2016 Kia Optima SX Limited 2.0T - My Blue Family Sedan Heaven - Quick Review

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(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

At the head of the pack there are two cemented in popularity. For the rest of the mid size family sedan pack, none is going break out based on good looks or performance alone.

 

But it sure can’t hurt to try!

 

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WHAT: 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited mid-size family sedan. Cousin to Hyundai’s Sonata .

Standard Power: transverse 2.4L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 185 hp/ 178 lb-ft + 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle

OPTIONAL (1): 1.6L turbocharged DOHC 16V gas I-4 = 178 hp/ 195 lb-ft + 7 spd. automated dual clutch transaxle

OPTIONAL (2): 2.0L DOHC 16V DI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 245 hp/ 260 lb-ft + upgraded 6-speed automatic.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Subtle re-design from outgoing Optima ; Projector beam HID headlights mean smaller Z-kinked housings, with the dark lattice grille widened; Former boomerang taillights have given way to more Sonata-esque wrap-arounds thinning rear haunches; Trunk-lid integrated spoiler is now duck-tailed; Mirror chrome is splashed most everywhere else, including lower front air dam corner raked inlets; Lower rear valance gets diffuser look; Sharply raked backlight evokes fastback silhouette.

WHY: Kia is moving up in the world; It’s a tight 7-way mud-slinging contest among the rest of the pack mid-size family sedans.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Winter 2015

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: West Point, Georgia, U.S.A.

WHERE TO: Around town and on the open road.

HOW ROADWORTHY: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC DI gas 4-cylinder, 6-speed planetary automatic set-up takes deep breath off line, then pours steam until out of breath at 5000 rpm; Aptly bushed, but spring rates not quite up to faster damping = rear lift at speed demands stability control to modulate understeer; Otherwise precise acting electric steering = more corrections as speed builds; Brakes bind early, then pedal goes mushy; Astonishingly serene cabin environment.

HOW FAR: 23 combined miles per gallon = slightly < V-6 mid-size competitors Toyota Camry & Honda Accord .

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: fits 5 adult occupants; Spacious in front, downright commodious in the rear, but remove hats for the panoramic moonroof.

HOW USEFUL: Chrome metal load floor skid plate; near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks;  2nd Row Door sun shades; -1 Forward visibility from bulging fenders / -1 Outward rear visibility from small backlight.

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; Surround view camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist; Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning & lane departure warning.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Quilted Nappa leather heated seats, cooled driver/ front passenger seats: 10-way/ 6-way power driver/ front pax; Heated steering; D-shape heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; Semi toggle-style center stack switches and metallic tipped door switchgear; Contrast stitching.

Cool Gizmo(s): Panoramic roof boasting largest tilt/ sliding moonroof in segment;  Key-fob proximity hands-free power trunklid & power folding wing mirrors;  Surround view camera, Quantum leap of Harman Kardon QuantumLogic audio over old Infinity system.

Almost Bespoke Quilted leather uncommonly rich for this segment;  Ceiling matching mesh cloth covered cabin pillars.

Nearly Non-Descript: Not all Nappa leather is created equal: -1 premature leather chafing; Front bucket cushions = -1 “Cush” factor; Embossed cabin panel stitching = -1 Simulation; Door panels = -1 material contrast.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation ; Subscription based Sirius TravelLink Sports, Weather, Traffic; Fueling; Cinema; ; subscription fee based UVO telematics; +1 dimensional Harman Kardon 630W Q-Logic sound system; UVO Apps: Pandora, SoundHound (Android Auto/ Apple Car Play tbo);  USB x 2, 12V x 3.

HOW MUCH: $36,615 = fully loaded 2016 Kia Optima SXL 2.0T ; base Optima LX = $22,990.

WHAT’S MISSING: Dual clutch automated helical gear transmission, AWD option,+1 body motion control, SMS messaging app.

ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T: +1 efficiency, Ford Fusion Ecoboost 2.0T Titanium: +1 available AWD, drivetrain refinement, steering feel, Sync3 voice commands; Honda Accord Touring V6: +1 lustier drivetrain & semi-autonomous driving.

BOTTOM LINE: + Detail & value driven looker and coddling whisker among mid-size family pack;  In search of that extra bit of driver rewarding.

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