Raising the Bar on Hybrids – Kia Optima Hybrid

There once was a time when hybrid cars were unique in technology and looks compared to their traditional counterparts. The Toyota Prius was one of those cars. That car screamed “look at me, I am eco-friendly”. Nowadays, hybrid cars are more main stream and help manufacturers meet ever increasing fuel economy standards. The Kia Optima Hybrid does not scream eco-friendly when you see it. The car exudes a sense of modern style seldom seen in the mid-size car segment.

My tester was a fully equipped Kia Optima Hybrid Premium. This included leather seats, 17” tires, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, and navigation with back-up camera amongst other options. The MSRP was a cool $32,500. The base Kia Optima Hybrid starts at $25,700.

The car is equipped with a 2.4L, 4cylinder engine good for 166 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. of torque. The electric motor provides 40 horsepower for a combined healthy 206 horsepower. Fuel economy is listed at 34 mpg city and 39 mpg highway with a combined rating of 36 mpg.

After viewing the car from the exterior and slipping into the cockpit, you will notice that the interior is driver focused as the center console is slightly angled towards the driver, similar to the SAAB’s of yesteryear. The interior is a comfortable place to be with a nice combination of leather and soft touch plastics.

So how does the Kia Optima Hybrid drive in the real world?

As you start the car and press your foot on the accelerator, there is a slight delay as to when the power truly kicks in. Once going though, the car moves effortlessly and quietly around town and on the freeway. You can travel on the battery alone for a slight moment once the red light turns green. On the freeway, depending on how light you are on the accelerator among other factors, the battery may kick in as well. All this happens seamlessly. On a trip that combined city roads and freeway from Carlsbad to downtown San Diego in afternoon traffic along the 5 and 805, I averaged 38.1 mpg. Outside of that trip, I typically averaged around 30-32 mpg.

The car feels secure at freeway speed and offers enough passing power to get around the random slow driver on the freeway. The car’s braking ability is reasonable. The car also boasts 5 star government safety rankings for those of you who are wondering.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a pleasurable daily driver for those looking for a mid-size sedan. Interior space is plentiful though trunk space is reduced significantly compared to the standard Kia Optima. Overall, the car provides comfort and fuel efficiency in a nicely wrapped package in an increasingly competitive segment.

Walter Wang is Managing Editor of CleanTechies. Follow Walter on Twitter: @energytaxprof

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