Used 2016 Kia Optima Review
The 2016 Kia Optima combines sporty styling with a strong value proposition that's hard to beat in the midsize sedan segment.
The midsize sedan segment is filled with sedans so renowned that they need no introduction. Camry. Accord. Fusion. Even though the Kia Optima has been on sale in the United States since 2001, it only recently elevated itself from the bargain basement to become a serious competitor. Kicking off a new generation, the 2016 Kia Optima raises the bar set by its esteemed predecessor, a car that helped shift the perception of the brand over the last half-decade.
The redesigned 2016 Kia Optima maintains the previous generation's stylish looks, with just a few updates to the front and rear.
One thing that hasn't changed much for 2016 is the Optima's exterior styling. Slightly longer, wider and taller than the car it replaces, this Kia is still a head-turner, but you'll need to take a hard look to notice the subtle differences. Underneath the skin is another story. High-strength steel is used extensively in the chassis, which Kia says makes for better structural rigidity, handling and high-speed stability. In addition to the carryover 2.4-liter base engine, a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is now available that promises better performance and fuel economy. The optional 2.0-liter turbo actually gets less power and torque this time around, but it's still the sporty choice in the lineup.
Even as it inches toward the standard-bearers in this segment in terms of price, the Optima is still a great choice for value. The base Optima LX already comes with a nice selection of convenience items, while fancier configurations offer features that are uncommon at this level, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, quilted leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera. Such premium content would be more expected in the Optima's big brother, the Cadenza, but it's a clear differentiator in the context of other family sedans.
The midsize sedan segment is not wanting for worthy competitors to the 2016 Kia Optima. The 2016 Honda Accord is thoroughly refreshed for this year, boasting bold new styling and Honda's usual powertrain excellence. The 2016 Mazda 6 is stylish and fun to drive, but those who find its 2.5-liter engine lacking in oomph don't get the choice for a more powerful motor. The 2016 Toyota Camry is a little more vanilla, but its reputation for reliability is unmatched. You could also check out the Optima's closely related cousin, the well-rounded 2016 Hyundai Sonata. However, the 2016 Optima — with its blend of performance, style and value — is right in the mix with today's elite midsize family sedans.
trim levels & features
The 2016 Kia Optima is a five-passenger midsize sedan that comes in LX (differentiated slightly for the base 2.4-liter engine and the 1.6T), EX, SX and SXL trim levels.
The LX comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seatback, a rearview camera, a 5-inch central display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The LX's optional Convenience package adds an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), laminated (i.e., quieter) front door windows, power-folding heated mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver memory settings. Also included are a few safety features, including a blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert.
Going for the LX 1.6T gets you a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, the laminated front door windows and heated and power-folding mirrors from the Convenience package, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and keyless entry and ignition.
The LX 1.6T Technology package folds in the remaining features from the LX's Convenience package, plus LED taillights, two charge-only USB ports, dual-zone climate control, rear air-conditioning vents and an 8-inch touchscreen bundled with HD radio, a navigation system and Kia's Uvo infotainment system.
With the EX, you get feature content similar to the LX 1.6T but with the base engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery and all features from the Technology package minus the auto-dimming rearview mirror, 8-inch touchscreen bundle and optional blind-spot monitoring/cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
Opting for the EX's Premium package equips the EX with those features (auto-dimming mirror, 8-inch touchscreen bundle and safety features) plus a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, an eight-way power passenger seat (with power lumbar) and heated and ventilated front seats. To this you can add the Premium Audio package, which includes heated rear seats, rear side window sunshades and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.
Compared to an Optima EX, the SX comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine,18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive xenon headlights, LED taillights, a rear spoiler, unique exterior styling details, upgraded gauges, the auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the 8-inch touchscreen bundle and rear side window sunshades.
The available Premium Technology package includes the entire contents of the EX's Premium and Premium Audio packages. It also adds automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree parking camera system and an electronic parking brake. More safety features are also added, including a lane departure warning system, and a frontal collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
The quilted premium leather upholstery comes standard on the SXL trim level.
The SXL tops the Optima range and makes standard all of the above features. Also included are exterior chrome accents, unique interior trim and premium leather upholstery.
performance & mpg
Every 2016 Kia Optima is front-wheel drive. The LX and EX come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
As its name suggests, the LX 1.6T comes with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 178 hp and 195 lb-ft. Kia pairs this engine with a seven-speed automated clutch transmission, which effectively operates as an automatic.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque is standard on the SX and SXL. The six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a 2016 Kia Optima SX went from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is a slightly below-average time for a midsize sedan with an upgraded engine.
The EPA estimates fuel economy with the 2.4-liter at 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway). For the turbocharged engines, fuel economy ratings are 32 mpg combined (28 city/39 highway) for the 1.6-liter and 25 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway) for the 2.0-liter.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Kia Optima include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard, while optional features include a 360-degree surround-view camera, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind-spot monitoring system, lane departure warning and a forward collision warning and intervention system with emergency automatic braking.
The Uvo telematics system is standard on most trims, and includes roadside assistance, collision notification and driver restrictions and tracking for secondary drivers.
During Edmunds testing, an Optima SX came to a stop from 60 mph in 112 feet, one of the best braking distances we've ever recorded for a vehicle in this segment with all-season tires.
With discernibly more punch than the lackluster and overly noisy 2.4-liter engine, the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is a solid pick for overall power and fuel economy. We also like the seven-speed transmission's quick shifts. For V6-like power, though, the stronger 2.0-liter turbo-4 will be the engine to get. It's strong and smooth, if not quite as snappy overall as the Accord V6 or Camry V6.
The prevailing theme of the 2016 Kia Optima's driving experience is isolation. On one hand, this is a good thing, as the Optima exhibits a near-total lack of outside noise at cruising speed. The new chassis, extensive sound deadening and the optional laminated front windows do a remarkable job of keeping road, wind and tire noise at bay. Conversing at highway speeds requires little more than a whisper to carry your voice throughout the cabin.
The 2016 Optima's turbocharged engines are strong, but numb steering prevents the car from being truly engaging to drive.
On the other side of the isolation coin is the Optima's steering, which is overly light and uncommunicative when set in the Normal drive mode. Steering effort increases significantly when set to Sport mode, but even then, the wheel just doesn't give the feedback needed to impart driver confidence. The steering missteps are unfortunate, as the Optima (particularly the SX) offers a decent amount composure and body control around turns.
The sport suspension in models with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine has seemingly been retuned since the last Optima, as it no longer produces the ride discomfort we experienced in the previous-generation car. Ride quality is a bit busier than in other performance-minded sedans in this class but shouldn't deter anyone from considering these models. We have yet to test the Optima in 2.4- or 1.6-liter configurations with the standard suspension setup.
Step into the 2016 Kia Optima and you'll find a handsome, spacious interior that, while not particularly impressive in any one area, is highly functional and accessible. Like other vehicles in this segment, there's an abundance of soft-touch plastics, but there are still hard touch points surrounding the center stack and on the door armrests. The front seats are quite comfortable, although they do not offer much lateral support, even in the performance-minded SX. The upper-crust SXL features quilted leather upholstery with a quality that clearly aims higher than typical midsize sedan offerings.
The Optima's 8-inch touchscreen comes with Kia's Uvo system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration will also be available.
Tall rear-seat passengers may have some difficulty finding a comfortable seating position, as the rakish roofline reduces headroom in the back. The panoramic sunroof available on upper trim levels allows taller front-row occupants to sympathize with those in the rear, as it, too, cuts into headroom. On the bright side, there is plenty of legroom all around and the seats are reasonably wide. Cargo capacity is 15.8 cubic feet, which is right in line with the Optima's closest rivals.
The 8-inch touchscreen features large, easy-to-press virtual buttons and a sharp, legible picture. We like that the Optima utilizes physical buttons for navigating top-tier functions, as they require less concentration to operate accurately and safely on the road. Smartphone integration comes courtesy of Android Auto and, later in the model year, Apple CarPlay.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.