Kia’s first gasoline-electric midsize sedan for the U.S. market, the Optima Hybrid, entered its second generation for 2017, completely redesigned and featuring a 10 percent increase in fuel economy.
Prices start at $25,995 (plus $895 freight) for the base Optima Hybrid Premium model. Also available is the uplevel Hybrid EX, which starts at $30,990.
The reworked powertrain includes a more-compact but higher-capacity lithium-polymer battery, and a higher-power electric motor, along with a new 2.0-liter, 154-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine, replacing the previous model’s 2.4-liter.
This engine is coupled with a hybrid starter/generator and an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission. The new 50-horsepower 38 kW electric motor helps provide quick takeoffs and extra passing power when necessary.
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Total combined output of the engine and electric motor is 192 horsepower and 271 foot-pounds of torque. The car also has a new electric water pump and oil pump, designed to help improve fuel economy.
EPA ratings are 39 mpg city/46 highway/42 combined. The car uses approximately 2.4 gallons of fuel for each 100 miles of driving.
Powering the electric motor is the new compact, lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack, which has 13 percent more capacity than that of the previous model. Total capacity is 1.62 kWh. The Optima can go as fast as 62 mph on electric power alone, for a short distance.
With its smaller profile, the battery now fits under the trunk floor, preserving cargo space. This gives the new Optima a larger, more practical load area and allows for a 60/40 split-folding rear seat to expand cargo space into the rear seating area.
Unlike some hybrid sedans – such as the Toyota Prius – the Optima Hybrid looks almost identical to its gasoline-only sibling, with both sharing the exterior styling changes and interior updates that arrived on the gasoline Optima for 2016.
With this latest Optima Hybrid, Kia is introducing its environmentally friendly sub-brand, Kia Motors EcoDynamics.
The new Optima Hybrid also comes with the new Eco-DAS1 (driver assistance system) with Kia’s “Coasting Guide,” which helps boost fuel efficiency by “coaching” the driver when to coast and brake. There is an icon on the instrument panel that blinks and sounds an alert.
Underneath, the Optima Hybrid has a unibody made of a combination of high-tensile-strength steel alloys, which includes more than 50 percent advanced high-strength steel, Kia says. That helps the body and chassis to be stiffer and more durable, increasing crash protection for the vehicle’s occupants. It also makes the interior quieter.
Although styling is essentially the same as on the gasoline Optima, the hybrid has a few unique styling cues, including a front air curtain, beveled rear bumper, rear diffuser shrouding the exhaust tip, and aerodynamic alloy wheels.
Also included are special EcoHybrid badges, LED lighting and satin-finish accent trim.
Our top-end EX model tester came with the EX technology package ($5,000), which brought LED headlights with dynamic bending light, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, a power front passenger seat with lumbar adjust, heated outboard rear seats, radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection, forward collision warning, high-beam assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist, self-dimming rearview mirror, LED overhead interior lights and rear side-window sunshades.
Standard EX Hybrid features include leather seats; dual-zone automatic climate control; a navigation system; and the Harman Kardon Quantum Logic premium surround-sound audio system with 10 speakers, 630-watt digital amplifier, Clari-Fi music-restoration technology, eight-inch touch screen, UVO infotainment services, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, Bluetooth technology and a rearview camera system.
Among other EX standard equipment are 17-inch alloy wheels; heated front seats with power adjust on the driver’s side, with memory; a rear center console with USB chargers and 12-volt power outlet; and a smart key/pushbutton start system.
Also included on our EX were the hands-free smart trunk opener, which automatically pops the trunk lid open if someone stands behind it for more than three seconds with the key fob; a tilt/telescopic steering column, with heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel; steering wheel audio and cruise controls; outside mirrors with integrated turn signals; LED taillights; power windows/mirrors/door locks.
Available features also include a wireless phone charger and surround-view camera system to aid in parking.
This design represents the fourth generation of the Optima sedan overall. With the restyling, the passenger compartment is larger and more comfortable. Upscale touches include soft-touch materials and stitching along the dash and doors.
Seat comfort was improved with stiffer frames, soft foam in the headrests and upper backs, and denser foam in the thigh-support areas, Kia said. The driver and passenger seat are height-adjustable.
Among standard safety features are front seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows, driver’s knee air bag, electronic stability control with traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill-start assist and tire-pressure monitoring.
Our EX tester came in crimson red with a black leather interior. A white leather interior is available. Two premium exterior colors are offered for $395 extra: aurora black pearl and snow white pearl.
We had plenty of power from the hybrid drive system, and also decent range on a tank of fuel, thanks to a 15.85-gallon fuel tank. We averaged about 41.4 mpg during our week in the Optima Hybrid, with about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.
We took a long weekend beach trip in the Optima Hybrid with three adults on board, and occasionally five for restaurant and sightseeing jogs at our destination. The front seats are quite comfortable, as are the rear outboard positions. The middle position is OK for a small adult or child, but perhaps not for a long drive.
With the technology package and freight charge, the total sticker price for my 2017 Optima Hybrid EX was $36,885. But you can get a decently equipped base model without all the high-tech extras and leather for about $10,000 less.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com.
2017 Kia Optima Hybrid
The package: Midsize, four-door, four-cylinder gasoline/electric hybrid powered, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger family sedan.
Highlights: Kia’s midsize sedan got a complete makeover for 2016, and the gasoline-electric hybrid model was updated for 2017. This is the best Optima yet, looking more like a luxury car than an affordable, mass-market vehicle.
Negatives: Headroom is tight for taller people in models with the sunroof.
Engine/power: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine and 38-kW electric motor (hybrid).
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 154 HP/140 foot-pounds (gasoline engine alone); 192 HP./271 foot-pounds (gasoline engine/electric motor combined).
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Electronic stability control: Standard, including traction control.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain, both rows.
Length: 191.1 inches.
Trunk capacity: 13.42 cubic feet.
Curb weight: 3,486-3,538 pounds.
Fuel capacity/type: 15.85 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 39 mpg city/46 highway/42 combined.
Major competitors: Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima.
Base price range: $25,995-$30,990, plus $895 freight.
Price as tested: $36,885, including freight and options (EX Hybrid).
On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.