Optima Hybrid doesn?t come cheap

2017 Kia Optima Hybrid. Peter Bleakney/DRIVING.CA

Road test: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid

Peter Bleakney DRIVING.CA When it comes to hybrid mid-size sedans, we are spoiled for choice. Not that the buying public is clamouring for these fuel-sipping fourdoors, and not that automakers particularly relish producing the complex, bottom line-decimating machines that only a handful of green-tinged drivers buy, especially considering electrified vehicles currently account for less than two per cent of the market. Nonetheless, regulatory forces and future thinking result in gas/ electric hybrid iterations of the Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry and, of course, the 2017 Kia Optima, which sees a significant update for this model year. Essentially, the Optima gets the same hybrid powertrain its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, received last year. Refinement is up and fuel consumption down, after the old 2.4- litre four-cylinder gasoline engine was replaced with a 2.0-L directinjected in-line four. This engine makes 154 horsepower and is allied to a 38-kWh electric motor, for total output of 193 hp at 6,000 rpm. Yes, horsepower is down by six ponies with this new drivetrain, but fuel economy gets a 10 per cent boost to 6.0 L/100 kilometres in the city, 5.1 highway and 5.6 combined, according to Natural Resources Canada. Other factors helping keep you away from the gas pumps include new water cooling for the six-speed automatic transmission, an electric water pump and new aerodynamic treatments, including active grille shutters, that have this Kia hybrid slipping through the air with a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.24. Plus, a new 1.62-kWh lithium-ion battery pack liberates more trunk space, allowing for a 60/40-split folding rear seat. Other than touchy regenerative brakes that require a sensitive right foot, the Optima Hybrid?s drivetrain is the model of smoothness. The transitions between power sources are largely seamless and silent, and unlike all other competitors in this segment, the Optima (and Sonata) run with a traditional six-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT, thereby avoiding the dreaded engine drone when calling for some meaningful forward motion. About the best endorsement for this car came from my wife, who spent the better part of an afternoon running errands around Oakville. Bless her heart, she was convinced she was running the whole time on electric power alone, such is the smoothness of the gas motor when it comes on line. She also found the Optima comfortable and relaxing, and she gave kudos to the standard six-speaker audio system. I concur. She also thought that for $29,895, the base 2017 Optima Hybrid was a good deal. Despite the front seats being a bit flat and lacking in lateral support, the interior is pleasant, functional and well constructed, if not particularly inspiring. Still, we can?t emphasize enough the importance of well marked and logically

The Specs

type of vehicle: Hybrid mid-size sedan engine: 2.0-L in-line four and 38-kWh electric motor Power: 193 hp at 6,000 rpm, 151 lb-ft of torque transmission: Six-speed automatic Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS tires: P205/65R16 Price: $29,895 base/$30,095 as tested Destination charge: $1,560 natural resources Canada fuel economy (l/100 km): 6.0 city, 5.1 highway Standard features: fabric upholstery, proximity key with push-button start, 16-inch alloys, Android Auto, heated front seats, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, rear-view camera, SiriusXM satellite radio, power folding and heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and more Options: Metallic paint ($200) arrayed hard buttons and rotary controllers for audio and climate controls. Yes, the radio presets are still found on the touch screen, but those are easy to get at. On the road, this redone 2017 Optima Hybrid is well mannered. Those looking for some driving involvement in their hybrid sedan will lean toward the Ford Fusion, with its more sophisticated chassis tuning, better steering and sharper moves. That said, the Optima?s quality is generally good, steering is okay and the handling is predictable. Additionally, the instant electric torque gives it some snap off the line which serves it well in city driving. My week of mixed driving concluded with the trip computer showing 6.0 L/100 km, which is pretty much what you?d expect in this midsize hybrid class. For comparison, combined fuel economy ratings for the competition range as low as 5.0 L/100 km for the Accord and as high as 5.9 for the Camry. The big question here is, how bad do you want a hybrid sedan? This base Optima Hybrid LX costs $4,000 more than the similarly equipped Optima LX+, with its 2.4-L gasoline four-cylinder engine, rated at 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Your accountant might not approve. Overview: A well-rounded hybrid that disguises its inner workings Pros: Smooth, quiet, fuel efficient Cons: Dull, costs $4000 more than gas equivalent Value for money: Average How I would spec it: I?d go for the $33,895 EX with leather seating, 17-inch alloys and more kit.


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