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    Quick Drive: 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid


    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    November 6, 2012

    Much like the competition, Kia offers a variety of powertrains in their midsize sedan competitor, the Optima, to meet the demands of consumers. There’s a base four-cylinder model, a turbocharged-four taking the place of a V6, and hybrid model. I’ve reviewed the base four-cylinder Optima back in July, and found it to be one of best midsize sedans on sale. Now it’s time to see where the Optima Hybrid can match the high bar set by the regular Optima or not.

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    The differences between a normal Optima and an Optima Hybrid are very noticeable on the exterior. The biggest giveaway that you’re driving an Optima Hybrid besides the hybrid badge on the back is a unique set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Other changes Kia has done to the Optima Hybrid include a revised rear fascia and a new rear spoiler.

    On the interior, Kia has changed the instrument cluster to one that gives information on how much battery charge there is left, an eco gauge, and a small color screen providing trip computer info. The optional navigation unit (part of the $5,350.00 premium technology package) has a screen providing information about the system.

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    The Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is made up of a 2.4L gas engine producing 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) and 154 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 RPM), an electric motor producing 40 HP (@ 1,400-6,000 RPM) and 151 lb-ft of torque (0 - 1,400 RPM), and a 270V lithium-polymer battery. Total output of the hybrid system is 206 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic.

    The best way to describe the Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is ‘almost fully realized’. When pulling away from a stop, the Hybrid pulls away quickly whether on electric or hybrid power. On open roads and in traffic, I never found myself wishing for more power since the powertrain is able to keep up. The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration.

    The Optima Hybrid got EPA ratings of 35 City/40 Highway/37 combined. However a few weeks after turning the Optima Hybrid back in, Hyundai and Kia announced they had overstated fuel economy on certain 2011-2013 vehicles. The Optima Hybrid was one of those vehicles affected and has revised EPA fuel economy numbers of 34 City/39 Highway/36 combined. During the week, I averaged 37.2 on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I hit 40 MPG with the cruise control set on 70 MPH.

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    Kia didn’t change much with handling and ride of the Optima Hybrid, which means the sporty and composed ride from the standard Optima remains. Steering on the Optima Hybrid is the same as the normal Optima as well; not a lot of feel and a surprising amount of heaviness to it. Wind and road noise on the Optima Hybrid were kept to a minimum.

    The Kia Optima Hybrid is very good first effort. Building upon a good base of the normal Optima, the hybrid model possesses very good performance and decent fuel economy for the class. Kia does need to work on smoothing out the transition from electric to hybrid power though.

    There is one problem for the Kia Optima Hybrid, the competition. On paper, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid best the Optima Hybrid in fuel economy ratings. The only thing Kia can fight back with is the amount of equipment that you can get for the price. The Optima Hybrid I had in for review cost $32,500.00. But for that price, I got heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, a premium sound system, and much more. To try and match the equipment level of the Optima Hybrid, you’ll have to spend a few thousand more on the competitors. Is that enough though to convince someone to check it out?

    If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion.

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    Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.

    Year - 2012

    Make – Kia

    Model – Optima Hybrid

    Trim – N/A

    Engine – 2.4L Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor

    Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) , (Electric) 40.2 HP (@ 1,400 to 6,000 RPM), (Combined) 206 HP

    Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 154 lb-ft (@ 4,250 RPM), (Electric) 166 HP (@ 0 - 1,400 RPM), (Combined) 195 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/39/36

    Curb Weight – 3,490 lbs

    Location of Manufacture – Hwasung, South Korea

    Base Price - $25,700.00

    As Tested Price - $32,500.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge)

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.



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    Great review, nicely handled for adding in the change on fuel economy and comparison to the competition.

    One thought is I wish we could figure out a better way to add real world owners experience with the cars in comparison to the review. Is what you got for fuel mileage and your perception to fit and finish what owners are also perceiving?

    I believe we can beat the rest of the auto review world by having these high quality reviews along with a section on what is being posted to the owner forums. It would give a solid well balanced non bias view to attract more readers I think.

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    These have proven to be good buys cost wise but the Catch 22 on Kia and Optima have been the service issue later in the cars life. I have been getting a rash of owners of many of these Korean cars looking into timing belts and other related service parts. They are finding that they are expensive to repair from 60,000 miles and on.

    One example I have found are the timing belts. They are recomending from the MFG to change them around 65,000 miles from what I have been told. Though many drive them farther the risk comes in that if the belt lets go it takes the valves as it is not a interference fit engine . They also are told to replace the water pump at the same time as you have to remove the timing belt to get to it too. Most have bene quoted $500-$600 for this service.

    Many drive on but if it breaks no warranty coverage for this kind of damage.

    When looking at many cars today few people consider some of these hidden cost items that in some cases can add up in price. Several workers have sold off the Hyundai's and Kia's as they did not want to invest that much in a car they may not keep that much longer any how. Most also needed other service items too.

    Not so much here but in many of the magazine reviews I wish they would list many of the major must service items on these cars that are requied under 100,000 miles. This is one area GM often leads in but seldom promotes.

    I remember our old Fiat that required belt changes at 25,000. We went 26,000 and was very glad we has a extra low mileage engine in the garage. It was ugly.

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    These have proven to be good buys cost wise but the Catch 22 on Kia and Optima have been the service issue later in the cars life. I have been getting a rash of owners of many of these Korean cars looking into timing belts and other related service parts. They are finding that they are expensive to repair from 60,000 miles and on.

    One example I have found are the timing belts. They are recomending from the MFG to change them around 65,000 miles from what I have been told. Though many drive them farther the risk comes in that if the belt lets go it takes the valves as it is not a interference fit engine . They also are told to replace the water pump at the same time as you have to remove the timing belt to get to it too. Most have bene quoted $500-$600 for this service.

    Many drive on but if it breaks no warranty coverage for this kind of damage.

    When looking at many cars today few people consider some of these hidden cost items that in some cases can add up in price. Several workers have sold off the Hyundai's and Kia's as they did not want to invest that much in a car they may not keep that much longer any how. Most also needed other service items too.

    Not so much here but in many of the magazine reviews I wish they would list many of the major must service items on these cars that are requied under 100,000 miles. This is one area GM often leads in but seldom promotes.

    I remember our old Fiat that required belt changes at 25,000. We went 26,000 and was very glad we has a extra low mileage engine in the garage. It was ugly.

    By now most asian and korean auto's have always had timing belts that had to be replaced at 60k or 65k miles. So this is a common and what I think is fairly well known repair and 500-600 is not that much when you look at the bigger picture.

    I agree things should go 100k miles, but then American car companies have used chains rather than belts so things usually go much longer.

    It will be interesting to see the next few years as everyone has to compete on quality and now people have gotten used to not really doing much other than oil changes and brakes for the first 100K miles. Auto's with major service calls at 60k or 65k miles will be in a loosing position.

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    The Optima Hybrid is one of the worst driving new cars I've ever driven. Completely nonlinear acceleration and brakes. Shame it doesn't drive like it looks. Hell, I even like the aero wheels.

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