The euro-styled kia optima mid-size sedan has been quite a hit for the brand, and a favorite of ours here at Motorweek as well. But what most people may not realize is that the optima lineup includes a gasoline-electric hybrid. And for 2017, it gets a full redesign, encompassing all of the benefits of the optima’s new 4th generation chassis.
Kia has actually had a high mileage hybrid in the Optima lineup since 2011. And with the 4th generation of Kia’s midsizer kicking off last year, 2017 sees an all-new powertrain for this gasoline-electric. The new hybrid system consists of 2.0-liter I4, downsized from the previous gen’s 2.4-liter. But, there’s a bigger electric motor in place to aid it, 38-kW compared to last year’s 30-kW motor. Combined, horsepower is actually down from 206 to 192; but torque is much torquier, climbing from 195 lb-ft. to 271.
Battery size increases from 1.4 to 1.6-kWh; and as before, it’s placed under the rear trunk floor, robbing a bit of storage space, though keeping the split/folding seatbacks in play. Capacity is 13.4 cubic-ft., compared to the base sedan’s 15.9. Thankfully, the transmission is still a 6-speed auto; and there’s been no change to a CVT. Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 39-City, 46-Highway, and 42-Combined; so our average of 41.7 miles-per-gallon on Regular was just about spot on. That makes for a very good Energy Impact Score, with use of just 7.8-barrels of oil per year while emitting just 3.5-tons of CO2.
That’s a significant improvement over last gen for sure, but still short of many other hybrids out there. For those looking for more, a plug-in version with a larger battery and up to 27 miles of EV-only driving is on the way. As for daily use, the Optima hybrid makes some noises you wouldn’t hear in a typical petrol Optima, but otherwise operates with the same smooth, Euro-like demeanor. After an hour or two behind the wheel, it’s easy to forget you’re even in a hybrid. If you wish to be reminded, a new Eco-Driver Assistance System will coach you on how to get the most efficiency as possible, with prompts in the IP, as well as with audible alerts. With very good steering feel, this gen’s stiffer chassis, and the aforementioned transmission; this is one hybrid we truly enjoyed driving.
There’s good comfort in all seating positions and plenty of nice soft touch materials. EX trim comes with heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, surround sound, and navigation. Adding the Technology package will get you a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a host of safety systems including Autonomous Emergency Braking. The exterior differs little from base Optima. That’s a good thing as far as we’re concerned, as we feel the Optima is one of the best looking rides in the family sedan segment.
But, nothing is for free, as there’s always a price to pay. Here, it starts at $26,890 in Premium trim, or about a grand less than the stingier Toyota Camry Hybrid. Optima Hybrid in EX trim, at $31,885, is about 5-grand over a standard non-hybrid Optima.
The 2017 Kia Optima may come up short when it comes to absolute fuel economy. But, much like the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, it offers handsome styling, and a traditional sedan feel, that many other modestly priced hybrids can’t match, plus, it adds a unique driving experience that’s clearly European in flavor. So, don’t look at the Optima Hybrid as the ultimate hyper-miler’s choice, but a more efficient option for those looking for a roomy, great looking, fine driving car.
Engine: 2.0-liter I4
Torque: 271 lb-ft.
EPA: 39 mpg city / 46 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 7.8 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 3.5 tons/yr