As the Kia Optima mid-size sedan ages, it’s getting softer, kinder, and gentler to owners and passengers. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen to a new-generation car? Kia has made significant upgrades to the stylish sedan and it shows up in the cabin in a big way. On the outside, the new 2016 Kia Optima looks like a coupe with its raked roofline but it’s the inside that gets the majority of the changes.
This week we test drove the top of the lineup 2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0T Limited.
The Kia Optima is all-new for the 2016 model year. The redesigned Optima features one of the most refined interiors in the midsize sedan class. The cabin gets quieter and more comfortable for occupants. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine carries over from the previous model and the sedan comes with a front-wheel drive configuration.
Features & Options
The 2016 Optima SX 2.0T Limited ($35,790) features gloss black and hairline metal interior trim, metal pedals, and 18-inch wheels. Optima SXL 2.0T upgrades to Nappa leather upholstery, 12-way driver’s and 10-way passenger’s power seats, heated and ventilated front seats, 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound, advanced cruise control, stitched upper door trim, and active-safety features. No additional options were added and the Black Nappa Leather was added at no extra charge.
Total MSRP: $36,616 including destination.
In addition to being a good value, the new Kia Optima offers one of the most refined interiors in the midsize sedan class. The redesigned Optima’s cabin is an inviting place with its soft Nappa leather seats and this tester had an all black interior.We immediately noticed the quilted leather seats that have been improved with longer cushions and greater side bolstering for more comfort.
Optima’s roomy interior gets new buttons and trim making it a comfortable place to spend time.
On the road, we could tell Kia used more sound-deadening material in the cabin. The cabin is quiet and has a more refined feel. It’s quite a change from the previous generation’s cabin which was a lot noisier. The improvement is the result of Kia listening to reviews from journalists and customers and kudos to them for listening.
The rear seat remains average for comfort and roominess. The rear compartment isn’t the best out there in terms of space and taller passengers will feel like their knees are up too high because of the flat seat cushions. The only other complaint we had was the heated front seats stopped working on a cold morning when we were looking forward to the extra warmth.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Optima SX is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that generates 245 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and a powertrain switch features Eco, Normal, and Sport settings.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine is EPA-rated at 22/32 mpg and 25 combined and takes premium unleaded fuel.
At the higher altitude of Denver and foothills west of the city where we test drive all our vehicles, the SX’s 2.0-liter turbo is the way to go. A 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine is available in the LX and EX trim but we liked the 2.0-liter turbo’s strong and smooth power delivery as we took it up I-70 into the mountains. Once the turbo kicks in, it’s power pushed us back in the seat as we stood on the gas pedal.
On the fun-to-drive-meter, the sedan is better than most of the completion and we would rate it high.
The 2016 Kia Optima feels responsive and nimble with the ride quality improved over the previous model. It’s not a sports sedan, but the Optima features a good balance of ride/handling compromise for a mid-size sedan. Buyers who like to drive will appreciate the turbo’s power and the smooth shifts from the 6-speed automatic. We used the paddle shifters to shift gears manually for more spirited driving this week.
In the mountain curves, the 2.0-liter didn’t struggle to keep driver engagement up as we powered through the tight corners. We checked out the Driver Mode Select system that provided the aforementioned three settings: Eco, Normal, and Sport. Each mode changes shift points and throttle sensitivity accordingly, although we thought the Eco Mode resulted in hesitant shifting.
We stayed in Normal and Sport most of the time.
The safety features are worth noting on the Kia Optima SX. This tester came with rearview camera, and a full compliment of standard features like rear parking sensors, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Others included autonomous emergency braking, front collision and lane departure warnings, and surround-view monitor.
All helped in congested city driving.
The redesigned 2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0T Limited offers lots of value for the money. It comes with one of the more refined cabins in the segment and more safety features than most. It’s loaded with standard features and the 2.0-liter turbo engine delivers plenty power in all driving situations.
2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0 Turbo Gallery
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy