Those shopping for a Kia Optima sedan are spoiled for choice. In addition to the gasoline-only model, the line also features the gasoline-electric Hybrid (each covered elsewhere) and the Plug-In Hybrid (or PHEV). Available only in the well-equipped EX trim, the 2018 Optima PHEV’s base MSRP of $36,105 (including the $895 destination charge) makes it the most expensive Optima available. It’s also the only Optima that can run on electricity alone, however, so the added expense is worth it for many.
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2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid Overview
What's New for 2018
The 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid enters its sophomore year unchanged.
Choosing Your Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid
Pairing a 2.0-liter direct-injection gasoline engine with 154 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque to a 50-kilowatt electric motor mated to its a six-speed automatic transmission provides the Optima PHEV with a combined 202 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque to power its front wheels. The gasoline engine’s EPA mileage rating of 38 mpg city, 43 highway, and 40 combined, plus the 9.8-kilowatt-hour lithium polymer battery pack’s 29 electric-only miles, produces a combined range rating of 610 miles.
While that’s a big improvement over all three gasoline engine options in the standard Optima, unless it’s operating on its batteries alone, the $10,000 cheaper Optima Hybrid’s EPA ratings of 39 mpg city, 46 highway, and 42 combined beat the PHEV’s. Its true worth, however, is found in its lower annual fuel cost, with the Hybrid burning through $950 per year and the PHEV just $800 in gasoline and electricity combined.
But where it really shines is when it’s operating on electricity alone, and Kia has given PHEV buyers the opportunity to do so as often as possible by giving the option to select from three modes: All-Electric, Hybrid, and Charging. Once all 29 miles of electric-only range are expended, drivers can switch to running on the gasoline engine with electric assistance or gasoline-only with the electric motor being used to recharge the battery.
The other way to charge the Optima Plug-In Hybrid is in its name and behind a door in the left front fender. Those using a Level 2 (240-volt) charger can top off its battery in 2.7 hours, while those using a standard household Level 1 outlet (120-volt) are in for a nine hour wait. Either way, thanks to an included LTE 4G HotSpot and Kia’s numerous UVO EV Services apps, owners can – among other things, like enjoying an Automated Reality Owner’s Manual – monitor and control their Optima PHEV from a variety of devices.
Thanks to a combination of active and passive aero features – like automatic grille shutters and a rear diffuser – and electronic aids like its Active Eco System that controls the powertrain and air conditioning operation, the PHEV does all it can to lower range-sapping drag. It also assists drivers to do their part with its Eco-Driver Assistance System, which offers suggestions about when it’s best to coast or apply the brakes for maximum range-extension.
The Optima PHEV EX’s standard equipment roster is impressive, as it includes leather upholstery, heated front seats and a 12-way power driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support and memory, a leather-wrapped shift knob and heated steering wheel with audio, phone, and cruise controls on a tilting and telescoping column, dual-zone automatic climate controls, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, power-folding heated mirrors, perimeter entry with push-button start, rear console-mounted USB and 12-volt outlets, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Also standard is Kia’s latest voice-command UVO infotainment and navigation system with an eight-inch color touchscreen, integrated rearview camera, SiriusXM Traffic and HD Radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a Harmon Kardon Premium Surround Sound 630-watt, 10-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and USB and AUX input jacks. Perhaps the most entertaining feature that’s PHEV-only is the aptly-named Virtual Engine Sound System that, while running on the battery alone, generates the noise its gasoline-only siblings make to warn passers-by of its presence.
The Optima PHEV comes painted in silver or blue for free, and black or white pearl for $395. Blue comes with white leather while the rest get black. Apart from that, the Optima PHEV has only one option, but its ingredients are legion.
The $5,250 EX Technology Package comes with a massive electronic safety suite, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane changing assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist.
Also included are auto-leveling dynamic beam LED projector headlights with high-beam assist, a panoramic moonroof with power sunshade, rear side-window sunshades, LED interior lighting, 10-way power front passenger’s seat with two-way lumbar support, ventilation for the front seats, and heating for the rears.
By putting many of the best goodies the model has to offer in the expensive Technology Package, Kia may have pot-committed many buyers to opt into it or opt out of the 2018 Optima Plug-In Hybrid altogether. Others will enjoy the well-equipped base PHEV as is and put the savings toward buying future fuel. Either way, it speaks well for Kia that they'd develop a forward-thinking Optima variant like the PHEV.