2016 Kia Optima: Performance Tested
by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on February 17, 2016
Now that our long-term 2016 Kia Optima is broken in, it was time to take it to the track. We specifically ordered this model with the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and new seven-speed dual clutch and were eager to see how the combo performed.
Despite this being an eco-minded model, we hoped that this setup would prove both exciting and economical. Read on to see how it fared at its limits.
Vehicle: 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo
Driver: Carlos Lago
Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Engine Type: Turbocharged inline-four cylinder
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,591/97
Redline (rpm): Indicated at 6,600 (shifts at 6,000)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 178 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 195 @
Brake Type (front): One-piece ventilated discs with two-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): One-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent, multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Tire Size (front): 205/65R16
Tire Size (rear): 205/65R16
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Energy Saver A/S
Tire Type: Low-rolling resistance
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,248
0-30 (sec): 3.2 (w/ TC on 3.4)
0-45 (sec): 5.0 (w/ TC on 5.3)
0-60 (sec): 7.7 (w/TC on 8.2)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 7.4 (w/TC on 7.8)
0-75 (sec): 11.5 (w/TC on 12.1)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 15.72 @ 89.1 (w/TC on 16.09 @ 87.4)
30-0 (ft): 31
60-0 (ft): 124
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.77 (0.76 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 2,000
Acceleration: We're surprised by the lack of refinement from this dual-clutch transmission. During part- and full-throttle applications, this transmission exhibits a significant delay during upshifts. As the Optima prepares for a shift, you can feel it slowly roll off the power. After making the shift, it slowly re-engages the throttle. This delay is visible in the data and occurs on each upshift, stacking time against acceleration. It also makes the engine's power deliver feel needlessly non-linear. The engine gets loud around 4,500 rpm under full load, but doesn't sound very good. Never mind the 6,600 rpm indicated redline — the transmission automatically upshifts at 6,000 rpm regardless of drive or shift mode.
The Optima seems hesitant to accept application of both brake and gas pedals (pedal overlap). Doing so brings up engine speed so you can accelerate with the engine producing more power, but revs rise slowly and don't go past 1,500 rpm. Sport drive mode and manual shift mode didn't make an appreciable difference to shift quality or speed, but showed acceleration improvement. We achieved fastest acceleration in these settings by holding both gas and brake pedals until the tach reached around 1,500 rpm.
Braking: Stops feel longer than the recorded distances show due to lots of ABS feedback. You feel shuddering through the brake pedal and feel and hear similar vibrations from the tires and the chassis. No steering corrections are needed, but these sensations might make for a bit more excitement than you'd want during an emergency stop. Over five stops, distances stabilized around 126 feet, longer than average for the segment. Braking performance didn't degrade afterwards and the braking system did not produce odor or fade, and pedal feel remained consistent throughout testing.
Skidpad: The effects of stability control are difficult to notice on the skidpad. Turning it off seemed to allow for a little more steering input and control, but the 0.01-g average difference between turning the system off and on means this may be a placebo effect. The Optima is easy to hold on a line, exhibiting low handling limits and a moderate amount of body roll. The seats don't have a lot of lateral support, even for a mid-size sedan, so you may have to brace yourself. You have some freedom to adjust the car's attitude in a corner by applying and releasing the gas pedal, but you're working primarily with understeer and low limits — Carlos Lago
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 1,364 miles