KIA Optima Hybrid: Big MPG Deserves a Big Review.
Story by Randy Kalp | Photos by Bethany Salvon
In life, there are two types of drivers: those who seek speed and those who like to cruise. I’ve always fallen into the latter group. Sure, I pushed my 1991 Chrysler Lebaron to 110 mph when I was 17, just to see if it could handle it, but mainly I drove (and still drive) slightly above the speed limit.
Aside from lowriders, history hasn’t been too favorable for us cruisers. Until recently, the coolest cars where designed around two simple principles: power and luxury. That was until gas prices skyrocketed and the push to go green became mainstream, leading to all kinds of great innovations, including the hybrid car.
Enter the 2012 KIA Optima Hybrid. A perfect storm of luxury, innovation, style and power, KIA’s first entry into the wonderful world of hybrid is really something special. Not only does it make cruising more fun, it also promotes better driving habits without sacrificing power.
There’s a lot to love about the Optima Hybrid, but my favorite feature is all of the in-dash Eco data. With the touch of a button on the steering wheel, I can access extremely relevant information about my current and long range driving habits, like my Eco score, instant MPG and an energy distribution display.
By being able to monitor this data, I was able to effectively control my MPG by being able to see when I was using only battery and at what speed was going to get me the best gas mileage. After six days of driving the Optima Hybrid and traveling 750 miles on one tank, I was averaging 48 MPG from what would be labeled a sporty mid-size sedan (think: Maxima or Accord). Better yet, the Eco displays were also beautifully designed. For instance, on two of the screens that monitor your Eco-greenness, there are trees and flowers that bloom as your score increases.
Additional interior features include heated and cooled driver and passenger seats (the rear seats also have the heating option) and the driver seat is fully adjustable, which in addition to making the Optima Hybrid extremely comfortable to drive, also enables the car to be accessible to just about anyone–tall or short (my grandmother could finally get rid of our driver’s seat pillow). Really, though, the seats are just the beginning of the Optima Hybrid’s comfort features, which include dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear vents, panoramic sunroof, and an Infinity Audio System that’s pure comfort for your mind and soul. And best of all, the car starts with a push of button. Seriously, how cool is that?
The KIA Optima Hybrid starts at $25,700; however, our review car featured the Hybrid Convenience and Premium Technology Package, which is an additional $6,170 and brings the price (including freight and handling) to $32,620. The additional options include the panoramic sunroof, a UVO in-vehicle infotainment system (Sirius Satellite Radio and Traffic, iPhone and Blue tooth connectivity, Navigation, a hands free phone with voice control and a rear camera display) as well as a handful of other cool features that include HID headlights with auto leveling, driver’s seat memory (seat will adjust automatically to your setting), 17 inch tires with alloy wheels, and the aforementioned stereo system and climate controlled seats.
For as much luxury as the Hybrid Optima oozes, I was amazed at just how sporty the car looked and handled. In my opinion, it’s the sharpest looking mid-size sedan on the market. Under the hood, the Hybrid Optima contains a 2.4 liter 4-cycle hybrid engine with a 6-speed sportmatic transmission and motor driven power steering.
But good looks and handling aren’t everything, a car needs to have substance too, which to me translates to its safety features and rating. I’m happy to report that Optima Hybrid passes this category with flying colors. Government Safety Ratings show the car scoring five stars (the highest rating) in four of it’s five categories for crashes and rollovers. The Optima Hybrid comes with these features standard: dual front advanced airbags, front seat mounted airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, hill-start assist control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Furthermore, the Optima Hybrid is backed by KIA’s incredible 10 year/100,00 mile powertrain warranty and 5 year/ 60,000 mile basic warranty as well as 5 years/60, 000 miles of roadside assistance.
Honestly, this was our first hybrid car experience and now both Beth and I are hooked on the idea. Being able to get that increase in gas mileage really makes traveling by car, especially long road trips, affordable again. The Hybrid Optima made me feel so much cooler than I really am. I was like some hybrid of Jay-Z (laid back and bumping my way down the highway, and Leonardo DiCaprio (conscious of my mpg and environmental foot print). The Optima Hybrid may not be the only hybrid in its class, but that doesn’t means its not the best. Comparatively speaking (value, features and cost), the KIA Optima Hybrid is the best hybrid sedan on the market.
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