Print This Post Email This Post
By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry
I am driving a car that I really like a lot. Do I love it? If it were human, would I put a ring on it? Probably not, but we would be really good friends. There’s a lot to like about the 2016 Kia Optima EX, a reasonably priced good-for-everything type vehicle that makes an excellent daily driver. It’s spacious, practical and looks great.
Honestly, I have been a fan of Optima in recent years because the car has definite eye appeal. It hasn’t always been that way but, over the years, Optima has evolved into quite a head-turner. The sleek, sporty styling makes you want to get in and drive. The combination of its just-right size and bold exterior design serves as a testimonial to Kia’s attention to detail.
I have picked up a couple of friends for today’s road test that has taken us from greater Los Angeles up through Bakersfield and finally to the city of Visalia, approximately 190 miles to our north. I selected Visalia as today’s destination because, not only will it provide a variety of road surfaces and driving conditions, there’s a restaurant in the area I’ve been wanting to try. I hope this vehicle meets my expectations but, more importantly, I hope the food is worth our three-hour drive.
Optima’s interior is quite stylish and the leather-trimmed seats are very comfortable. The front seats are heated, a feature that I plan to take full advantage of on what has turned out to be a fairly cold, overcast day. There will be no need to take turns charging our cell phones as is necessary in some vehicles because, among the many interior amenities, there are USB jacks and 12-volt power outlets for both front and rear seat occupants.
While the interior is reasonably attractive, the drab door panels and faux metal interior trim of my test vehicle give it a rental car look and feel. One feature that has already received a thumbs-down from my front seat passenger is the bulky center console. Like many newer cars, Optima has a wide, sculpted center console. It looks great and is fairly functional but, needless to say, the width results in reduced front seat legroom. It doesn’t really bother me while driving, but my passenger has already taken issue with the lack of space.
The most amazing part of the drive thus far is the fact that this car has a four-cylinder engine. Had I not already known this prior to today’s road test I would have guessed it was a six. Ample power and smooth, hesitation-free acceleration are an indication to me that Kia got it right. Mechanically speaking, everything is spot on. The 185-horsepower 2.4-liter engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission resulting in impressive performance. The Sportmatic sports shifter allows you to shift gears manually, if you wish.
If you desire even more power, you may wish to opt for the Optima SX or SX Limited, the two models above the EX. Each has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 245 horsepower. The base price of SX is nearly $5,000 above that of the EX, while the SX Limited is nearly $11,000 higher. Hey, this isn’t rocket science – you can have as much power as you need and can afford but, based on my experience thus far, Optima EX has plenty of power for one’s everyday driving needs as well as a respectable combined city/highway fuel economy estimate of 28 miles per gallon.
The car is surprisingly quiet and pleasantly peaceful, even at freeway speeds. This will make the on-board entertainment much more enjoyable. The car comes standard with a decent sound system, but my test vehicle is equipped with a Harman Kardon QLS Premium Surround Sound system with 10 speakers and 630 watts of power that sounds pretty amazing. It’s part of the $1,200 EX Premium Audio Package that also includes, although I have no idea what either has to do with audio, heated rear seat cushions and rear side window sunshades.
Another nice feature is the panoramic sunroof but, just like the premium sound system, it isn’t standard equipment. The sunroof is included in the EX Premium Package ($3,700) which also includes a navigation system, ventilated front seats and power front passenger seat, as well as a variety of safety features such as Blind Spot Detection, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking assist. All are nice amenities that, in my opinion, are well worth the extra cost.
As we make our way along rural (and now rain soaked) roads from Visalia into the town of Hanford, the car is solid, confident and surprisingly agile. Steering is very responsive in cornering and uneven road surfaces are not a problem thanks to systems for traction and stability control. As the driving conditions change, so does the mode in which I’m driving. The Drive Mode Select feature allows me to choose between Normal for everyday driving conditions, Eco for better fuel economy and Sport (my personal favorite) to stiffen the steering and enhance engine performance.
After being on the road for several hours, I am barely feeling the effects of a long drive. That serves as yet another testimonial to this intelligently designed car. Not only is the passenger compartment quite spacious (104.8 cubic feet), but pop open the trunk and the cargo volume is a generous 15.9 cubic feet. There’s plenty of room for luggage, groceries and sporting equipment. Conveniently arranged controls on the steering wheel for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control also lend themselves to a stress-free drive.
The Optima line includes five models, ranging from LX at the lower end of the price range ($21,990) to the SX Limited, starting at nearly $36,000. The EX is in the middle of the pack with a base price of $24,890, making it a slightly less expensive alternative to other comparably equipped vehicles in its class, such as the Toyota Camry SE Special Edition ($25,715) and the Honda Accord Coupe LX-S CVT at $25,725.
For more information on Kia products: kia.com
Name of vehicle:
2016 Kia Optima EX
$29,790 (as tested)
EPA fuel economy estimates:
24 city/35 highway/28 combined
2.4 liter, DOHC 16-valve I-4
185 HP @ 6,000 rpm
178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
6-speed automatic transmission with Active Eco System
Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS)
Front: MacPherson Strut with Stabilizer Bar
4-Wheel Disc with ABS
17-inch Alloy Wheels
Overall length: 191.1”
Overall width (excluding mirrors): 73.2”
Overall height: 57.7”
Curb weight: 3,362