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Kia refines popular Optima

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PORTLAND TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN M. VINCENT - Though the 2016 Kia Optima has grown in length, width and height, it retains its sweeping coupe-like profile. Interior and cargo room are both improved with the new model.The introduction of the 2010 Kia Optima was a watershed moment for the Korean automaker.

The model broke free from the boring look embraced by nearly every midsize sedan of the era. At the same time, Kia offered more equipment at a more affordable price than competitors.

They began a trend to put more excitement and style into a segment that dearly needed it. While some of the competition has drifted back toward generic designs, the 2016 Optima stays the course with an update to its sporty, yet polished design. Designer Peter Schreyer has left the successful low-roof, coupe-like shape in place while the vehicle’s dimensions have been stretched in every direction.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN M. VINCENT - Like the exterior update, the 2016 Kia Optima's interior features a more horizontal motif. Android Auto is available and Apple CarPlay will be in the very near future. The Optima features Kia's latest UVO connected services system.

While instantly recognizable as an Optima, the nose is all new with a sportier, sharper, more horizontal feel. For the first time, bi-xenon headlights are available with dynamic bending lamps to illuminate the path around corners. For the 2016 Optima, Kia continues to create interesting, yet tasteful, lighting signatures using LED accent lights on the front and well-designed tail lamps.

Although the new look touts simply evolutionary improvements on the outside, the interior has been completely re-thought. There’s a much higher level of design and detail for driver and passengers alike, though some of the material choices feel like a step back instead of forward. Increased application of insulation and acoustic glass has quieted the Optima’s cabin substantially from the previous generation.

Kia’s UVO connectivity services suite gains a number of new features, but the big news is the inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, with make the Optima’s intuitive infotainment system act as an extension of the driver’s smartphone.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN M. VINCENT - For 2016, there are three engine options available, including 1.6 and 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinders and a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. Unlike most competitors in the segment, there's no V-6 engine available.Two of the Optima’s engines are carryover. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 185-horsepower. Upper trims include a 2.0-liter turbo than can produce 245-horsepower across a wide power band. Even the very high altitude where Kia held its press introduction of the 2016 model didn’t faze this rock solid power plant.

New for the model is a super-efficient 1.6-liter turbo linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. While I haven’t yet had the chance to test it, it promises significant fuel economy improvements for the buyer placing efficiency at the top of their shopping list. It’s rated at 39 mpg on the highway.

Improved handling comes from a much stiffer platform, updated suspension tuning and components. An available rack-mounted electric power steering system gives the Optima the handling feel of a European luxury sedan.

2016 Kia Optima

Base price: $21,840, plus $825 destination charge.

Type: Five-passenger, front-wheel drive midsize sedan

Engines: Turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder (178 hp); Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 (245 hp); 2.4-liter inline-4 (185 hp)

Transmissions: Six-speed automatic, seven-speed Dual-clutch (1.6T only)

EPA estimated mileage: 22 city/32 highway 2.0 Turbo; 25/37 2.4-liter; 28/39 1.6 Turbo

Length: 191.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,219 lbs. (base car)

Final assembly: West Point, Georgia and South Korea

Reach John Vincent at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @OregonsCarGuy on Twitter.