by Larry Lark, Herald Special Sections Writer
It’s nice to have a car with a range of close to 600 miles that gets almost 40 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving.
That was my 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX tester. And the best part was, I didn’t really even think I was driving a hybrid. Powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder hybrid engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Optima was not lacking for power.
A 38 kW electric motor and clutch replaces the traditional torque converter to provide strong off-the-line acceleration and power assistance to the engine when necessary. Energy flow is fast and seamless between EV mode and hybrid mode. Total combined output for the Optima Hybrid is estimated at 193 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Adding to the equation is a new electric water pump and a new electric oil pump, which help improve overall fuel economy.
Nor does this hybrid come in a funky, look-at-me shape. In fact, Kia infuses aerodynamic form and function into Optima’s sleek, modern design. Mine came with a Snow White Pearl coat of paint, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and a panoramic sun roof that covered the front and back seats, giving everyone a bird’s eye view of the rain.
“Kia is pursuing a bold initiative to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent across our entire model line-up by 2020, and new models like the Optima HEV and PHEV will be critical to realizing that vision,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, KMA. “The brand’s commitment to sustainability, coupled with our history of delivering premium amenities and value, has never been more evident than in these all-new hybrid vehicles, which are world-class examples of green engineering, advanced technology and design.”
Giving life to the electric motor is a more compact, lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack with a 13-percent increase in capacity to 1.62 kWh. With improved packaging, this more potent energy source now fits neatly underneath the trunk floor without encroaching into cargo space. Yes, golf bags fit – no problemo. And the new battery configuration allows for the integration of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
The Optima seats five adults without an issue, and features leather, heated front seats with adjustments including lumbar support. Creature comforts include navigation, rear camera, dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, push-button start, Harman Kardon premium surround sound with 10 speakers and compact disc player, USB port, Bluetooth and UVO telematics.
The new Optima Hybrid makes intelligent use of technology to deliver a host of comprehensive driver-assistance systems and convenience features. The HEV now offers autonomous emergency braking which, under appropriate conditions, will bring the vehicle to a complete stop to potentially avoid a collision or reduce damage. Other key driver-assistance systems include blind-spot detection, advanced smart cruise control, lane-departure warning system and front-collision warning system.
To make life on the road easier and more enjoyable, the Optima brings convenience offerings such as hands-free, trunk-open feature with smart key, a wireless phone charger and surround-view monitoring to aid parking maneuvers.
As I’ve said before, each generation of hybrid keeps improving, to the point even I might consider doing my small part in saving the planet.
2017 KIA OPTIMA HYBRID EX
BASE PRICE: $30,990
AS TESTED: $37,235
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.