- - Sunday, March 13, 2016

For Kia loyalists, you are already going to know that the 2016 Kia Optima is a sporty option in the midsize segment, but offers plenty of hip styling as a sedan. The Kia Optima this year has been completely redesigned so whatever ideas you might have, put them away and take note of this new game in town.

Competition for the 2016 Kia Optima includes the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Toyota Camry and the Hyundai Sonata.  In many ways, the decision regarding the midsize family sedan to buy will come down to what your impression is of the car maker and what you have driven and learned to trust in the past.

Still, even if you aren’t familiar with Kia, this one is worth a look see.  This year the Optima is a bit longer and wider, but the real differences will come in the overall functionality of the 2016 offering.  Holding up to five passengers, the 2016 Kia Optima offers LX, EX, SX and SXL trim levels. On the LX you get 16-inch alloy wheels, power accessories, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, six-way power driver seat and a 60/40-split rear seatback.  For technology, there is a five-inch display, Bluetooth and audio connect as well as a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.

For an add on with the LX, you can opt for the Convenience package with an eight-way power driver seat instead of six, quieter front door windows, power-folding heated mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.  There is also an LX 1.6T offering. This one comes with turbocharged engine and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with an optional Technology package offering the LX Convenience package and two USB ports, a larger touchscreen, LED taillights and Kia’s Uvo Infotainment system.

On the EX, you get the LX 1.6T goodies with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, heated steering wheel and leather on the inside. For an upgrade package, it is the Premium package with an auto-dimming mirror, panoramic sunroof, heated and air conditioned front seats and with the extra audio package you get heated rear seats as well as rear side window sunshades.

On the SX the difference from the EX is the engine - turbocharged with bigger wheels, dual exhaust, sport-tuned suspension and a rear spoiler.  The gauges are also a bit fancier and the ambient lighting inside sets a mood with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and window sunshades.

You can get the Premium Technology package on the SX with all of the EX Premium and Premium Audio goodies plus automatic high-beam headlights, 360-degree parking camera system and a variety of additional safety features.

For the top of the line SXL, it’s all the features from the add-on packages combined along with upgraded leather inside and some exterior standout tweaks.

Under the hood, the 2016 Kia Optima is front-wheel drive with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine on the LX and EX trims putting out 185 horsepower with 178 pound-feet of torque. Standard transmission on these two trims is a six-speed automatic.

For the LX 1.6T, you get a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 178 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque with a seven-speed automated clutch.

For the SX and SXL, it is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines cranking out 245 horsepower and 260 pound feet of torque with a six-speed automatic engine.

The Kia Optima comes with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side, driver knee and side curtain airbags as well as a rearview camera on all trims. There are also a plethora of safety options depending on packages like a 360-degree surround-view camera, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.

Inside the 2016 Kia Optima, even if not the top of the line leather upholstery, there is still plenty of room and it feels good inside.  There is a nice center stack and the armrests are quite comfortable as are the front seats overall.  It feels good sitting inside either behind the wheel or as the co-captain.

In the back seat, the passengers will not be as comfortable since the roofline takes some of the headroom out.  There is enough legroom overall and the seats are wide. For hauling you get 15.8 cubic feet and that is about the same as the competition.

When trying to figure out the dials and knobs, it is easy and the touchscreen is effortless to use meaning fewer frustrating moments as you try to navigate - knobs and buttons are still key for many functions.

Behind the wheel of the 2016 Kia Optima, there is plenty of get up and go and on the seven-speed you can really get behind the power to take the roads and curves with ease.  For the turbo engine, you are going to like the sportier suspension too, but overall, it is a performance induced ride that will have you thinking about possibly driving a Kia home. 

Should You Need to Know:  The Kia Uvo telematics is a roadside assistance function that comes on most of the trims and offers collision notification and driver restrictions as well as tracking secondary drivers as needed.

Miles Per Gallon: On the 2016 Kia Optima SX turbocharged I drove, I got 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway.

Cost: The 2016 Kia Optima SX turbocharged had a price tag of $33,219. 

For more auto tips and information, follow Rita @RitaCook13. 

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