Kia Optima Road Test

First Drive
2016 Kia Optima Sets Sights on Family-Car Heavyweights
Taking a run at top contenders Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy, and Toyota Camry
It's easy to walk right by the new Kia Optima; it's not all that visually different than the last one. However, the Optima sedan has indeed been redesigned for the 2016 model year.

The Optima, a corporate sibling of the Hyundai Sonata, has been a stylish and competitive midsized sedan for the past five years, but it didn't excel in ride comfort and noise isolation.

To take measure of the improvements, we bought an EX model fitted with a 185-hp, 2.4-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Even with a quick glance inside, it's clear that the passenger space is greatly increased. The rear seat, in particular, seems enormous, offering lots of leg room. And even though the EX version isn't the top of the line, the interior has impressive feature content , such as a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate system, keyless ignition, and leather seats (the front ones are heated). All for a competitive price of $25,860.

With the structural changes, the new Optima's wheelbase and overall length grew, and the trunk is more voluminous. Other news is that the 2016 models get the latest UVO infotainment touch-screen system that can utilize Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, allowing smartphone-like functions.

First driving impressions show that the engine is responsive enough; you don't feel it's lacking for power. We're pleased that Kia fitted a true automatic instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which several competitors have turned to with mixed results. The steering has some heft to it so it gives you some confidence, but the Optima is no sports sedan, nor a challenge for say a Ford Fusion or Mazda6. Unfortunately, like the last Optima, the ride remains rather stiff but not brutally so.

The leather seats give decent support and come with power adjustments, including a four-way lumbar adjustment-rare in this class. Visibility, one of the criticisms we had with the last car, is better for the 2016 model. The interior isn't as quiet as some in class, but it doesn't make for a grating highway ride.

We like that you can get a standard touch screen for audio and phone functions, but the display is pretty small. Unlike the flashy exterior, the interior has a purposeful and practical bent to it: functional and user friendly. Too bad the center dash vents are too low. Fit and finish is commendable.
CR's Take
The Optima has a good shot of success since it excels in offering impressive interior space with lots of features, making it a shockingly good value. Throw in a stylish flair typically missing from the mainstream, and you can see the car's appeal. It simply looks better than most sedans in this segment and fools people into thinking that you spent more money.

Kia has always sold its cars by adding impressive content for a reasonable price and with the new Optima, the tradition continues. As the miles pile on, we will soon put our Optima through our battery of tests and evaluations to see how it ranks against its peers.


All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.

Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.

Basic (years/miles)

Powertrain (years/miles)

Rust through (years/miles)

Roadside aid (years/miles)