2016 Kia Optima: Prepared to Hate It
by Michael Massey, Vehicle Testing Assistant on August 4, 2016
When fleetmaster Mike Schmidt handed me the key to the 2016 Kia Optima, I didn't expect much. As the new Vehicle Testing Assistant, I was excited to drive my first car, but I've personally never been a fan of the brand based on friends who experienced multiple mechanical problems with their Kias years ago. But a night in the Optima made it clear that my head had been stuck in the sand.
Let me explain.
When I got down to the garage and found the Optima, I was confused. Its front end was fresh, and Cameron's criticisms notwithstanding, the car looked like it had a personality. I slid into the driver seat and was impressed by how well Kia designed everything. The infotainment was simple and intuitive. The seat was comfortable and easy to adjust to my preferences. The instrument cluster was satisfying and clean in appearance. It was hard to believe that I was in a Kia, but the logo on the steering wheel reminded me this was the case.
I put the seven-speed transmission into drive and meandered onto the traffic-laden streets of Santa Monica.
Stop-and-go traffic stretched up Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Canyon. It was here that I noticed the first thing I didn't like. Under these conditions, the gas pedal didn't react how I expected. The car lagged and felt unresponsive. But when I was halfway home on the Woodland Hills side of Topanga Canyon, sitting at a red light, I remembered a helpful tip from one of our editors: Press the Sport Button.
Mashing the mode button revealed three apparent choices: Nothing (no indicator light), Eco and Sport. I selected Sport. The light turned green and I accelerated just like I did in Eco mode. What an impressive breath of life. A final nail in the coffin of my outdated opinions. I can confirm that this car behaves best in Sport mode. Press that button.
By the time I pulled into my driveway, I realized something. If I were in the market for a midsize sedan, this Kia Optima would be on my list. In a single drive, the Optima turned me into a solid believer in the brand and had me looking forward to driving other Kia products. While my head was buried, Kia positioned itself to compete with the big brands that used to hold a big lead.
Michael Massey, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 8,685 miles