Kia Optima Earns Top Honors as
2016 International Car of the Year
Presented by Road & Travel Magazine
[Read Why it Won!]
Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, a billion-dollar automotive assembly plant by Kia of South Korea that sprawls across 2200 acres along I-85 near West Point, Ga., is currently producing a new generational design for the 2016 Optima, Kia's silky-smooth and luxurious 4-door sedan of mid-size scale with three powertrain choices spread among five trim levels.
Optima, in this new configuration for 2016, scores a stiffer new unibody structure with a longer wheelbase and a longer and wider body. As a result, there's more head room, shoulder room and rear-seat leg room for passengers in the 5-seat cabin and more trunk space than found on the previous generational editions of 2011-2015.
Kia's mid-size model is drawn with taut lines and it looks athletic with sweeping contemporary surfaces, fender skin cinching snugly over wheelwell arches and a raked windshield arching over the cabin canopy with low-slung windows and side pillars muted to forge the profile of a swift and racy 2-door coupe.
The aggressive low-swooping prow houses swept-back headlight clusters flanking Kia's narrow signature tiger-nose grille in a new hot-stamped chrome composition as Optima's new top model SXL 2.0T wears bi-functional HID lamps that swivel to shine a light around corners.
Side panels of the 2016 Optima are chiseled almost sheer although a faint character line notched on each side seems to swing upward in swift movement toward the tail. The blunted rump looks clean with wraparound low fascia and dual pipes in chrome on both back corners plus optional LED halo-style taillights.
Kia developed a new front-wheel-drive unibody architecture for Optima 2016 with a wheelbase of 110.4 inches, the overall body length of 191.1 inches and a body width of 73.2 inches.
Optima's unibody structure cradles an independent strut-type front suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar and an independent multi-link rear design with HPD (high performance damper) shocks and anti-roll bar.
A disc brake goes to every wheel with computerized links to ABS (anti-lock brake system) with EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), ESC (electronic stability control) anti-skid device and TCS (traction control system), even HAC (hill-start assist control).
Trim nomenclature changes with the new generation 2016 Optima lineup to include the Optima LX 2.4 price leader, a new light turbo LX 1.6T, the upscale EX 2.4 edition with comfort gear added, a sport-tuned and turbo-powered SX 2.0T plus new top-model SXL 2.0T.
Optima LS 2.4 and EX 2.4 editions draw power from a dual-cam 2.4-liter 4-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine which generates 185 hp at 6000 rpm with torque pegging to 178 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. The 2.4-liter plant connects to an electronically controlled 6-speed Sportmatic automatic which allows hands-on shift control via steering wheel paddle shifters or a console-mounted shift lever.
Optima's new edition LX 1.6T stocks an aluminum-block 1.6-liter 4-in-line engine tied to a new 7-speed DCT (dual clutch transmission) geared for sportiness as well as fuel economy. The 1.6T engine delivers an estimated 178 hp at 5500 rpm and 195 lb-ft of torque at 1500 rpm.
Optima SX 2.0T and SXL 2.0T editions carry a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder GDI engine with dual overhead cams and turbocharger plus the electronically controlled 6-speed Sportmatic automatic. The 2.0T produces 247 hp at 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at only 1350 rpm.
Optima LX 2.4 entry issue comes with 16-inch silver-painted alloy wheels, a keyless entry device, cruise control, manual air-conditioning, fabric seat upholstery, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a 6-speaker audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB plus rear camera display.
Optima LX 1.6T adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, pushbutton starter and smart key. Optima EX 2.4 upgrades with 17-inch silver-painted alloy wheels, dual projector-style headlamps, dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather seat upholstery and heated front seats.
Top model SXL 2.0T rolls on 18-inch chrome finish alloy wheels and gains rack-mounted motor-driven power steering and suspension sport-tuning, power folding side mirrors, LED taillamps, a panoramic sunroof, premium Nappa leather seat trim, 8-way power driver seat, Blind Spot Detection system with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Kia's Around View Monitor.
We estimate the MSRPs for Kia's 2016 Optima line will range from $23,000 to $32,000.