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2016 Kia Optima First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/1/2015 Kelly Pleskot
2016 Kia Optima Rear Three Quarter 2016 Kia Optima First Look

The Kia Optima falls squarely in the middle of the midsize sedan segment in sales. Last year, it outsold the Chrysler 200 but didn't move quite as many units as the Chevrolet Malibu or its sister sedan, the Hyundai Sonata. Still, the Optima has always stood out for its progressive exterior design and generous amenities, and for 2016, this statement becomes even truer. And Kia doesn't stop there. The new Optima will also feature a new engine, new chassis, and a redesigned interior.

From the outside, the 2016 Kia Optima looks similar to its predecessor. Some of the biggest changes occur in the headlight design. On upper trim levels, the tiger-nose grille features a hot-stamped pinpoint pattern that looks like the nose on the luxury K900. The numbers on the Optima's exterior haven't changed much, though. It's just 1 inch wider and has a 0.4-inch longer wheelbase than before.

2016 Kia Optima Front End 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Kia Optima Front End 02 Now how about that engine? For its smallest powerplant, the Optima will offer a new 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Kia will pair this engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a major first for the brand. The Optima lineup's other two engines, a 185-hp, 2.4-liter, GDI four-cylinder on the LX and EX models and a 247-hp, 2.0-liter, GDI turbocharged engine available on more expensive models, carry over from last year. Both engines, which are awaiting final EPA certification, come paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and have been slightly retuned for fuel economy and better performance -- maximum torque is now available at a lower rpm.

A longer, wider, stiffer, and lighter chassis accompanies the engine changes. This update should not only improve steering but also increase high-speed stability. Kia has moved the suspension location points of the front and rear subframes in a way that allows for a smoother ride over rough surfaces. Other changes, including more robust wheel bearings up front and larger dual lower arms at the rear, also improve ride quality. Thanks in part to stiffer body panels and increased dash insulation, the Optima promises reduced noise and vibration.

© Provided by MotorTrend Peek into the interior, and you'll notice a bit more space to stretch. Although its exterior dimensions remain about the same, the Kia Optima now offers more headroom, more shoulder room, more rear legroom, and more trunk space. A wider center console and fewer doodads and buttons inside the cabin make for an even cleaner look than before. Kia has also made the Optima's seats more comfortable with a stiffer seat frame that reduces vibration and new seat foam that swaddles and supports drivers and passengers. These seats are covered in cloth, leather, or Nappa leather and complement two new interior colors: merlot and a dark aubergine.

The Optima also ups its technological game. Additional UVO eServices, such as geofencing, speed alert, curfew alert, and driving score, integrate with your smartphone. The model will also be available with an upgraded 14-speaker Infinity premium audio system that uses Clari-Fi technology for a better audio signal and QuantumLogic surround sound for a multidimensional listening experience. Other available technologies include a 360-degree Around View Monitor, autonomous emergency braking, and blind-spot detection. For the first time on any Kia vehicle, the Optima will be available with unique bi-function HID headlights that have the ability to recognize oncoming traffic and switch to a low beam until the oncoming vehicle has passed.

The 2016 Kia Optima goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year in five trim levels: LX, LX Turbo, EX, SX Turbo, and SXL. Pricing will be announced closer to that time.

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