2016 Kia Optima: Easy to Lose in a Parking Lot
by Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor on July 27, 2016
It's safe to say that the 2011 Kia Optima helped transform Kia's image from a me-too automaker to a company that produces vehicles Americans want to own. This was largely due to sharp bodywork shaped by ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer. But despite Kia's supposed anti-beige philosophy, I think the redesigned 2016 Kia Optima takes a step backward to safer territory, at least in our tester's featureless LX trim and nondescript Sparkling Silver paint.
One of the primary reasons we added an Optima to our long-term fleet was to sample the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and dual-clutch transmission. This powertrain is only available on the LX level, which is the base trim for the Optima. It looks decidedly different from the SX Limited featured in Kia's commercial. You don't get the chrome accents on the front fascia and door sills, dual exhaust tips, LED taillights, rear lip spoiler or (non-functional) ground effects.
With all these little details absent, the Optima looks very plain, especially in silver. As I write this, I've been driving the Optima for the better part of three weeks. One week in, my girlfriend asked what I was driving. "The Optima," I replied. "You've been in it for a week." She scrunched up her face as she tried to conjure an image. "I honestly don't remember what it looks like."
During that span I also accidently attempted to enter a silver Hyundai Sonata one morning after I got coffee at a local Starbucks. On another occasion, we wasted a few minutes wandering the Costco parking lot as we tried to pick it out of the crowd. A few days later, I asked my mother to find the Optima in a mall parking lot. She correctly identified it, but not because it's distinctive. "I knew the truck parked facing us was partially in our spot, so I figured our car was the one sticking out further than the rest."
Not exactly a car that Crazy Socks Walken would approve of, then.
Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor @ 8,980 miles