Hybrid cars have come a very long way, and we’ve seen them become more and more prominent as the years go by.
The world is changing. The times of antiquated technology are passing by ever so slowly with the introduction of new-age systems. Governments are putting pressure on automakers to make cars that are more sustainable for the future of our lovely green planet. With that comes the additional benefit of the diminishing expenditure of fuel for daily commuters. While some love the old ways of massive displacement, others take pride in driving vehicles that strive to get as far as possible without using very much fuel at all. Manufacturers are, and have been, replacing larger displacement naturally aspirated engines with the likes of turbocharged engines to make up for the power loss that comes with the removal of some cylinders.
Kia, along with many other brands, has taken another step into the future with hybrid technology. Back in 2009, Kia launched their ECO Dynamics program as a part of an ongoing commitment to the pursuit of zero-emissions driving. The initiative introduced both the Soul EV (reviewed here), and Optima Hybrid as the two introductory vehicles to Canada. Considering my last few tests had been with gas guzzling machines, I was pleasantly entertained by the thought of saving a few bucks on fuel when my editor assigned me the redesigned 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid LX for a week.
The Optima line received an update back in 2016, where all gasoline models received a redesign in order to keep up with the times. The hybrid however, retained the previous generation model for the 2016 model year. Moving forward, the 2017 Optima Hybrid has caught up with the rest of the line, ready to take on some of the competition, namely the Ford Fusion Hybrid (reviewed here) and popular Toyota Camry.
Three different trims are available on this car, with the EX Premium offering the most eloquent styling and most luxury amenities. The EX packs similar styling, though fewer first-class touches, and finally the LX tested here as the entry-level variant suitable for someone looking to go green on a budget. This new styling for the Hybrid certainly does this car some favours in a few areas, whilst other spots could use a bit of tweaking back on the drawing boards.
The front-end is where the Optima seems to excel. The LX comes equipped with standard LED daytime running lights, paired with halogen projector bulbs for evening commutes. A solid black piece of high gloss black plastic between the headlights replaces the conventional slotted grill on the gasoline-powered cars. As we work our way towards the back, signature aluminum trim follows the silhouette of the roofline, from the A-pillar to the bottom of the rear window past the C-pillar. The rear of the car suffers, thanks to two vertical standing reflectors embedded into the bumper, which result in an out of place squared off shape on the back bumper.
Buyers have the option of six different exterior colours; our tester was optioned with the Gravity Blue metallic paint. The base level 16” alloy wheels seem a bit small at first, however due to their size, the Optima rides rather smoothly thanks to the added tire height, which also compensates for the wheel gap.
The interior is nothing to gawk at, however it is well put-together in an organized manner. The LX is equipped with patterned cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, all of which can be heated at the push of a button. The dashboard, also wrapped in leather, stretches from left to right with tone-on-tone black stitching, with a touchscreen display capable of displaying various menus, including eco-focused monitors that helps increase driving efficiency. Within the instrument cluster, drivers will notice the absence of a tachometer, and instead they will find an efficiency gauge.
Split into three sections, Charge, Eco, and Power, drivers can use this efficiency gauge to monitor how much power the hybrid engine is producing. When coasting or braking, the needle will find itself in the blue “Charge” section, informing the driver that the vehicle is currently regenerating power to the batteries by using the energy created by the wheels. The more the needle leans to the left side of the gauge, the more efficient your drive is going to be. Drivers are signalled when the car cycles into full EV mode by a green light that is enabled only when strictly driving on battery power.
The regular Optima can be equipped with a 2.4L inline four-cylinder engine, or choices between a 178-horspower eco-focused 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder and a meaty 245 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged brute (reviewed here). The Optima Hybrid is only available with 2.4L inline-four that produces a peak of 159 horsepower at 5,500 RPM, and 154 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 RPM. The electric motor produces on its own just 46 horsepower, and a whopping 151 lb-ft of torque – all thanks to the 270V lithium-ion polymer power source.
With the hybrid pedigree comes seemingly spectacular mileage. Kia rates this car at 6.0L/100km city and 5.1L/100 highway. After driving the car for a weeklong test, our average came to 6.5L/100km of combined driving, which is slightly above what Kia says I should be getting. This factors in both winter tires and below-freezing temperatures. After filling the tank with regular fuel, the onboard computer estimated my total range as just over 900 kilometres, which is seriously good.
For those looking to splurge on the number of luxury amenities offered by Kia, the fully jammed EX Premium will be a treat, with a cost of $39,095. For others, that price point is simply out of reach, which is why the entry-level Hybrid LX comes as a more favourable option. It still offers features like a rear-view camera and Apple CarPlay, all at a much more affordable price of $29,895. Buyers who want to save some fuel but have commutes that don’t optimize the hybrid’s largely urban nature have the option of the Optima Eco (reviewed here), with its dual-clutch transmission.
Hybrid cars have come a very long way, and we’ve seen them become more and more prominent as the years go by. Gone are the days where battery-powered cars were simply an idea in a boardroom, as the future is today with these energy efficient vehicles playing a vital role in the sustainability of our driving culture. The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid LX may be an underdog in its segment, but it is making the right steps to render it a serious contender within its segment.
2017 Kia Optima Hybrid LX Gallery