Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Drive: Kia Optima Hybrid

The Kia Optima has been serving as Kia's mid-size since 2000. In its third generation, the Kia added a hybrid drivetrain to the Optima. In September 2011, the Kia Optima Hybrid set a Guinness world record for "lowest fuel consumption in a hybrid gasoline vehicle" while driving across the continental United States for 14 days. The Kia Optima traveled through 48 states and 7,899 miles while averaging 64.55 miles per gallon. It took five and a half tanks for gasoline to travel the 7,899 miles. For the first day of the 2013 Houston Auto Show, Kia and Toyota had cars available for test drives. The first car I took on a test drive was the Kia Optima Hybrid.

They Optima Hybrid has the same styling as the standard Optimas. Kia and Hyundai have greatly improved their overall. Previous Kias had either bland styling or were eye sores. In 2006, Peter Schreyer, who previously was a designer for Audi, became the head designer for Kia. Compared to previous Optimas, the current Optimas have improved design. Previous Optimas had a bland grill, normal headlights, a bland side profile, and just overall bland. The current Optima and Optima Hybrid have a more aggressive grill, a sleek side profile, and well integrated headlights. The fog lights are integrated well on the front bumper. I like the new direction for Kia styling.

I was part of the first group of test drives for Kia. While the traffic on the route was not an issue, the road condition was a problem. There were potholes on the right line. I ran over a pot hole and the Optima Hybrid handled it well. There was not aftermath vibrations. The route was very bumpy, yet the Optima Hybrid drove smoothly. As part of Kia's Ride and Drives event, Kia had a small test track where visitors can test out the acceleration, braking, turning radius, and handling. The Optima Hybrid had a solid performance on the slalom, demonstrating is good handling. The car was very responsive when I turned the steering wheel. Turning radius was fine. I did not hit any cones. The car also braked well.

The Optima Hybrid has a good interior. I was driving the top of the line, fully loaded Optima Hybrid and it was nice inside. The driver seat was comfortable. I had plenty of head room and leg room. I did not feel cramped.

The Optima Hybrid has a parallel hybrid drivetrain. Powering the Optima Hybrid is a 2.4L I4 gas engine that produces 166 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque as well as an interior-permanent magnet synchronous motor that produces 40 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. The combined output for the Optima Hybrid of 206 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. When I tested out the acceleration, I was pleasantly surprised by the acceleration. It goes when I step on the acceleration pedal, unlike some other hybrids. The Optima Hybrid goes from 0 to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, but it felt quicker than that. The Optima Hybrid also has a top speed of 123 mph, which is not bad for a hybrid.

The Optima Hybrid is one the better hybrids I have driven. I prefer it over the Prius line and the Volt. The Optima Hybrid felt quicker than the other two as well being more comfortable to drive in. The Optima Hybrid has the same styling as the other current Optimas, which is a good thing. It looks like a normal car. Prices for the Kia Optima Hybrid start at $25,700. A fully load Optima Hybrid goes for around $33,000, which is not bad compared to the $41,000 price tag for the Chevrolet Volt. While the Toyota Prius is cheaper with a base price of $23,215, the Optima Hybrid is the better choice. If you are in the market for a hybrid, give the Kia OptimavHybrid as test drive. It is a better overall driving experience than the Prius or the Volt.

Photo was taken by a digital camera.
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