2015 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.5

Some reviewers note that the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid experiences rough transitions between power sources at times and that there’s some hesitation in the power delivery. The Optima Hybrid also gets low fuel economy estimates for a midsize hybrid. On the other hand, some auto critics think the Optima Hybrid delivers a comfortable ride, plenty of power and a smooth transition between gas and electric power.

  • "This same engine is used on the hybrid model, but gets an extra boost from the electric motor making it surprisingly quick." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)
  • "The Optima's EV mode is predictably silent and can be maintained if you treat the throttle as if there's an egg between it and your foot. 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)
  • "A slight delay before the gas engine is summoned slows the Optima hybrid off the line. The gas pedal might make suggestions to the powertrain, but it doesn’t seem to get much respect. During our brief test drive, we sometimes heard engine revs surge and dip erratically, although acceleration remained constant. At other times, pedal requests were answered with a bit more power or somewhat less than we expected." -- Car and Driver (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The Optima Hybrid has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together produce a combined 199 horsepower. The Kia Optima Hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2015 Optima Hybrid gets up to an EPA-estimated 36/40 mpg city/highway, which is less than what most midsize hybrid rivals get.

Some test drivers are impressed with the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid’s acceleration and power, while others think that power is lacking. A few reviewers note that there’s a noticeable delay from when you hit the gas pedal to when the power actually kicks in. While some praise how smooth the transition between power sources is, others report that the transition can be rough at times.

  • "The Optima Hybrid uses the same 2.4-liter engine, only it's paired with an electric motor that significantly improves both efficiency and off-the-line acceleration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Getting up to freeway speed is as simple as prodding the throttle pedal and riding the wave of acceleration. It never feels out of puff on uphill stretches and packs a decent punch for overtaking. … Under normal driving conditions, it's virtually impossible to perceive when the engine stops or fires back up. That's how smooth it is." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "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)
  • "Another of the Optima's peculiarities is its reluctance to respond to prods of the throttle, as if your request for torque has to be faxed to a committee of powertrain engineers in Korea before being granted. What's more, the throttle calibration defaults to ‘Eco’ mode, which does nothing but further deaden throttle tip-in. That's the last thing this powertrain needs." -- Edmunds (2011)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers like that the Kia Optima Hybrid has a comfortable ride and does a good job absorbing bumps, though some point out that you can feel bigger bumps more than in the non-hybrid Optima. They think the 2015 Optima Hybrid has composed and slightly sporty handling. Critics report that the steering is accurate and the regenerative brakes feel similar to the brakes in a non-hybrid car. The Kia Optima Hybrid is front-wheel drive.

  • "Another hybrid trait is the potential for a weird brake-pedal feel, because the system captures braking energy and stores it in the battery. It takes around one stab of the Optima's pedal to become familiar. Even if it doesn't feel exactly like conventional braking, it's not so far off to be in any way unnerving." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "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 (2013)
  • "The steering is quick, weighty, and precise, the ride taut but not brittle." -- Car and Driver (2011)
  • "Fortunately, the underlying Optima chassis is impressively stiff, and so the hybrid's ride quality hasn't been unduly sullied by the additional 270 pounds of hybrid componentry. 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. The steering is better than expected, too, given the character of modern Hyundai tillers. In routine driving, the helm is linear and quick enough to distract you from its lack of communication." -- Edmunds (2011)

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