2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo road test: The third time is still charming

2016 Optima SXL 2.0 turbo

We’ve reported twice before on the 2016 Kia Optima, the midsize sedan from the Korean brand. The first time was at the launch event in Colorado, where we were impressed by its handling and overall quality. The second article focused on the Optima LX model, with the same results. Our latest go-round found us in a 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo, where we spent seven solid days putting it to the test in real-world applications. There are five trim levels of Optima sedan, not counting the Hybrid models. The SX is second from the top and includes almost every feature.

2016 Optima SXL 2.0 turbo

The Optima SXL is pictured, but our tester was the SX, one step below. The SXL has chrome trim, the SX is body color.

Our test model based at $29,690, and had the SXT launch edition package for $2,700 that included a lot of the items standard on the top-line trim, such as HK audio, 18-inch wheels, and LED overhead lighting. As tested, our Optima topped out at $33,215. A similarly equipped Ford Fusion is about $1,500 higher, while a Toyota Camry is a few thousand less, but lags behind in the amenities, power and warranty department. What we’re getting at here is that the Optima is an excellent competitor in the midsize sedan segment, and it would be a smart move by Toyota customers to get out of their automatic Camry buying trance and check out the Kia sedan.

2016 Kia Optima

The 2.0-liter turbo is well matched to the Optima’s size and weight.

What makes the Optima a solid option? First, it was designed by Peter Schreyer, who is a whiz with a pencil and paper (or should we say keyboard and stylus pen?). Everything he inks looks good. The Optima is bold, athletic, and sculpted, and makes the current Camry seem even more boring than it’s ever been, if that’s even possible. We say current Camry, because Toyota is touting that the new Camry, which will be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show next month (stay tuned, we’ll have a full report) will be a game changer when it comes to design. The Optima is almost coupe-like in appearance, reminding us of the incredibly attractive Audi A7 sedan that looks like a coupe, and that’s exceptionally good news, since the A7 starts at about twice the Optima’s price. Shave the door handles, and the Optima could win a beauty contest.

2016 Kia Optima

Inside the Optima you’ll find a dash that’s easy to read and use.

Inside, is more of the same. Quality has been a high-point of Kia vehicles since the company changed over from being a purveyor of cheap rides. We like the ergonomics, control layout, and readability of instruments, plus even the UVO voice recognition is tremendously improved. We admit, however, that the diamond-patterned seats are a little to “pimp” for our tastes. But there’s so much good, we can overlook that semi-minor indiscretion. The seats are comfortable, and Kia finally addressed one of our biggest gripes: the too-low passenger seat. For 2016, the Optima features an available power-height adjustable passenger seat, something we usually only can get in much more expensive rides. We also appreciate Kia partnering with Harman to deliver one of the better audio systems in the industry, the Harman Kardon QLS Premium Surround Sound. Finding a better system for the price would be nearly impossible. If you never drove the Optima, and just sat inside cocooned in the friendly interior, with the heated seats on and your favorite tunes cranked up, you’d understand why you’d buy this even if you didn’t have a driver’s license.