The noise Kia has made reinventing itself as a quality auto manufacturer in recent years is finally dying away. We've just come to accept the fact that like Hyundai, Kia is good at what it does. So it should come as no surprise that the Optima Hybrid is emerging as a quality mid-sized hybrid alternative.
The Optima Hybrid is available in two levels -- the EX and LX. Both are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. A six speed automatic is the only available transmission. Combined, this hybrid engine produces 199 horsepower.
The EX returns an estimated 36 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, while the heavier LX comes in at 35 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. Both models are well-equipped with standard features that are optional on non-hybrid Optimas. In addition, the Optima earned top rankings in government safety tests for overall performance, and for frontal and side impact tests.
Inside, the Optima is fairly clean and crisp. Unlike a lot of mid-sized sedans the interior is attractive and distinct. The electronic interface is a real breeze to use and fairly innovative. It shares some similarities to Ford's SYNC system, including voice activation control -- and that's not a bad thing. The cabin is spacious, but headroom in the rear seat is a bit tight. Trunk space is somewhat limited, but that's to be expected with a hybrid because of the battery pack storage.
On the road the Optima handles fairly well. The engine is quiet and smooth, and the ride is rather comfortable, though at times the suspension seems a bit stiff. Steering could be smoother. But road noise is limited and the car is comfortable. The transmission does a decent job shifting gears, and there's enough power in this hybrid to get up to speed quickly. The layout of the controls makes using all the features very easy.
It might sound trite and overdone, but Kia continues to impress more and more with each passing year -- the Optima Hybrid is definitely another winner for them.