The new-for-2016 Kia Optima is a study in persistence, and with good reason: Thanks to engineering and design overhauls completed in prior redesigns, the Optima is steadily gaining market share in a midsize sedan segment packed with competitors like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu.
The Optima also competes against its cousin, the Hyundai Sonata, but doesn’t share much aside from a platform and some underpinnings. Its sleek, modern, European styling comes courtesy of Peter Schreyer, who joined the South Korean OEM after making his name with the Audi TT and Volkswagen’s New Beetle.
Schreyer’s “Tiger Nose” façade returns for another tour. This time, it has a hexagonal mesh grille offset by bi-xenon HID headlights that swivel with the steering wheel. The body is an inch wider and gains about a half inch in the roofline and wheelbase, adding headroom as well as cargo and rear-passenger space.
The engine lineup includes three inline fours — including two turbos — and a hybrid option. The base 1.6-liter turbo gets 178 horsepower (hp) and 195 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque and is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. The midrange 2.4-liter (185 hp and 195 lb.-ft.) and top-of-the-line 2.0-liter turbo (247 hp and 260 lb.-ft.) get a six-speed automatic.
The Optima Hybrid gets a 2.4-liter I-4 and a 47-hp electric motor that combine to deliver 199 hp, 154 lb.-ft. and 40 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway — scarcely besting the 1.6 (39 mpg highway) but far outpacing the 2.4 and 2.0 (35 and 32, respectively).
The Optima is available in six configurations: LX, LX Turbo, EX, SX, SX Turbo and SXL. Base equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise, Bluetooth, trip computer, keyless entry and more; fleet buyers can opt for 17-inch alloys and a compact spare tire.
EX models add 17-inchers as well as heated, ventilated and powered front seats, rapid-charge USB ports, dual-zone climate control and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.
The “S” trims get 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters and a rear spoiler. Rear parking sensors, rear-cross-traffic alerts and blind-spot detection are standard on the SXL and optional across the lineup.
The 2016 Kia Optima is due in showrooms by the end of the year. The base LX starts at $21,840 and a fully loaded SXL will fetch around $36,000.