2013 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid was new.


Performance: 6.8

Auto critics are disappointed with the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid’s performance, saying it doesn’t drive as well as other hybrids because the transition between electric and gas power is more noticeable than they expect. The Optima Hybrid’s brakes are disliked for their numb pedal feel.

  • "… Optima is reasonably engaging to drive, though its handling is not as polished as the best in this class." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Drive it like a normal car and the gas engine comes into play with regularity, and it doesn't thrum to life as seamlessly as we've come to expect from modern hybrids. There's also a mild yet constant surging during part-throttle acceleration." -- Edmunds (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The Optima Hybrid has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower and an electric motor that makes 47 horsepower, for a combined 199 horsepower. The Kia Optima Hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. The EPA estimates the base Optima Hybrid LX will get 36/40 mpg city/highway, and the EX trim should achieve 35/39 mpg.

Test drivers aren’t impressed with the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid’s acceleration and power. They wish that the car’s hybrid powertrain had a smoother transition between gas and electric power. A few reviewers notice a brief delay from the time they hit the gas pedal to when the engine actually delivers power, which they dislike, but this is common among hybrids.

  • "On non-Hybrid models, the automatic transmission is smooth reasonably quick to downshift for more power. Hybrids don't react nearly as promptly to driver requests for more power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Electric-only operation is possible, just be incredibly gentle with the throttle. The engine and electric motor interplay does lead to some unpleasant surging, but the fuel-economy benefit may outweigh such gripes." -- Car and Driver (2012)
  • "The … Kia Optima Hybrid's power delivery and transmission also get tripped up by the kind of in-and-out throttle action that's common in urban driving." -- Edmunds (2011)

Handling and Braking

Only a few test drivers have commented on the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid’s handling and braking, and they agree that the regenerative brakes are disappointing, with a numb pedal feel. Reviewers do like that the car has composed and slightly sporty handling, though one says he could feel bumps in the road more than he can in the gas-only Optima.

  • "EX models are smooth and composed overall, with minor pattering over road imperfections. Hybrids ride similarly, though their heavier curb weight allows for larger bumps to be felt more." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The steering is quick, weighty, and precise, the ride taut but not brittle." -- Car and Driver (2011)
  • "Hybridization hasn't done favors for the Optima's brakes either, as they lack finesse in city driving. … Its braking force is often a half-beat behind in responding to pedal pressure, and feel is nonexistent. … You feel the extra mass, sure, but the ride remains compliant in a way that many hybrid cars aren't. The Kia soaks up even crappy roads with dignity." -- Edmunds (2011)

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