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2016 Kia Optima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Kia Optima was new.


Performance: 8.4

A turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is available in the 2016 Kia Optima, and some reviewers think it offers sufficient power. They note that the available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine provides brisk acceleration off the line, though some think it feels underpowered when compared with rivals’ V6 options. Test drivers say the Optima offers composed handling through turns, but find its steering to be too sensitive. Fuel economy is about average for the class.

  • "Rather than the sportiness that its sharp design suggests, we come away more impressed with the Optima SXL's quiet and refined demeanor that falls more on the luxury side of things." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "In all, it's a far more refined package than even the previous well-mannered Optima." -- AutoWeek
  • "After driving the new Optima on a series of twisty roads in the Nevada mountains outside Las Vegas we were impressed with the car's balance of performance and luxury, even on base LX models." -- Forbes

Acceleration and Power

The redesigned 2016 Kia Optima has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine that makes 185 horsepower. A 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 245-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine are available. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, though models with the 1.6-liter engine have a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. According to the EPA, the 2016 Optima with the base engine earns 24/35 mpg city/highway, which is close to average for the class.

Reviewers say the available 1.6-liter engine provides adequate power for most drivers, but a few think it struggles on hills and off the line. Most report that the 2.0-liter engine delivers seamless acceleration from a stop, but a few think rivals' optional V6s are stronger. Most auto writers think the six-speed automatic provides seamless, quick shifts.

  • I drove an LX 1.6 T with the turbo engine for just a quick jaunt up and down a hilly route at the end of the day's activities. I didn't have enough time in the car to pass full judgment on the powertrain, but I wasn't bowled over. Perhaps because of the hills, it seemed sluggish off line, but once it got moving, it got with the program and provided better response." -- Cars.com
  • The six-speed auto handled its duties well, providing smooth shifts up-or-down through the rev range. The Optima is equipped with paddle shifters, but they weren't as responsive as we would've liked." -- Left Lane News
  • The 1.6L engine appeared to have plenty of power for most drivers in a brief test near Las Vegas." -- The Detroit Free Press
  • "Stoplight acceleration is smooth and lag-free, while highway comfort is superb, thanks to well-controlled tire and wind noise." -- AutoWeek (2.0T engine)
  • While it is satisfyingly smooth and responsive for motoring around town, the Kia's [2.0-liter] turbo-four doesn't provide the oomph of similar-spec turbo-four engines from BMW and Volkswagen, let alone the potent V-6 engines that are optional in the Accord and Camry." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

The majority of reviewers say the redesigned 2016 Optima feels composed on the highway and winding roads. Many auto writers agree that the Kia Optima's steering is overly sensitive, but most say it feels better weighted when in sport mode.

  • The 2016 Kia Optima's revised chassis setup is much more composed in daily driving than its predecessor, but, like the powertrain, it doesn't encourage you to drive with any sort of gusto. A new, rack-mounted electric-assist steering system affords far more natural levels of effort and better on-center behavior, but it isn't as precise as we'd expect from a sport sedan." -- Automobile Magazine
  • A lighter, stiffer chassis and the use of a lot more structural adhesive and high-strength steel in the body made a world of difference in the new Optima's high-speed stability, super-connected steering response, and all-around sports car feel." -- Jean Knows Cars
  • The steering feels fine and the car remained composed in fast highway driving and on twisting mountain roads." -- The Detroit Free Press
  • The Sport mode changes the transmission and steering response. The steering was heavier, but it wasn't a workout. I preferred how the steering felt in this mode. I wouldn't rate the Optima in the same league as a luxury performance sedan like a BMW, but it's good for the non-luxury, non-performance class." -- Cars.com
  • Steering is direct but over-boosted. A 'Sport' mode is available, but it didn't do much to improve the Optima's electrically-boosted steering rack. The Sport mode does, however, noticeably sharpen the car's throttle response." -- Left Lane News

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