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What’s Hot: The 2016 Kia Optima has been reworked inside and out, offering a more refined vehicle with an evolutionary styling cue. For the first time, the Kia Optima, which is manufactured in West Point, Georgia will be available as a plug-in hybrid, as well as a traditional hybrid. Optima also adds the latest high-tech safety vehicles, depending upon the trim.

Unlike its sibling the Hyundai Sonata, which was radically restyled a year earlier, Kia’s exterior design team decided to play it safe, evolving the vehicle’s sporty design language as opposed to radically changing the look and the feel of the vehicle. In essence, the folks at Kia just improved on a great design, while continuing to offer five trims to suit a variety of needs and price points. We were fortunate get our hands on a well-equipped SX turbo, which is slotted right below the top-tier SXL trim.

 Inside the vehicle, the all-new Optima instrument panel resembles that of the flagship vehicle, the Kia K900, with an easy-to-operate infotainment system, offering a premium feel to the interior. The Optima will soon join its sibling, the Sonata, offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is compatible with today’s smartphones. Depending upon the trim, the midsize sedan, with its form-fitting seats, can be covered in cloth, leather or the high-end Italian Napa leather.

Along with the evolved design, the vehicle grows slightly, too, due to a longer wheelbase and wider track. The midsize sedan offers more cabin space for occupants, a slightly larger trunk and improved driving dynamics. The Optima also offers a number of optional safety enhancements which were missing in the model it replaces.

Some of those features consist of a 360-degree surround-view monitor, a radar-activated cruise control system, a lane departure warning system, an automatic forward alert emergency braking system, rotating Xenon headlights and high beams that turn on and off automatically as vehicles approach. And to power this sporty vehicle, the powertrain team added an all-new 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder turbo, while carrying over the existing 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter turbo engines that were in last year’s vehicle.

What’s Not: With the more refined Kia Optima, the downside is that the new engine options aren’t as powerful as the ones it replaced. We prefer having the previous engines that pushed out 192 and 274 horses from underneath the hood. While we realize Kia has a sport mode, which fuels more power to the vehicle, it still isn’t comparable to a 6-cylinder engine. While we welcome the upgraded audio system, does that mean we have to forego a CD player? Can’t we have both? In the midsize segment, Kia is no longer the value priced underdog as its pricing is now on par with its competitors.

Drive Or Drive-By: While the 2012 model set the styling direction of the Optima along the right path to being a sales success, the 2016 model shows how both the design and engineering team tried to make this not only a stylish vehicle, but one that offers more of a premium feel and look for buyers in the market for a competitive family sedan.

Competition: 2016 Chevy Malibu; 2016 Ford Fusion; 2016 Honda Accord; 2016 Hyundai Sonata; 2016 Nissan Altima; 2016 Mazda6; 2016 Subaru Legacy; and 2016 Toyota Camry

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $33,215 (base model $22,480)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: airbags; ABS; electronic stability control system; traction control; hill start assist control system; and a tire pressure monitoring system

 Standard Equipment (Base Model): 16-inch wheels; a 6-speed automatic transmission; 6-way power driver’s seat; cloth manually adjusted front seats; a manual operated a/c system; a manually operated tilt/telescopic steering; and an automatic down driver’s window

 Standard Equipment (SX): 18-inch alloy wheels; a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; bi-functional Xenon headlights; dual exhaust chrome tip; LED rear tail lights; power folding heated outside mirrors; rear spoiler; sport front and rear bumpers; 12-way power driver’s seats (and a 4-way power lumbar support); alloy pedals; auto dimming rear view mirror with a compass; automatic (up and down) front windows; dual zone automatic temperature control; heated front seats; an illuminated glove box; an illuminate vanity mirror; a leather heated steering wheel; a memory driver seat and mirror position; an 8-inch infotainment screen; a rearview camera; a keyless ignition starter system; a keyless activation door system; a rear seat armrest with cup holder; and a sport-tuned suspension  

 Optional Features On Test Vehicle: 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system; panoramic sunroof; leather seats; power front passenger seat; heated (and ventilated) front seats; heated rear seats; a blind spot detection system; a rear cross traffic alert system; rear parking assist sensors; and LED overhead interior lighting.

Other Trim Level:

LX

LX Turbo

EX

SXL Turbo

 Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD

 Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

 USB Connectivity: Yes

 Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder/185-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

 Standard Fuel Mileage:

24-city/35-hwy

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him on Twitter/JeffCars.

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