2016 Kia Optima
2016 Kia Optima SXL

2016 Kia Optima SX-L   2015 Audi Q5

Class: Midsize Car

Dates tested: 11/09/2015 – 11/23/2015

Miles Driven: 474

Fuel Used: 24.1 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 19.7 mpg

Driving mix: 80% city, 20% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/32/25 (city, highway, combined)

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceB
Fit and FinishB
Fuel EconomyC
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.

Base price: $35,790 (not including $825 destination charge)

Options on test car: None

Price as tested: $36,615


Quick Hits

The great: Front-seat room and comfort

The good: Ride and handling balance, drivetrain performance in Sport mode

The not so good: Rear-world fuel economy that falls below EPA estimates

Check out Consumer Guide’s Midsize Car Best Buys


John Biel

Should someone ask if you’re interested in the redesigned 2016 Kia Optima, you could consider it a loaded question. Why? For one thing, that is a question. For another, the Optima in SX Limited (SXL) trim comes as loaded as Kia’s midsize sedan gets.

2016 Kia Optima, rear view
Standard on SXL models are 18-inch alloy wheels.

The ’16 SXL tested by Consumer Guide® stickered at $36,615 (including $825 for delivery) without a single add-on to be found, because at that level there aren’t any. Priced a considerable $6100 more than the similarly powered SX directly beneath it, the Limited folds in a 10-speaker premium Harman Kardon sound system; 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; a panoramic sunroof; automatic headlight high-beam dimmer; electronic parking brake; and a raft of safety technologies including a front-collision warning system, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, “smart” cruise control, and an overhead-view monitor. That’s in addition to standards that can be found in some of the lower-echelon Optimas like 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation system, UVO eServices apps, rear-view camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry, push-button starting, and an automatic-opening trunk.

2016 Kia Optima SXL cabin
SXL’s quilted-seat treatment presents well, as does most of the interior trim. In back, there’s decent room for adults, though things get tight for folks over 6 feet.

Another thing the Limited shares with the “base” SX is its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder/6-speed automatic powerteam. You’ll sense a little wait for the turbo on the 245-horsepower engine to kick in, but with “Sport” mode selected, throttle response is notably quicker than in the base or “Eco” settings, and the torque, 260 lb-ft of it, is used to its best advantage. The automatic transmission works smoothly and will quickly downshift when needed for acceleration.

First Spin: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

Real-world mileage more or less barely keeps up with expectations. EPA estimates for this powerteam are 22 mpg in city driving, 32 mpg on the highway, and 25 combined. In 70 percent city-style operation over 159.1 miles, this tester averaged 22.2 mpg—and that was almost 2 mpg better than his experience with a similarly powered 2014 Optima. Other Consumer Guide® testers fared less well (see our fuel-usage stats above).

What did seem clearly better on this latest Optima was its expressway ride. Even with its sport suspension, this SXL handled rough freeway surfaces and expansion joints better than its predecessor. Steering is a little short of road feel to be up with class leaders. The brakes are strong and give stable stops. The cabin is fairly well insulated against surrounding traffic noise.

Though its roofline retains a familiar look, the restyled Optima is slightly longer, taller, and wider than the previous model. The interior has been redone, too, and without taking anything away from what was already a pretty good environment for passengers. There’s generous use of soft-touch material on the doors and dash. The leather upholstery in SX Limiteds has a distinctive quilted diamond pattern. Gauges are set deep into the instrument cluster. The speedometer and tachometer dials have improved graphics for better legibility. Audio and navigation displays share the 8-inch color touchscreen in the center of the dash. Setting radio stations was easily done on the screen, with buttons on the steering wheel handy for changing stations, switching modes, or regulating volume. A long row of push buttons summons various functions (radio, phone, UVO, etc.). Below them are climate controls, which use rotating dials for temperature control but buttons for other tasks.

First Spin: 2016 Nissan Altima

Kia Optima SXL Bling
At a glance, the 2016 Optima doesn’t look much different than its predecessor, but there are plenty of significant styling tweaks.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive. They should capably accommodate most adults, even taller folks. Even with the loss of some space to the sunroof head room is adequate. The rear seat has serviceable space for 6-footers unless the front seats are moved far rearward. If not for a shortage of head room for a middle passenger brought on by the sunroof housing in CG’s test car, 3-across seating would have been feasible in back. Small-item storage space in the interior relies on a big glove box, pockets and bottle holders on the doors, and a pocket on the back of each front seat. Moving from front to back in the redone console, there’s a covered bin that holds the auxiliary audio jack, a USB port, and two power outlets; twin open cup holders; and a deep covered console box with an upper tray. The pull-down center arm rest in the back seat has a pair of cup holders built in, and rear-seaters have access to a 12-volt power point and a USB charger.

Even though trunk space has been increased by .5 cubic feet (to 15.9), it still isn’t as ample or convenient as in some cars in the class. The floor narrows appreciably between the wheel houses, and a high sill promises liftover problems for unloading. The rear seat folds down in a 60/40 split, but rests a few inches higher than the trunk floor. Furthermore, a bulkhead behind the seats narrows the opening to the rear-seat area.

Overall, the SX Limited makes for a comfortable and well-equipped midsize car. It’s not at the top of that group, though, and it certainly stretches the 2016 Optima line to an expensive point. However, there are enough other models in the family with some of the Limited’s features—some of which are available optionally—that shoppers can tailor one to their needs for less.

Test Drive: 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

Kia Optima SXL Bling
The SXL caps an Optima lineup that also includes the base LX, fuel-economy-oriented LX 1.6T, and mid-level EX and SX models. 






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