2017 Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid Preview
By Christian Wardlaw, February 12, 2016
- Switches to new Optima platform
- New hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains
- Up to 202 combined horsepower
- Up to 42 mpg in combined driving
- Up to 27 miles of electric driving range
- Same coefficient of drag as Tesla Model S
- New UVO EV Services technology
Kia redesigned the Optima midsize sedan for the 2016 model year, but the Optima Hybrid continued in previous-generation format. For 2017, Kia resolves this situation, and introduced the new 2017 Optima Hybrid at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.
Unlike the previous Optima Hybrid, the new one is available as a plug-in hybrid supplying 27 miles of electric driving range, according to Kia. The Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid arrive at dealerships later this year.
Adopting the latest Optima design and engineering, the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models receive subtle changes to improve aerodynamics and efficiency. Active grille shutters, a front air curtain design, sharpened rear bumper with a rear diffuser panel, and special aluminum wheels all help to improve aerodynamics, resulting in a coefficient of drag measuring 0.24 cd. That, according to Kia, matches the vaunted Tesla Model S.
Inside, the new Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid receive specific instrumentation combined with greater use of soft-touch interior materials, real stitching on the dashboard and door panels, and a standard manual front passenger’s seat-height adjuster.
With these new “green” machines, Kia wanted to preserve as much trunk space as possible. In the Optima Hybrid, the battery pack fits under the trunk floor, providing 13.3 cu. ft. of cargo space, which is about as much as a compact sedan. By putting the battery under the trunk, this solution also allows for a 60/40 split-folding rear seat to increase the car’s utility.
Because the Optima Plug-in Hybrid has a larger battery it must be stacked behind the rear seat in addition to beneath the trunk floor. The result is 9.9 cu. ft. of trunk space, and the rear seat does not fold for added utility.
The Optima Hybrid is offered in standard and EX trim levels, while the Plug-in Hybrid comes only in EX specification.
Among the long list of equipment upgrades that come with the EX, highlights include leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and power-adjustable front seats. A hands-free trunk opener is also included for the EX, as well as larger 17-in. aluminum wheels.
Additional options include white leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a number of safety and technology features that are detailed below.
Under the Hood
Both the Optima Hybrid and the Optima Plug-in Hybrid employ a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a regenerative-braking system. Beyond these components, the two cars differ.
The Hybrid uses a 38-kW electric motor and a 1.62-kWh Lithium-polymer battery pack, the powertrain supplying the driver with a choice between EV and Hybrid driving modes. In EV mode, the car can travel short distances at moderate speeds without using the gasoline engine, Kia says.
Together, these components produce 193 horsepower and return 42 mpg in combined driving, according to Kia estimates. Electric water and oil pumps help to improve the car’s efficiency, and an Eco Driver Assistance System includes a “coasting guide” that teaches the driver how to maximize fuel economy.
The Optima Plug-in Hybrid has a more powerful 50-kW electric motor, larger 9.8-kWh battery pack, and a more aggressive regenerative-braking system designed to feed greater amounts of energy to the battery. Combined output measures 202 horsepower, and Kia says this version of the Optima can travel 27 miles on electricity alone.
With the Optima Plug-in Hybrid, the driver can choose the EV driving mode, Hybrid driving mode, or a Charging mode that works when the car is cruising on the highway to help extend the battery’s remaining range. Total driving range for this car is 600 miles, according to Kia, and when driven in Hybrid mode the car is expected to return 40 mpg in combined driving.
More than half of the Optima’s underlying architecture is composed of advanced high-strength steel for superior rigidity and occupant protection in a collision. A blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert is optional for the Optima Hybrid, while the Hybrid EX and the Plug-in Hybrid can be further outfitted with a forward-collision warning system, automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning system.
All versions of the car feature next-generation UVO3 infotainment technology. Pair a smartphone to the system and it provides automatic collision-notification service. Additionally, parents can monitor teenaged drivers through curfew, speed, and boundary alerts.
The UVO3 system also provides smartphone-projection technology for Apple and Android devices, transforming the dashboard screen into a facsimile of your device. Navigation and a new Harman Kardon QuantumLogic premium surround-sound audio system are included for the EX, featuring 10 speakers and Clari-Fi music-restoration technology.
The Optima Plug-in Hybrid gets UVO EV Services, which is free for the first 3 years of ownership. This technology allows for remote pre-conditioning of the cabin before driving, which means the owner can heat or cool the cabin while the car is still hooked up to the grid. This technology also helps the driver to find charging stations, remotely check vehicle charging status, and to schedule vehicle charging during off-peak electricity rate hours.
Additional technology features include wireless phone charging and a surround-view monitoring system.