Kia Optima a smart, stylish hybrid
Kia jumped into the hybrid fray two years ago with the Kia Optima. It was a great move by the South Korean automaker, which already had a strong, well received product in the Optima and increased its prestige by adding the hybrid for 2011.
What's so good about the 2013 Kia Optima hybrid? First off, it looks really classy. At first glance one might mistake the Optima for a German-produced vehicle, which is high praise. It looks good on the outside and the interior features a very sensible layout with a smart design - wish more vehicles would follow that same line of thinking.
2013 Kia Optima hybrid
- Performance: 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, 200 horsepower; 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, 274 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 35-40 mpg
- Price: $25,900 to $31,950
- Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles; drivetrain 10 years/100,000 miles; roadside assistance 5 years/60,000
The Optima hybrid also has a very smooth shifting transmission that is not only quite efficient, but also very quiet. And the handling is sporty for a hybrid that sells for a reasonable $25,900.
And one more thing about this midsized sedan: the Optima has a big back seat that is roomy for taller folks and will also fit three passengers without the usual overcrowding issues.
If one understands the Kia-Hyundai relationship, it should come as no surprise that the Optima mirrors some of the Hyundai Sonata basic designs.
For those not in the know, Kia and Hyundai do lots of sharing, including factories, engineering, parts and similar testing. Yet the two South Korean companies maintain their own marketing, distribution and styling departments.
This year Kia adds more diversity to the Optima by offering three trim models (LX, EX, SX) - there were two in the past. Both the LX and EX have a revised hybrid drivetrain that slightly reduces the horsepower.
The new standard hybrid engine pairs a 30-kilowatt electric motor with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It's far from the quickest sedan around, going 0-60 mph in 8.9 seconds. But the overall performance is still very good for a hybrid model.
Due to California emission standards, the LX and EX Optimas sold in the Golden State have a lower power output of 192 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque.
If performance ranks high on the list, an option is going with the speedy, higher performance SX model, which is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The SX goes 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.
With any hybrid, perhaps the prime consideration is gas mileage. No slouch in that department, the Optima gets a reported 35-40 mpg.
As mentioned previously, the Optima provides a very nice ride. It's a fairly easy vehicle to maneuver, thanks to its responsive steering. It has good passing power in freeway situations and also features dependable braking power.
The Optima's smart interior utilizes the Uvo electronics interface system, which is offered in all but the base model. Uvo allows for voice control of cell phones and MP3 players, plus services like turn-by-turn navigation, which is a little too chatty for my liking.
A low roof line is one downside to the Optima because it limits visibility. Another negative is the trunk's substandard in the hybrid version with only 9.9 cubic feet due to sharing space due to its sizable battery pack. The non-hybrid Optima models measure 15.4 cubic feet in trunk space.
For anyone shopping for a midsize car with a lot of value, the Optima hybrid should be put on the list. It blends a sporty look with a comfortable, well designed interior. It also offers a smooth ride for a vehicle in its price range.