The Kia Optima has long been one of the Korean carmaker's unqualified successes. Combining strong value with strong styling and a variety of drivetrains, the Optima midsize sedan and the funky-but-lovable Soul have been providing the one-two punch for Kia's sales growth in the U.S. Now it's time for an all-new Optima and the 2016 Kia Optima carries the weight of anticipation placed on its swept-back shoulders with great skill.

Style and Substance

A little bit wider and a little bit longer than the current Optima, the 2016 model's interior opens up a bit and the exterior swoops more than ever to give the car the 4-door-coupe sense of presence that dominates the landscape these days. At the front end, Kia has reinforced the Optima's grrr-factor with an aggressive face that you'd not want to meet in a dark alley. The overall effect is a midsize sedan that is maturing, but still has plenty of bite left. Such a strong emphasis on design is expected when your company's president, German-born Peter Schreyer, is also the company's chief design officer. But style alone does not an appealing car make -- sure doesn't hurt, though -- and the 2016 Kia Optima offers three 4-cylinder engines -- two turbocharged, one naturally aspirated. The two carryover engines -- a base 2.4-liter and a rather spirited 2.0-liter turbo (both mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission) - are tuned down a bit to produce less power but better fuel economy. The new sexy on the Optima block is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four combined with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. In addition to laying down some impressive mpg figures, the 1.6 is also expected to put out 195 lb-ft of peak torque (good for acceleration) at just 1,500 rpm.The 1.6-liter setup will be available at the Optima's base (LX) level, which should point to a fairly low price point in what looks to be a very appealing ride. In its militant enthusiast defense, the top-tier 2.0-liter turbo (247 horsepower/260 lb-ft of torque) will now produce that intimidating peak torque just a hair off idle: at 1,350 rpm. The Optima hybrid is RIP (dead) for now.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Still a Value Player

In line with the outgoing Optima, the all-new 2016 model specializes in handsomely equipping its base versions. Standard fare on all 2016 Kia Optimas includes the UVO connectivity, now with a quartet of babysitting features: Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert, and Driving Score (a monthly report spills the beans on how far, how much and how fast you drive). The new Optima will also be Kia's first-time inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, allowing deeper integration of your smartphone's features -- like music, messaging and navigation -- into the car. Naturally, higher levels of pleasure will be available for a price, including a 14-speaker Infinity sound system and Nappa leather.

Built at Kia's production facility in West Point, Georgia, the 2016 Kia Optima will appear in showrooms during the 4th quarter of 2015. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch.

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