Kia’s midsize Optima has earned a growing number of kudos for its European-style good looks, as well as its value compared to other family sedans. The Optima Hybrid ties those laudable virtues to a gasoline/electric powertrain, resulting in some of the best fuel economy figures for a car of this size.
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2017 Kia Optima Hybrid Overview
What's new for 2017
When Kia redesigned its regular gasoline-engine Optima for 2016, the Hybrid edition carried over from the previous generation. Now, the Hybrid has been re-engineered to keep pace with the gas-engine model. Seeking to improve efficiency by 10 percent, Kia has installed a new 2-liter gasoline engine to work with the hybrid powertrain.
Choosing Your Kia Optima Hybrid
Each Optima Hybrid comes with the same new powertrain. A 2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, rated at 154 horsepower, works with a 38-kW, 50-horsepower electric motor and a 1.62 kWh lithium-polymer battery. Combined output is 192 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, along with 271 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid powertrain mates with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is now estimated by the EPA at 39 mpg in city driving and 46 mpg on the highway, or 42 mpg combined. That compares to 36/40 mpg (city/highway) for the prior powertrain.
Several unique exterior elements enhance the Hybrid’s aerodynamics, as well as its appearance. The body’s coefficient of drag is a low 0.24. An active grille opens and closes automatically at high and low speeds. A rear diffuser streamlines airflow, and the back bumper is beveled. Low-rolling-resistance tires ride on 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels.
A “virtual engine sound” system is standard, and the Drive Mode selector offers Normal, Sport, and Eco modes. A new Driver Assistance System features a Coasting Guide, which tells the driver when to coast and brake for maximum fuel economy.
Buyers choose from two trim levels, Base and EX, with significantly different equipment levels:
If fuel economy is your foremost goal, you may as well stick with the base model. The EX offers some pleasant and noteworthy features, including additional safety technology, but isn't the best value given its price. Note that contents of the optional Technology package have changed this year, more than doubling its price.
2017 Kia Optima Hybrid Review
Kia initiated a complete redesign of the Optima Hybrid for 2017, giving it new, albeit very lightly changed, body and a new powertrain that pushes fuel economy to a more competitive range. While these are all great changes, there are a few flaws in the new Optima that could drive buyers away.
Can the new Optima keep up with the growing hybrid midsize sedan class? Continue reading to find out.
Pricing and Equipment
The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid comes in just a pair of trim levels, Premium and EX, which retail from $26,890 to $31,880 (including $895 destination fee), respectively. The base Premium trim is well equipped, so we're betting it represents the bulk of Optima Hybrids sold. Its standard equipment includes:
- Six-speaker audio system with a seven-inch display
- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Rearview camera
- Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming
- Power accessories with one-touch driver and passenger windows
- Dual-zone auto climate control
- Heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals
- Automatic-opening trunk
- Projector-beam headlights
- LED taillights
- Sixteen-inch alloy wheels
Buyers looking for additional features can opt for the Hybrid Convenience Package, which runs $1,795, and add a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, blind-spot detection, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, sound-absorbing front side windows, and power-folding mirrors.
Under the Optima Hybrid’s hood is a single powertrain option: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor. Combined, this hybrid unit delivers 192 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. Unlike a lot of hybrids, Kia and its corporate big brother, Hyundai, use six-speed automatic transmissions for the Optima Hybrid and its fraternal twin, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Both trims of the Optima Hybrid return 39 miles per gallon in the city, 46 mpg on the highway, and 42 combined.
- Fuel economy is solid, while the EPA's estimated numbers aren't too difficult to hit.
- The six-speed automatic works really beautifully, effectively allowing the Optima Hybrid to coast on pure electric power.
- Good ride quality for a non-luxury sedan.
- Regenerative brakes are easy to modulate.
- Overall performance is lackluster.
- Fuel economy falls far short of the Honda Accord Hybrid's fuel economy figures (49 mpg city and 47 mpg highway).
- Finely crafted cabin makes the Optima Hybrid feel more upscale.
- Surprisingly quiet and comfortable.
- Lots of desirable features, even in the base Premium trim.
- Plenty of luggage space for a hybrid at 13.4 cubic feet.
- Rear-seat head room is a little tight at just 37.8 inches.
- Interior design is just an evolution from the previous generation.
- Rear-seat leg room is a little cramped for a midsize at 35.6 inches.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The Optima’s construction, features, and build quality give it a more premium look and feel than its price tag might indicate. What’s more, its array options make it more desirable. Moving upscale has been one of Kia’s focuses, and the Optima delivers the goods.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
While the 2017 Optima is all-new, the visual updates are only an evolution of the previous generation. Sure, the previous Optima was attractive, but it would have been nice to see Kia take a little more of a risk with the new generation.
The Bottom Line
The Optima Hybrid is a great option in the growing hybrid midsize sedan market, thanks to its comfortable ride, better-than-expected quality and features, and impressively roomy trunk. But while this new model is attractive, it has too much in common with a design whose roots are from 2010. That makes the Optima Hybrid a hard sell for image-conscious consumers that want the latest and greatest.