Quiet and relaxed demeanor
Decent Fuel Economy
A wealth of luxury features at a reasonable price
Pleasant styling inside and out
Good but not great fuel economy
Less usable trunk space than a standard Optima
Electric motors in cars are particularly good at a number of things. They are able to efficiently propel a vehicle and regenerate energy while slowing. They are also powerful off the line, smoother, and quieter than piston engines.
During our time with the Kia Optima Hybrid, we were impressed by how these latter attributes made the car feel so luxurious but less than amazed by how the first two improved fuel economy.
That smooth effortless and nearly silent propulsion (and complete silence when stopped) made for a relaxing drive. The Optima Hybrid’s 2.4 liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine/electric combination generates essentially the same horsepower as the regular Optima’s gas engine, (199hp in the hybrid vs. 200hp in the standard version) but more telling is the way the car makes that power. The hybrid’s horsepower peaks at 5,500 rpm vs. 6,300 rpm in the gasoline version. Torque in the hybrid peaks at 235 lb-ft between 1,000 – 2,500 rpm in the hybrid and at 186 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm in the base model. In either case, your Optima of choice is equipped with a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission.
More torque at lower rpm means that the power comes on quickly without needing to rev the engine as loudly. Driven calmly, the Optima Hybrid is also capable of running solely in electric mode for the first part of one’s drive away from a red light.
Fuel economy is rated at 35 city/39 Hwy/37 mpg combined in the Optima EX Hybrid we drove vs. 24 city/35 hwy/28 mpg combined for the gasoline Optima EX. Our average fuel economy during our trip of mixed driving was only about 29 mpg. This isn’t bad at all for what is essentially a full-sized family sedan but even driven conservatively we never came close to matching the EPA figures. Our conclusion is that one could look upon the hybrid as a luxury engine upgrade in this model… those looking for ultimate MPGs may be better off elsewhere.
Since our test car came in fully loaded EX level trim, we enjoyed luxuries like a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, leather seats which were both heated and ventilated for front seat passengers, navigation, an upgraded Infinity stereo on top of the standard full smartphone Bluetooth integration, memory seats, and even a heated steering wheel. This was in addition to the full array of standard safety and convenience features already in place in the base model.
All of these toys, the aforementioned propulsion system, and a smooth quiet ride made this a really great car for freeway cruising as well as stop-and-go driving. It wasn’t sporty but we weren’t expecting it to be.
In fact, the Optima Hybrid does a great impersonation of a luxury car. We can’t think of any must-have technology features missing from the Optima EX, the seats were very comfortable, the back seats were roomy for adults, and the quality of the build and materials left us wanting for nothing. All of this came with an as-tested price (including destination fees) of $32,750. The Optima Hybrid in base LX trim starts at $26,700.
Value Proposition and Burning Less Gas
We enjoyed our time with the Optima Hybrid. However, the parts we liked the most are inherent to the rest of the Optima lineup as well. The standard car still delivers the same styling and array of features for even less money so the value proposition of the electrified engine bay isn’t quite as clear-cut.
When we compare the Optima Hybrid to a similarly loaded Optima EX the Hybrid loses about a third of its trunk space due to the battery pack. It also weighs a few hundred pounds more than the regular version, so outright acceleration is a bit more muted. Based on the Kia web site, the Hybrid costs $2,900 more than an Optima EX with the leather, premium, and technology packages necessary to match the specs of our test car. The hybrid is also just a few hundred dollars less than the Optima SX Turbo with the same options but 274 horsepower, but in that case fuel economy drops a bit more.
While we enjoyed the relaxed nature of the hybrid power train a great deal, the fuel economy benefits aren’t quite as clear. Our recommendation would be to compare the different models of the Optima back to back to decide if the reduced emissions are worth the added complexity, smaller trunk, and added cost, because fuel savings likely aren’t going to pay back the added up-front expense.
2013 Kia Optima Hybrid
Engine Type: 2.4 Liter, Inline 4-cylinder Full Parallel Hybrid System
Combined Power: 199 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Combined Torque: 235 lb-ft.@ 1,000-2,500 rpm
2.4L Engine Power: 159 hp @ 5,500 rpm
2.4L Engine Torque: 154 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Electric Motor: Interior-Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Electric Motor, Horsepower: 47 hp (35 kW) @ 1,630-3,000 rpm
Electric Motor, Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 0-1,630 rpm
Electric-Vehicle Operation: Max Speed 62 mph
Transmission: Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic, without Torque Convertor
EX Trim Base Price: $31,950
Total MSRP: $32,750
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy (MPG): 35 City / 39 Highway / 37 Combined / 29 Observed