2017 Kia Optima Hybrid Brings Improved Efficiency, New Plug-In Model

The new Kia Niro dedicated hybrid model isn’t the only green car Kia is showing at the 2016 Chicago auto show. The automaker is also debuting the updated 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid midsize sedan, which gains a new plug-in hybrid variant like its Hyundai Sonata corporate cousin.

The new Optima Hybrid uses a new gas-electric drivetrain for a supposed 10 percent improvement in fuel economy—that should mean a combined EPA rating over 40 mpg. The previous 2.4-liter four-cylinder is supplanted by a 154-hp, direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder, while the 38-kWh electric motor sources its power from a lithium-polymer battery pack that offers 13 percent more capacity than the last Optima Hybrid. The transmission remains a six-speed automatic, but the new hybrid system uses a clutch to combine the electric motor and gas engine rather than the previous car’s torque converter. Total system power is 193 hp, down 6 hp from the previous Optima Hybrid.

The new battery pack is also more compact than before, meaning that the Optima Hybrid doesn’t lose any cargo space and offers 60/40 folding rear seats, just like the standard Optima. There are a few styling tweaks to set apart the Hybrid, though, including LED lighting, EcoHybrid badges, different wheels, and more aerodynamic front and rear bumpers that bring the drag coefficient down to 0.24. Hypermilers are also sure to enjoy the Optima Hybrid’s Eco Driver Assistance System that uses a screen in the gauge cluster to coach the driver on when to coast and brake to maximize efficiency.

Plug-In Hybrid offers 27 miles of all-electric range

2017 Kia Optima Plug In Hybrid Front Three Quarter 01

The 2017 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid uses much of the same hardware as the conventional hybrid, but with a beefed up electric motor and battery pack that enable more all-electric driving. The 50-kW electric motor can power the Optima PHEV in all-electric mode for up to 27 miles on a full charge from the 9.8-kWh battery pack. After the battery is depleted, the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the standard Optima Hybrid kicks in to power the car and charge the battery pack.

Like most plug-in hybrids, a few different drive modes let the driver choose how to use the PHEV’s different power sources. All-Electric mode is meant for city driving, standard Hybrid Mode uses both the gas engine and electric motor, and Charging Mode diverts more energy to the battery pack while driving at higher speeds so that the battery capacity can be used later.

You can tell the Optima PHEV apart from its conventional hybrid brethren by a charging port on the front fender. Charging takes three hours on a 240-volt charger, or “less than” nine hours on a 120-volt outlet. The single EX trim level includes plenty of standard tech features, including the Uvo infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, a premium audio system, and active safety features like blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning. Trunk capacity is slightly less than the standard Optima Hybrid because of the larger battery, though the PHEV does still offer 60/40 folding rear seats.

Don’t expect pricing for the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid to change too much from the current car, which starts at $26,845. The plug-in hybrid version, meanwhile, should roughly mirror the $35,435 Hyundai Sonata PHEV when it goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2016.

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