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2016 Kia Optima Windy City Review +VIDEO By Larry Nutson

2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima
Value with Pizzazz

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

Even though we keep hearing that everyone is buying SUVs of all sizes and various midsize and large pickups, there’s a large segment of the population buying cars.

Kia just had its tenth consecutive month of sales increases and the 2016 Kia Optima sedan is a large part of that. The Optima is Kia’s number two seller, right behind the Kia Soul.

The all-new Optima is quite stylish and is designed to stand out in the midsize sedan segment that is filled with entries that look and drive the same. As the actor Christopher Walken explained in the Optima TV spot, “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who are content to blend in … then there are those who expect more. They’re exciting. They have pizzazz.”

Just like a pair of colorful socks can liven up a beige suit, the Kia Optima is designed to liven up your daily commute or weekend road trip.

The 2016 Kia Optima made its debut at the New York International Auto Show in Spring last year. Cars arrived in dealers in the Fall coinciding with the national rollout. Offered in five trim levels – LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX and SXL, the all-new 2016 Optima is priced with a starting MSRP of $21,840 for the LX with a 2.4-liter engine.

My Optima-for-a-week was the SX Turbo equipped with the SXT Launch Edition package and priced at a total of $33,215, including $825 for freight and handling.

2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

The new Optima has received subtle changes to its sporty exterior design that carries from its signature tiger-nose grille bordered by new Bi-Xenon HID headlights through a swept back A-pillar to the raised deck lid and the available LED halo-style tail lights.

Like many next-generation new vehicles, the exterior dimensions are marginally longer, taller and wider. The wheelbase has been extended to 110.4 inches (increased 0.4 inches), and the vehicle has been widened to 73.2 inches (increased 1.2 inches).  Both changes provide for a roomier cabin with more head room, shoulder room and rear seat leg room.  The increased dimensions also allow for more cargo capacity in the trunk, up 0.5 cuft from the previous-generation Optima to 15.9 cuft. Underneath, more high-strength steel makes for better ride and handling.

2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

On the inside the Optima is larger, making for more comfort, with an overall higher quality and a greater use of soft-touch materials. Seats have a stiffer frame to reduce vibration. Soft foam in the headrest and upper back, and denser, more supportive foam in thigh-support areas along with deeper side bolsters provide more support and comfort.  Heated and ventilated front seats are available with power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. 
2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

My wife and I took a weekend road trip and we found the overall interior to be comfortable and pleasant. The Merlot leather seats did there job. There was no fatigue or a stiff back on my part due to bad seats. recently named the 2016 Optima to its “10 Must-Experience Interiors for Under $40,000” list, having one of the best interiors on the market today. That’s saying something.

The front-wheel drive Optima is available with three engine choices paired with specific trim levels. Two engines have been used on the previous generation Optima but have been retuned for both better performance and fuel consumption. The 185 horsepower 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder is available on the LX and EX models. The 245 horsepower 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine comes on the SXL and SX models.  Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic shifting, and the SX and SXL trims add paddle shifters.

All new for the 2016 model is a 178 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine offered on the LX trim. The new engine mates to a seven-speed DCT, a first for the Kia brand.  The dual-clutch transmission provides a very sporty feel and yet doesn’t sacrifice fuel economy. The LX 1.6T model has the best Optima EPA test fuel economy ratings at 32 mpg combined with 25 city mpg and 39 highway mpg.

The EPA-test ratings for the media-loan Optima 2.0 Turbo that I drove are 25 mpg combined with 22 city mpg and 32 highway mpg. On our weekend road trip, which was around 240 miles of interstate driving each way, I got in the range of 31-32 mpg while cruising spiritedly on the 70mph posted speed limit highway. All Optimas have an 18.5 gallon fuel tank which can make for 600 or even 700 miles of driving if you’re soft on the pedal.

Some niceties from my perspective on the Optima are a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and power-fold outside mirrors. A subtle nicety is the low-volume beep when you lock the car instead of the full blast of the horn like so many cars do. Along with a Nav system and a great sounding Harmon Kardon audio Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are offered.

On the market today from Kia and many other automakers is some really great driver-assistance technology that everyone should consider opting for. In spite of up-front purchase costs it can pay for itself down the road if it saves you from just one accident and the associated risks of injury, vehicle damage and of course the proverbial insurance deductible.

2016 Kia Optima  (select to view enlarged photo)

Available on every Optima is a rear-view camera and SX and SXL trims offer an available 360-degree Surround-View Monitor.  Available driver-aid technology includes Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Parking Assist System, Front Collision Warning System, Lane Departure Warning System and Autonomous Emergency Braking. This last feature will, under appropriate conditions, bring the vehicle to a complete stop to potentially avoid a collision or reduce damage.

For more information and specs on the 2016 Optima have a look at To compare the Optima to other midsize sedans have a look right here at The Auto Channel.

At the recent 2016 Chicago Auto Show Kia introduced the Optima Hybrid (HEV) and Optima Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that will be out for the 2017 model year. The Optima Hybrid is EPA test rated at 42 mpg combined. The Optima Plug-in hybrid is EPA test rated at 40 mpg combined and can travel 27 miles on pure battery power.

The all-new 2016 Optima midsize sedan was named to Kelley Blue Book’s 16 Best Family Cars for 2016 list. Road & Travel Magazine has named the 2016 Kia Optima as its International Car of the Year.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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