It enters the market just months after the arrivals of all-new versions of the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Liberty and the Volkswagen Passat, as well as updated versions of the top-selling Mazda 6 and Toyota Camry.
Kia has opted for a simplified two-variant range for the all-new Optima, down from three in the previous range. The headline act is the new GT sports variant, which replaces the Platinum as the flagship of the range. The entry-level Si nameplate remains, while the mid-grade SLi is no longer.
Where all three variants previously featured a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated engine, the range-topping GT now gets a powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine shared with the Hyundai Sonata Premium.
Previously, the Si started from $31,490 and the Platinum from $40,990 (both before on-road costs). Now, the entry-level Si model starts from $34,490 and the GT from $43,990.
The 2.4-litre engine generates 138kW at 6000rpm and 241Nm at 4000rpm. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 8.3L/100km. The meatier 2.0-litre turbo churns out 180kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm between 1400-4000rpm, yet is only mildly thirstier at 8.5L/100km combined. Both employ the same six-speed automatic transmission as the previous model and send drive to the front wheels.
Despite looking more compact than the model it replaces, the new Kia Optima is actually larger, measuring in with a wheelbase that is 10mm longer (2805mm), a 10mm overall gain in length (4855mm) and 25mm extra width (1860mm). It’s also 10mm taller than the outgoing Optima (1465mm). The Si weighs 1540kg, while the GT weighs 1605kg.
The standard tyres are impressive for both variants. The Si is fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/55R17 Continental ContiPremiumContact 5 tyres, while the GT gets 18-inch alloy wheels and 235/45R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres. Both variants get a full-size alloy spare wheel and tyre.
Standard Optima Si features include LED daytime running lights and fog lights, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, paddleshifters, driver's seat with electric lumbar adjust, cloth upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning.
In addition to its more powerful engine and sportier wheels and tyres, the Optima GT adds blind-spot warning and lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive front lighting system, keyless entry with push-button start, leather upholstery, eight-way electric front seats, bi-xenon headlights, LED tail-lights, panoramic sunroof, colour instrument cluster display, alloy pedals and scuff plates, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Read: 2016 Kia Optima Review
2016 Kia Optima prices (plus on-road costs):