Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2016: Midsize Car

By Editors on November 12, 2015 2:45 PM

2016 Kia Optima

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After years of winning fans with its sharp style, premium features and solid value, the 2016 Kia Optima has clawed its way to the top as this year's Midsize Car Best Buy.

Like an athlete training a lifetime for victory, the Kia Optima has long been gunning for benchmark status among midsize sedans. The latest Optima, all new for 2016 and now in its fourth generation, has finally earned its crown.

As with any star player, the Optima's success has come through constant improvement. Throughout its life this family sedan has persevered to be better, evolving from an also-ran when it debuted 15 years ago to what it is today: a refined, advanced, rewarding-to-drive midsize sedan with luxury looks at a mainstream price.

In keeping with our automotive-athlete analogy, let's just say the outgoing Optima was no couch potato. It boasted high style, ample power and surprising amenities such as a heated steering wheel, climate-controlled seats and power-folding side mirrors. The all-new 2016 Kia Optima is even more focused, besting not only the outgoing model but edging out rivals in one of the market's most competitive segments.

Power, Value and Technology

The 2016 Optima, made at Kia's U.S. factory in Georgia, is available in five trims and with a choice of three engines, two of which use turbo power to do more with less. As expected from Kia, all versions bring a terrific sense of value, from a base LX with family-friendly qualities like a stain-resistant cloth interior and a height-adjustable passenger seat, to the luxury-like SXL with Nappa leather trim, 245-horsepower turbo engine and 10-speaker, 630-watt Harman/Kardon audio system. Innovative tech features include a surround-view camera, automatic emergency braking system, blind-spot monitoring and compatibility with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It adds up to a midsize sedan that's easy to drive anywhere and one that feels -- and looks -- confident in any situation.

Roomy, Comfortable and Ergonomic

No matter which trim you choose, the Kia Optima has plenty of space for passengers and cargo. The cabin has grown compared to the outgoing model, and its generous trunk would do justice for a full-size sedan. It's not just the amount of space that impresses, but how it's laid out. Controls and switchgear are easy to see and use, whether you're tuning a station on the HD Radio with the twist of a dial or toggling drive settings between Normal, Sport and Eco with the touch of a button via the standard Drive Mode system. Look closely and you'll see (and feel) the details that make the Optima a star -- the ribbed texture of the steering-wheel-mounted controls and the available rear window shades are but two examples that impressed our evaluators.

A Warranty with Confidence

Rounding out the qualities that make the 2016 Optima a Best Buy winner is its exceptional warranty. As with all new Kia vehicles, the Optima comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain that covers major components such as the engine and transmission -- those major parts that every car owner dreads breaking.

It all makes the 2016 Kia Optima a Best Buy today and a savvy choice for the years ahead.

More 2016 Kia Optima

Build and price your own 2016 Kia Optima to unlock its Fair Purchase, Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more, or check out our full, in-depth review of Kia's latest midsize sedan. Still unsure if the Kia Optima is the midsize sedan for you? See our Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide to find out how it compares with the 10 other major competitors in its segment.


2016 Midsize Car Best Buy Finalists

As we often assert, no one car is the perfect car for every person. That's why our Best Buy Awards include myriad cars across multiple categories. With midsize sedans remaining a staple segment for car buyers, it's especially pertinent that you find the model that's truly best for you. The five other midsize sedan contenders in this year's program are also standouts in their own way, whether it's the does-everything-right appeal of the Honda Accord or the refinement of the new and vastly improved Chevy Malibu. Here's the rundown on the rest, in alphabetical order:

2016 Chevy Malibu

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

All-New, Mature and Comfortable

If this were an award for most improved, the latest Malibu would surely take the cake. All-new for 2016, the latest version of Chevy's long-running midsize sedan has gone from middling to memorable -- for all the right reasons.

The 2016 Chevy Malibu looks and behaves like a smaller Impala. By taking more than a few cues from its award-winning full-size sedan sibling, the Malibu has rectified many of the issues that kept it from being a top-shelf contender. There is now ample rear-seat legroom, seriously plush seats up front, and the ride comfort of a premium car. If you want a midsize sedan that drives more like an old-school cruiser, get in the Malibu. If you also desire the ability to scoot, the available 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder will grant just that. If you prioritize fuel efficiency, a hybrid model earns up to 48 mpg.

What's not old-school about Chevy's latest sedan is its technological bag of tricks. The new Malibu offers rapid smartphone pairing -- including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration -- 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, wireless phone charging and a Teen Driving feature that lets parents set parameters and view driving data. The Malibu has taken a variety of forms since the 1960s, but the latest version looks to be among the most memorable.

