly larger trunk. Kia says the 2016 Optima's trunk is half a cubic foot larger than the 2015 model. The trunk is a good size and wide, but it isn't the deepest opening from front to back in the class.

As far as the cabin goes, there's a nice selection of bins and cubbies for things like water bottles, phones and notebooks. In particular, there was a nice-sized tray ahead of the gearshift, with a second (very useful) cubby between that and the cupholders.

Safety
The 2016 
Kia Optima had not been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of publication.

In addition to the required front airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability system, Kia offers a number of safety features, including rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, forward collision warning with autonomous braking  and the aforementioned around-view monitor.

All those features are standard on the SXL I tested and optional on the SX trim. The autonomous braking system, lane departure warning and around-view monitor are not available on EX or LX models. Check the entire list of safety specifications here.

Value in Its Class
The 2016 redesign is a good effort that puts the Optima among the top of the class. Highlights include the improved chassis and overall interior quality.

While I didn't like some of the interior design choices, and I wasn't blown away by the newest engine, nothing in what I saw suggests Kia has screwed up the Optima. That's significant when you're dealing with a vehicle that was already good to start with.

Yet while substantial work has been done under the skin, there's little outward sign that the Optima has been redesigned. To sense the improvements, you really need to drive it. And in the midsize sedan market, where every significant automaker has an offering, having a little outward pizzazz indicating this is the new Kia Optima wouldn't be the worst idea.

As it is, Kia has an improved, good midsize sedan that impresses, but does little to grab your attention when it passes by.

Send Bill an email  

 


2016 Optima Video

Kia has lifted the veil on its all-new, 2016 Optima, showing off evolved sheet metal, adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and introducing new tech features.

Latest 2016 Optima Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.6)
Interior Design
(4.7)
Comfort
(4.8)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Best bang for the buck!!! Features/performance

by O Dogg from Lithonia, GA on August 15, 2018

When is comes to overall quality, this car is second to none. The features that come in this car at the various trim levels are the same or better than the cars that are considered high end. The ... Read full review

(5.0)

The Best Of Both Worlds!

by Cheyryan from Seattle, WA on August 6, 2018

This affordable mid sized sedan is not only spacious with a huge trunk and leg room but gets great gas mileage, and with the ability to switch between eco and sport mode it?s also extremely zippy and ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2016 Kia Optima currently has 3 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2016 Kia Optima LX

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
acceptable

Front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Overall evaluation
acceptable
Retraints and dummy kinematics
good
Structure and safety cage
marginal

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
acceptable
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
marginal
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    120 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 60,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Kia

Program Benefits

164-point inspection, Carfax vehicle history report, 10-year/unlimited mileage 24-hour roadside assistance including trip-interruption services and lockout assistance

  • Limited Warranty

    10 years / 100,000 miles

    10-year/100,000 mile powertrain limited warranty; towing/rental/travel breakdown benefits; eligible for additional comprehensive mechanical failure. Comprehensive: 12 months/12,000 miles from date of purchase.
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 60,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 164 point inspection and reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Optima received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Third-row access

N/A

Infant seat

A

Booster

(second row)

B

Booster

(third row)

N/A

Latch or Latch system

A

Forward-facing convertible

(third row)

N/A

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

A

Rear-facing convertible

A
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker