Aspen, Col. ? I went to new heights, or what seemed like the top of the world, for the introduction of the 2016 Kia Optima.
I could still remember the excitement around the launch of the 2010 Optima when it got the great new body design, so was excited to see what surprises they might have on this fourth generation mid-size sedan. The Optima has been the most important vehicle for the Kia brand for the last five years and it has been the spearhead of the company?s smart new design language. It has also been the Kia sales leader.
For 2016 the Optima doesn?t get the stunning new design, like the last time, rather the new design is more like one of the makeovers I see on one of the talk shows. The basic elements are unchanged but with a new sophistication and elegance. Kia design has been shepherded by Kia?s president and chief design officer, Peter Schreyer, who was formerly responsible for many of the great Audi designs.
The new Optima interior was inspired by the Kia?s top line luxury sedans, the K900 and Cadenza. Soft touch materials with genuine stitching decorate the surfaces of the driver-oriented interior spaces. Seats are strung on a stiffer seat frame with soft foam in the headrest and upper back, and with more supportive foam in the thigh-support along with deeper side bolsters. I was very comfortable on my 300-mile introduction drive through the mountains southwest of Denver.
Designers even improved the control placement, by using fewer buttons, but without burying commands under deep menus. Five trim levels make up the Optima family: LX 2.4, LX 1.6T, EX 2.4, SX 2.0T and SXL 2.0T. The numbers after the model designation represent the engine that model uses.
Our Optima introduction drive route took my driving partner and me from a starting point at 8,000 feet above sea level to more than 12,000 when going over the Continental Divide. Just like I had trouble breathing at the high altitudes, the little four-cylinder engines which powered the Optima tend to get a little lethargic, unless they are turbocharged so it was nice that our test vehicle was.
The 2016 Kia Optima has two available turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The standard engine in the LX and EX models is a naturally aspirated 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and is attached to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. The higher fuel efficiency model LX 1.6T is powered by a new 178-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a seven-speed double clutch transmission. The standard engine in the upper level SX and SXL is a very quick 245-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Early estimates have the 2.0T accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds.
The EPA rates the fuel sipping 1.6T engine at 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. The 2.4-liter has a 25/37/30 mpg rating and the 2.0T is 22/32/26 mpg.
No new car would be complete without the latest and greatest technologies, and the Kia Optima has its share with features like the UVO connectivity system including new features like Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score, all which are good ways for a parent to monitor the driving activities of their teen drivers.
The system also allows access to Internet functions through the new Android Auto? and Apple CarPlay?. These systems enhance the Optima?s connectivity for entertainment, communications and information by displaying your smartphone?s most important features on the Kia?s eight-inch touchscreen. The screen also displays navigation functions and acts as the screen for the rear view monitor. Audiophiles will appreciate the brilliant Harman/Kardon QuantrumLogic?7 Premium Surround Sound System, which made ?Ol? Blue Eyes? sound pretty good when I listened to him on the SiriusXM satellite radio Channel 71 (Seriously Sinatra).
When it comes to the latest and greatest hi-tech safety equipment the 2016 Kia Optima has a boatload. The list includes a rearview camera, 360-degree Surround-View Monitor, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Parking Assist System, Front Collision Warning System, Lane Departure Warning System and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Other available features include Bi-Xenon HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Lamps and intuitive High Beam Assist (HBA).
The 2016 Kia Optima pricing starts at $22,665, including the destination charge, for the LX with 2.4-liter engine. The top of the line SX Limited (SXL) is priced at $36,615 and includes all the available features.
I liked the old Kia Optima, but this new and improved version goes to the head of the class, and is as good as or better than any of the multitude of well-known competitors. And like all Kias, the Optima still has the best warranty in the business which includes a 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, five year/60,000 mile basic warranty and roadside assistance plans.
To learn more about the 2016 Kia Optima go on the Internet to http://www.kia.com/us/en/vehicle/optima/2016.