Electric Class: The First Kia Hybrid

This is the Korean brand’s first hybrid. Like all hybrids, when the Optima hybrid comes to a stop and the electrical load is low, the engine shuts off to completely eliminate idle fuel consumption and emissions.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $27,250

Seating Capacity: 5 occupants

Standard Safety Features: Dual front advanced air bags; ABS; traction control; electronic stability control; hill-start assist system which keeps the vehicle from rolling back on a hill; a tire pressure monitoring system and a Vehicle Engine Sound System for the blind.

Standard Equipment: Hybrid; 16-inch wheels; push-button keyless system; keyless entry stem; rear camera; power driver’s seat; fog lights; rear spoiler; dual-zone temperature control a/c system: Kia’s signature UVO system (similar to Ford’s SYNC); automatic headlights; a rear seat center armrest with integrated cupholders; and a cooling glove box for drinks and the like.

Standard Audio: UVO audio system w/ AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satelite Radio subscription

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Hybrid Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles

Trim Levels: Base, Premium Tech package

Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes

MP3 Capability: Yes

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder/166-hp (engine only) or 206.2 (electric assist)

Recommended Fuel: Regular

Standard Fuel Mileage: 35-city/40-hwy

What’s New: In 2011, the Kia Optima hybrid became the latest additional to the line up.

____________________________

Pros: This stylish hybrid adds a whole new dimension to what it actually means to go green. Not only does Kia’s new hybrid emphasize fuel-efficiency, but it also does so while wearing a sporty exterior package too.

With the Kia Optima, the Korean automaker has managed to offer a roomy, competitively priced hybrid with the perfect mix of standard features. Now for those looking to step-up to a well-equipped Optima hybrid, Kia offers two configurations, the one we reviewed and the high-end Premium package.

The Premium Technology package, which is priced at $5,000, includes Kia’s blacked-out panoramic sunroof, sporty 17-inch alloy wheel design, a power adjustable front passenger's seat, driver's seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, High Intensity Discharge headlamps with automatic leveling, leatherette-wrapped center fascia, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink and compass, a navigation system with back-up camera and SIRIUS Traffic, and an upgraded 8-speaker Infinity audio system.

And, since most hybrids have been criticized for being so quiet, especially when in the presence of the blind, Kia has incorporated a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) to address this concern. This standard feature on the Optima Hybrid, plays a pre-recorded engine sound during electric-only operation, helping to notify people outside the vehicle that it is approaching.  

Kia Optima Hybrid

Car Review: Kia Optima Hybrid

Furthermore, this sporty hybrid provides a lot of use information on the instrument gauge, helping to ensure that you're driving green.     

Cons:

Unlike some other hybrids we’ve reviewed, we were unable to able to achieve 500 miles from one tank of gas. (Note: fueleconomy.gov says that the vehicle fuel range is approximately 570 miles on a tank of gas.) However, we must note we did a lot of excessive speeding, while behind the wheel. Ironically, the city mpg on the Optima is actually lower than the highway mileage on the Optima hybrid just like what we found after spending time behind the wheel of GM’s mild hybrids, the 2013 Malibu and 2012 LaCrosse. In most cases, hybrids produce better mileage, when driving around the city than on the highway.

Also with this being a hybrid, the cargo area was reduced due to the location of the battery pack. Furthermore, we wish Kia would create another package for the Kia, allowing consumers to opt for a cloth seat package with heated seats and a standalone navigation system without one being forced to order the tech package to get many of the noted features.

The Verdict:

Out of all of the hybrids on the market today, besides the Lexus CT200h, in our eyes this is the sportiest one. Not only does it manage to maintain the traditional car-like look we’ve become accustomed too, the Optima hybrid also offers a great ride in a stylish package. More consumers will more than likely go green, if they can have a hybrid that looks like this. Also pricing for the base hybrid is in reach of a number of consumers, especially when pitted-up against other midsize family sedans. 

Competition:  2013 Chevy Malibu eAssist, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him http://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.