What changes will make it different?
Probably a major re-engineering, with possible addition of an Eco model. With the third generation debuting in 2011, the Kia Optima is due a major overhaul, and it’ll likely come for model-year 2016. Look for a completely redesigned exterior, revised interior, improved structural integrity and overall occupant safety, a slight uptick in fuel efficiency, and a new hybrid drivetrain. Similar to its mechanical twin, the Hyundai Sonata, the Optima could also add a Eco model.
Why Should I wait for the 2016?
Should I buy a 2015 model instead?
Yes, if you like the current generation’s style and want take advantage of the 2015 changes. New hands-free features for the UVO services and a repositioning of the cruise control highlight the minor interior alterations before the major changes in ’16. Exterior changes are limited to a few new color choices. Look for dealers to offer rebates, low interest loans, and attractive leasing options to help unload the ‘15s before the new ‘16s arrive.
Will the styling be different?
The shape of the car will remain the same but new sheet-metal will give the sedan a whole new look. The hybrid and possible Eco models should get decals to help differentiate them from the standard trims. The 2.4-liter engine should be available in three trim: base LX, leather-trimmed EX, and the sporty SX. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will likely return in two trims: SX Turbo and Nappa leather–trimmed Limited. The Hybrid will likely once again come in LX and EX
Any mechanical changes?
Possible changes to the platform, including the use of more high-strength steels, could greatly increase stiffness. Coupled with possible revisions to the rear suspension9, the 2016 midsize sedan should not only e safer but also sportier. Expect the 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter turbocharged to carry over, with possible slight revisions to output to provide more low- to mid-range power but a slight decrease in overall output.10 Both engines should come paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Hybrid will again combine a four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor but expect some big changes from the previous Hybrid offering.11 The addition of an Eco model is possibility. It could use a small, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for the benefit of fuel misers and the lineup’s overall fuel economy.12
Will fuel economy improve?
Fuel economy ratings should improve across the board. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder could go up from an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway to 25 and 37 miles per gallon, respectively. The 2.0-liter turbocharged could see a similar rise, going from 20/31 mpg city/highway to 23/32. A possible big addition to the lineup will be the Eco model, which could return 28/38 city/highway numbers. The Hybrid could see a small gain as well, possibly returning to its pre-EPA–investigation numbers of 35/40 mpg city/highway.13
Will it have new features?
The 2016 Optima could offer some new user-friendly features in its fourth generation redesign as the company looks to make its interiors more appealing and ergonomic. Look for Apple CarPlay integration, allowing drivers to use the upscale models’ touchscreens as a representation of the iPhone’s various menus and giving them access to all their phone’s functions. Siri Eyes Free mode should also allow them to utilize the virtual assistant through the car’s speakers and call upon her through a built-in microphone.14 Speaking of touchscreens, Kia’s sedan could offer bigger choices than the current 4.3” LCD, with screens measuring 5” or 8” in size being a possibility.15 Other options should include an Infinity sound system, a rear-camera display, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, and lane-change assist.16 The ’16 auto could also gain a Smart Cruise Control feature17 which can bring the car to a halt if it senses traffic stopped ahead, and a trunk that opens automatically when the owner stands behind the vehicle for more than three seconds.18
How will 2016 prices be different?
Prices shouldn’t increase drastically. Expect a price range of roughly $22,000–$35,800, including a destination fee of approximately $800. The Eco and Hybrid models should slot in near the $25,000 marker.
What is the expected release date?
Expect a release date in the summer of 2015.
What change would make better?
Kia has tried to differentiate itself as the less expensive, sportier of the two Korean brands, but results have varied. The previous Optima had a slightly sportier ride than the Hyundai Sonata, a car with which it shared many of mechanical components, but it was arguably not as sporty looking as the Sonata. The new Optima would do well to find a more cohesive balance between its styling and performance.