Like it or not, hybrids, electrics and hybrid/electric combinations are gaining in market share – and are the future.
Toward that end, Kia Motors America has undertaken the bold initiative to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent across its entire model lineup by 2020. With that said, the introduction of its 2017 Optima PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is one way Kia will reach that ambitious goal.
The Optima PHEV is available in one trim, EX, and is built in Hwasung, South Korea.
My tester was a hybrid that included a plug-in electric component with a range of around 29 miles – just enough to run errands around town guilt-free. Otherwise the gas/battery hybrid has a range of close to 500 miles and an EPA rating of 40 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving.
“The vehicle is emblematic of Kia’s commitment to sustainability and our philosophy that you shouldn’t have to accept compromises when making a green choice,” said Orth Hedrick, vice-president of product planning for Kia Motors of America.
My version of the Optima was powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas-direct engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination generates a class-leading 154-horsepower at 6,000 rpm.
The mid-size sedan seats four adults in comfort, five in a pinch, and the trunk is surprisingly large for a hybrid. Given the eyeball test, I believe golf bags and carts are in order.
The Optima PHEV’s next-generation battery system features a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery back, which produces roughly 60 percent more energy than the previous version. A regenerative braking system extends the battery’s life. It’s also equipped with a single charging port conveniently located in the driver’s side front fender. A full charge can be achieved in less than nine hours via a 120V charger.
The EX Technology Package ($5,250) ads a host of equipment that will make you forget you’re driving a hybrid. The lengthy list includes a panoramic sunroof, HED headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, advanced smart cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking assist.
The list of standard creature comforts is long and impressive. Highlights include a navigation system with eight-inch touchscreen and rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, Harman Kardon QLS premium surround sound audio, leather seat trim with headed front seats, and the richest set of UVO telematics in any vehicle Kia has ever produced.
The PHEV exterior features an active grille, which automatically opens and closes at high and low speeds to improve aerodynamics and optimize engine bay cooling. Numerous other styling differences include a model-specific front air curtain, a beveled rear bumper, a rear diffuser designed to streamline airflow by shrouding the exhaust tip and an aerodynamic alloy-wheel design.
Base Price: $35,210
Price As Driven: $41,750
Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.