What Did We Get?
When the Kia Optima was redesigned in 2011 it was groundbreaking. It had a design so striking that it reinvented the brand overnight. Sedan shoppers who never thought twice about Kia suddenly considered the idea of putting an Optima in their driveway.
We drove one for a year and liked much of what it offered. It wasn't perfect, though, so it didn't knock the class leaders off their perch.
For 2016, the Kia Optima has been redesigned again. This time around, Kia knows it has a good-looking car on its hands, so it didn't change much on the outside. It even made a Super Bowl commercial mocking the blandness of its competitors.
Most of the changes were made to the underlying chassis, suspension tuning and interior. Kia also added an interesting new turbocharged engine option that delivers strong performance and even more miles per gallon than the base engine. It's once again an intriguing option that we wanted to know more about, so we decided to give it another try and add one to the fleet.
What Options Does It Have?
There are four trim levels of the new Optima: LX, EX, SX and SXL. The base LX starts at $22,840 and comes with the kind of stuff you would expect in a new, midsize family sedan. It has a standard power-adjustable driver seat, a rear back-up camera, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and a USB port. It's powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
We wanted to try out the new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, so we opted for the Optima LX 1.6T, which starts at $24,840. It has less horsepower than the base engine, but more torque. It also uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in place of the standard six-speed.
All LX 1.6T models are upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless ignition and heated side mirrors. Our car is also equipped with the optional LX Technology package, which adds a navigation system, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist sensors and LED taillights. Dual-zone climate control, driver seat memory settings and extra USB ports are also part of the deal. It adds $2,600 to the bottom line along with $130 for floor mats. Altogether, our Optima carries a sticker of $27,545.
Why We Got It
The last Optima came out of nowhere and put Kia on the family sedan map. It reminded shoppers that a practical family car didn't have to look boring. A few competitors even took note and upped their game in the styling department to keep up.
Now that the sheen has worn off, it's time to see if the Optima's second act elevates it to a top-tier midsize family sedan on par with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. This Optima has to do more than just look good; it has to feel good in every respect. That means a more refined ride, higher-quality interior materials and improved ergonomics all around. A year in our fleet will give it plenty of time to show why it deserves a spot alongside the industry's best family sedans, or it might show why it's still a step behind.
Read along on our long-term road test blog to see daily updates on its progress.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.