Not Messing With A Good Thing
Kia took the automotive world by storm with the fashionable design of the 2011 Optima, so much so that midsize category leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord were caught with pretty mundane looking cars. Fast forward a few short years and all the auto manufacturers have adopted the Optima’s design cues, putting the ball back in Kia’s court to come up with another ace. Enter the all-new 2016 Kia Optima LX, which Kia says was “passionately designed and obsessively crafted.” Or in other words…Game On!
Clean Fleet Report tested the front-wheel drive 2016 Kia Optima LX powered by a 1.6-liter, turbocharged DOHC engine with a gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine producing 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, all while running on regular unleaded. Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic, the Optima has an EPA fuel economy rating of 28 City/ 39 Highway/ 32 Combined. In 338 miles of 65-percent highway /35-percent city driving, we averaged 33.6 mpg, which means we exceeded the EPA’s highway rating of 39 mpg. The 40+ highway number is significant for a midsize non-hybrid sedan and one that all manufacturers are striving hard to achieve.
Driving Experience: On the Road
At 3,220 lbs., the Optima’s electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering handled corners well, but not exciting. I am sure it was Kia’s intention for a five-passenger car shod with 16-inch alloy
wheels to be more of a freeway cruiser than a hard-cornering sports sedan. The cabin was quiet and smooth at highway speeds, probably due to those 16-inch 205/65 R16 tires that are made to roll smoothly down the road. Larger 17 and 18-inch wheels and tires come on different Optima trim levels.
Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the power-assisted front ventilated front and rear solid disc brakes and a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) and brake assist.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Back to the Optima’s design. Kia says it has “European styling…delivering a class-up experience,” which fits nicely with the goal of making the Optima recognizable from its competition. The difference between the 2015 and 2016 Optima exterior design is subtle with refinements that include the car being longer and wider, resulting in a larger interior. Let’s just say the 2016 Optima has evolved into one of the best looking midsize sedans on the market.
Kia’s designers didn’t want to stray too far from the success they achieved with the current styling, but knew they had to move the 2016 Optima design to the next level. The front end has wrap-around, projection headlights that extend wide on the fenders, connected by a slim mesh grille. The roofline has a sports coupe look with a raked A-pillar and long swept-back C-pillar leading to a raised deck lid, capped-off with a subtle integrated lip. Finishing off the rear are narrow, down-and-inward angled LED tail lights (part of the optional LX Technology Package) that start midway through the rear fender and end on the trunk lid.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report was driving the base 2016 Kia Optima LX 1.6L Turbo with the LX Technology Package, a $2,600 option that added important convenience and safety features. Kia is known for a high-level of equipment on its base model cars, so adding a package should be a decision that makes spending time in the car more enjoyable.
The interior has been completely redesigned for 2016 and, even if you were not familiar with the previous model, you will quickly appreciate what Kia has done to make the driving experience one of convenience and comfort. The cockpit layout is simple and clean with soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. The easy-to-find and read controls include the cruise control, telephone, navigation and audio, which are housed on the steering wheel. I was especially pleased to see the radio had On/Off knobs for volume and channel selecting, and the climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark – regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.
The simplicity of the dash layout also made reading the gauges and operating the six-speaker sound system easy. The Optima LX comes standard with a five-inch LCD touch screen for the rear-view camera display, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription) and the AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 radio. You also get USB ports, iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. Clean Fleet Report’s Optima LX with the LX Technology Package increased the LCD touch-screen to eight inches.
The 2016 Kia Optima LX comes standard with (or had included in the LX Technology Package) dual zone automatic temperature control with rear vents in the center console, cruise control, power
heated and folding mirrors with LED turn signals, power windows and door locks, multiple cup holders, carpeted and logoed floor mats, front center console arm rest with cup holders, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual map lights and lighted vanity mirrors, and USB and a 12-volt accessory outlets up front.
The front cloth seats (leather comes standard or as an option on different Optima trim levels) are power for the driver and manually adjustable for the passenger. The driver gets a tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise. The Optima LX can seat three adults in the 60/40 split bench rear seat. For longer trips two adults would be more comfortable where they could take advantage of the fold down armrest with cup holders.
Safety and Convenience
Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Optima LX came with safety and convenience features including seven air bags, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system, push button start, electronic stability control, traction control, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, projector beam headlights, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist, anti-theft engine immobilizer and the before mentioned four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2016 Kia Optima has an Overall 5-Star rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2016 Optima its highest rating of a Top Safety Pick.
Pricing and Warranties
MSRP for the five 2016 Kia Optima trim levels range from $21,990 to $35,890. Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Optima LX had an MSRP of $26,590. Options are extra and all prices exclude the $825 Freight and Handling charge.
The 2016 Kia Optima comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Five-year/60,000-mile
- Powertrain – 10-year/100,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance – Five-year/60,000-mile
Observations: 2016 Kia Optima LX 1.6L Turbo
I liked the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid and can say that the 2016 Optima also impressed me. The gentle exterior restyling and all-new interior design has upped the game for midsize sedan buyers. The Optima is comfortable to drive, the 1.6L turbo with the seven-speed automatic is peppy, accelerates strong and gets excellent fuel economy.
The Kia Optima is a strong entry in the extremely competitive mid-size car segment with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima leading the way. So when out shopping, visit your local Kia dealership and take a look at the different Optima models, noting the value Kia packs in with an impressive list of standard features.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report also got a chance to test the 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited — the top-of-the-line Optima. The test is here.
Road Test: 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Honda Accord
Road Test: 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid
First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima
Road Test: 2014 Nissan Altima
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market.
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