The 2016 Kia Optima, like previous models, shares chassis and powertrains with the Hyundai Sonata, even if some specifics vary according to different product change cycles. However, the company motto remains that "everything you see and touch will be different" between the related models of the two brands. Which means each make gets its very own exterior and interior styling down to switches and knobs, and in some cases, other characteristics such as ride/handling tuning as well.
For the new Optima, featured at the 2015 New York International Auto Show and set to go on sale late in the year, the major technical differences are in the connectivity/infotainment systems. Instead of a built-in modem and a variant of Hyundai's Blue Link, as used on the Sonata, the Kia Optima will be offering an upgraded version of the smartphone-based UVO² (UVO short for "your voice") by adding navigation.
The change is visually obvious, as the 4.3-in control stack screen is replaced by the 8.0-in display that is going virtually across the board on company products.
UVO² incorporates an onboard Microsoft module with Nuance voice recognition. It's on a medium-speed CAN (Controller Area Network) bus but can access the high-speed CAN for trouble codes, as for a vehicle health report.
The navigation system drops Microsoft in favor of one that's Linux-based, and when UVO³ is introduced on a future model, Kia reportedly will swap Microsoft for an open-source Linux to control the entire infotainment system. The navigation is tied to Sirius Travel Link, a subscription service that provides news, sports, weather, local fuel prices, and movie listings via satellite. After a three-month free trial, there's a monthly fee. However, the subscription can be discontinued without losing the navigation system, which is updated with an SD card, via downloads from the UVO website.
Apple CarPlay connects with UVO² via the USB terminal. Google's Android Auto connects with Bluetooth or USB. The full range of Kia eServices apps continues, and Optima now gets geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert, and driving score.
The Optima's optional electronics technology package for the SX and SXL also includes a camera array that can produce a 360° (around the car) display on the screen. With this feature already on the Kia list, Hyundai would have to play catch-up when it announces its 2016 Sonata.
As part of the total restyling, the Optima will be the company's first car to offer adaptive headlamps. The electromechanical system pivots the bulb-holding assembly in response to steering inputs, and it is standard with SX and SXL trim packages. Automatic high beam control is included in the optional technology package on those models.