I see it has been a year since our Carly Z reviewed the Optima Hybrid midsize sedan from Kia. She raved about its styling and onroad characteristics. Fast forward one year, and Kia has delivered an updated 2013 model that features upgrades to the hybrid powertrain component, an area I was critical of in the commonly outfitted Sonata Hybrid from sibling Hyundai when it launched just prior to the Kia.
I will say I echo nearly every comment Carly made concerning the 2012 Optima she tested save for the powertrain. That first-generation technology from the Korean duo was exactly that – first generation, and with it a few minor irritations especially in the driving experience, at least for me and a few of my colleagues.
Kia has seen fit to bring much-needed upgrades to the system not two years into the production run and they are most welcome.
For starters, they add a more powerful 47hp electric motor to the mix for a more satisfying acceleration feel. To this they add a stronger hybrid starter generator and a more powerful 47kW lithium polymer battery. While they lowered the overall output powertrain rating from 206 ponies to 199, day-to-day driving experience was much more satisfying and just felt more, well, sophisticated.
The gasoline component is still the 2.4-liter four-cylinder DOHC motor and the gearbox is a six-speed automatic without the lock-up torque converter.
Fuel economy does take a little bit of a hit but Kia and Hyundai are still recovering from some shall we say “overinflated” figures a few years ago in their fleets. Current EPA ratings of 35 mpg city and 39 mpg highway for its latest hybrid midsize sedan powertrain is realistic and almost spot on what I experienced during my week at the helm.
I will say this concerning those EPA numbers: At least the Kia achieved close to what was advertised. My recent jaunt in the Ford Fusion Hybrid revealed slightly lower-than-expected figures – and I see the big blue oval is having to address those issues currently.
One thing I have noticed with the latest Kia Optima is the vehicle appears very popular with the female demographic. I was stopped more than once by a member of the fairer sex and asked about this Optima Hybrid EX and all reactions were very positive.
In her piece Carly did mention the reduced cargo space in the trunk due to the space taken up by the hybrid powertrain battery pack. Engineers addressed this with the new model by repackaging the pack and giving owners a bit more usable space (10.8 cu. ft. this year versus 9.9 in the 2012).
The 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid is available in two grades, base LX and EX. Pricing for the base model begins at $25,900. Our test model arrived in EX form and came with a sticker price of $32,725 thanks to a few amenities such as panoramic sunroof, Infinity audio system, HID headlights and heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seating.
As tested, my 2013 model was only $105 more than Carly’s ride last summer, a great deal considering the upgraded hybrid powertrain.