Kia and its parent company Hyundai both entered in the hybrid arena this year. I wondered what took them so long, this is a couple of brands that seemingly do everything right. I assume they decided to wait until they got it right, and they did.
I had the 2011 Kia Optima hybrid version this week and it was a great experience. The Optima is a beautiful car, and one that I have had a ton of inquiries about since Kia released the pictures a couple of years ago.
It has a 2.4-liter engine combined with six-speed automatic transmission, a 30kW electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to provide total 206 horsepower and is under-rated at 35 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway.
One of the keys to this car is the super smooth six-speed automatic, which shifts effortlessly and so smooth you can’t feel it. It gives the car an overall silky drive that you will miss with a lot of the hybrids out there. Most hybrids are CVT (continuously variable transmission) which can be quirky at times. It also yields better highway mileage than city mileage, a bit unusual for a hybrid. Using a more conventional transmission was a gutsy move by Hyundai, but one I think will pay off for them. In short, it feels more like a normal car.
The Optima has great lines and is super aerodynamic. It rates a mere 0.26 co-efficient rating, which is very low, meaning it cuts through the wind. This helps achieve the terrific fuel economy.
As a first for me, the Optima also offers what Kia calls a “Virtual Engine Sound System,” which plays a pre-recorded engine sound during electric-only operation to notify people outside the vehicle that it is approaching.
Options on this Optima include: an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, dual zone automatic temperature control with rear vents, push-button start with smart key, leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic up/down on front windows, and fixed rear seats with ski pass-through. The premium package has a TERRIFIC panoramic sunroof, an unusual 17-inch alloy wheel design, power seats heated and cooled, a navigation system with back-up camera and LOTS of other nice options.
The leather seats are really pretty and super comfortable. Everything is laid out very conveniently for the driver. Perhaps best of all, the graphics on the dash and in the center LED screen are awesome and if followed, help you to maximize the fuel economy of this car. Trying hard, I was able to eek out 37 in town, and 42 on the highway at 65 miles per hour consistently. Ford Fusion hybrid also has great graphics that I have raved about, and Optima rivals it.
This is a great car, and drives like a dream, extremely quiet, and handles and rides great. I must say I am impressed. I can easily make a case for the car with the gas engine, and I think it is an even better value as a hybrid.
What I liked most: Smoothness, interior, fuel economy.
What I would change if I could: Jury is still out, but the wheels MAY be ugly.
MSRP as tested: $32,250
Fuel Economy: 35 city/40 highway, will do slightly better.
Optima hybrid in a few words: A great car first, a great hybrid second.