Build and price your own 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

2016 Honda Accord

2016 Honda Accord

A Top-Shelf Sedan Keeps its Edge

The Honda Accord remains the Labrador Retriever of cars. Like that most popular of dogs, the Accord is the epitome of a family's best friend among midsize sedans. And like Fido, the 2016 Honda Accord is reliable, easygoing, and ready to roll when you are.

Those traits -- plus good looks, fine driving manners, rock-solid reliability and excellent resale value -- have gone hand-in-hand with the Accord for decades. It also helped the model achieve Best Buy winner status in this group last year. Consider it being edged out here by the Optima not so much a fault of the Accord but a testament to how much the Optima has improved. Picking a winner among the two caused hair-splitting and possibly some hair-graying among our editors.

With its update for 2016, the Accord has further improved, adding fresh exterior styling and full model-range availability of the Honda Sensing safety package that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and more. Regretfully, the Accord's touch-based infotainment system isn't the most user-friendly in the segment, and it still lacks a traditional volume knob. Those are relatively small character flaws in an otherwise excellent, rock-solid choice among midsize sedans. Here's our full review.

Build and price your own 2016 Honda Accord

2016 Hyundai Sonata

2016 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort, Value and Confidence

Because Hyundai and Kia are corporate cousins, it's little wonder that the Sonata shares many traits with its winning stablemate on the Kia side, the Optima.

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata also boasts a roomy cabin, surprisingly large trunk, easy-to-use controls and a terrific warranty. The Sonata offers a variety of powerful yet efficient powertrains that appeal to different tastes, as well as two hybrids -- a standard gas-electric version and a plug-in hybrid model that grants up to 24 miles of electric-only driving.

Just off its own overhaul a year ago, the 2016 Sonata shares many but not all technological and safety innovations with the Optima. New features for 2016 include automatic emergency braking and Android Auto smartphone integration. But if you're an Apple addict, you won't currently find CarPlay. The new Sonata boasts clean lines and a less-polarizing design vs. its previous generation, but even in top form it doesn't quite match the Optima's luxe appeal. Very appealing, though, is the Sonata's value play thanks to a price that starts at $22,585. See what else we like about this latest model in our full review.

Build and price your 2016 Hyundai Sonata

2016 Mazda MAZDA6

2016 Mazda Mazda6

When Sport Means Everything

Everything about the 2016 Mazda Mazda6 is a painting of performance. Its exterior flows and when you pay the extra $300 for the Soul Red paint, you'll be swimming in pride points. Backing up that sports sedan impression, the Mazda6 offers one engine -- a robust 184-horsepower 4-cylinder -- and the choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic that can, as an added bonus, be set up to achieve 40 mpg in highway driving.

Inside, the Mazda6 commits itself to a comfortable, sporty character. The car's steering, braking and acceleration inputs are superb -- especially with the automatic transmission's "Sport" mode engaged -- and the suspension is compliant on all roads. Though it has the smallest trunk among our midsize sedan Best Buys (and smallish legroom/generous headroom in the rear seats), the Mazda6 rules when it comes to folding the rear seats flat and loading longer items through that trunk. The 2016 Mazda6 starts under $22,500 retail -- with a Fair Purchase Price more like $21,000 -- and comes standard with keyless entry and push-button starting. See our full review.

Build and price your own 2016 Mazda Mazda6

2016 Toyota Camry

2016 Toyota Camry

Homage to Practical Value

Toyota's Camry midsize sedan is the car to beat in the U.S. sales race. Americans are flocking to the recently revised Camry for very smart, very practical reasons. With its Fair Purchase Price that's a few thousand dollars below its $24,000 starting retail price and a healthy ability for keeping its resale value among the highest in the biz, the Camry commands loads of attention. Looking to arm yourself with high reliability? The Toyota Camry's reputation in that area is well deserved. And while the front-wheel-drive 4-cylinder, V6 and hybrid powertrain choices for the 2016 Toyota Camry don't bring "thrilling" or "soul mate" into the midsize sedan conversation, "wisdom" and "can't go wrong" are standard bearers of the Camry's lexicon.

The 2016 Camry is roomy inside -- front and back -- and smartly set up with standard infotainment including Bluetooth and USB connectivity with voice recognition, a touchscreen display, and Apple's Siri Eyes Free voice control. If you're living a one-car existence and need that one car for everything from commuting to comfortable family vacations, the 2016 Toyota Camry volunteers. See our full review.

Build and price your own 2016 Toyota Camry

More 2016 Best Buys