2016 Kia Optima: Press the Sport Button
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on February 18, 2016
Starting the 2016 Kia Optima is effectively a two-step process.
Step 1: Press Start button. Step 2: Press Drive Mode button until the word "Sport" glows yellow in the gauges.
Doing so will result in the car, and specifically the throttle and transmission, behaving like a car should. When you press the throttle, the engine responds and moves the car forward with an immediacy determined by your right foot. The transmission stays in an appropriate gear for the speed in which you're travelling.
As a bonus, the steering firms up to the point where moving it actually provides some semblance of feel for what the wheels are doing. Some semblance. Not a lot.
This is to say that I find the Optima's Normal driving mode to be quite intolerable. And the fact that the Optima defaults to Normal every time you get back into the car does not help the situation. In Normal, should you need a quick burst of acceleration — say to pull out into a faster moving lane or quickly turn left into on-coming traffic — you will most likely be met with the following response: nothing.
Or more accurately, put your foot to the floor in Normal and the engine will begin to rev with the immediacy of an octogenarian in 5-inch Louboutins. Hours later, when it eventually gets to around 3,500, boost does kick in but by that time you've either missed your opportunity, been plowed by faster-moving traffic or caused the on-coming traffic to try out their brakes and horn. Fun times.
In an effort to be constructive, I therefore propose that "Sport" be renamed "Normal" and "Normal" be renamed "Grandma." There's also an Eco mode, which I assume just slams the car in Park should you choose to accelerate. I definitely would not press that.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor @ 1,477 miles