By Alex Kramer
- Eye-catching exterior design
- Roomy, well-apportioned interior
- Smooth, quiet hybrid drivetrain
- Solid handling and ride quality
- A bit slow for a car with over 200 hp
- Brake pedal feels squishy
- Untested fuel efficiency
The folks at Kia Motors are very optimistic. Having launched seven brand new models in under 2 years and with record sales growth over the past year, Kia is transforming itself into a major player in the car market.
Part of this success is surely due to an emphasis on value, which has resonated with buyers in these tough economic times. At the same time, a shift away from forgettable econoboxes and towards quality design and engineering has made for an almost unbeatable combination of high quality at a low price.
To keep the momentum rolling, Kia is now offering a hybrid gas-electric vehicle in the form of its Optima mid-size sedan. With gas prices looking to stay close to $4 a gallon, this could be the perfect time to make a case for fuel efficient motoring and take a bite out of the growing hybrid sedan segment.
We recently had the chance to take the Optima Hybrid for a brief test drive around the streets of South San Francisco. On the outside, the car shares the same eye-catching exterior as the gas-powered Optima, save for a few hybrid badges and what look to be unique alloy wheels. The cabin also features the same roomy, well-built interior, and includes options like heated and cooled leather seats and a panoramic sunroof, amenities that used to be available only on luxury cars.
The Optima Hybrid features the same powertrain as its sister car, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Combining a 2.4L 4-cylinder gas engine with a 40 hp electric motor and a lithium polymer battery, the system produces 206 hp. Rather than using a CVT (continuously variable transmission), the Optima Hybrid routes its power through a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission.
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