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2016 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 7.8

Though some auto writers say the 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid's powertrain is strong and smooth, others notice a hesitation in power delivery after pressing the gas pedal. The regenerative brakes operate similar to those of a gas-powered car, according to some critics, while others think it takes some time to get used to the brake pedal’s feel. The Optima Hybrid gets low fuel economy estimates for a midsize hybrid. Test drivers are pleased with the Kia Optima Hybrid's overall ride, but they report that its weight means you’ll feel road imperfections more than in the lighter gas-only model.

  • "Most drivers will likely be satisfied with the Optima Hybrid's performance. You'll scarcely notice the transitions between gas and electric propulsion in traffic, and there's more power for passing maneuvers than the mediocre 0-60-mph sprint suggests." -- Edmunds
  • "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)
  • "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

Powering the Kia Optima Hybrid is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together make 199 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. The 2016 Optima Hybrid earns 36/40 mpg city/highway, which is low when compared with rival hybrids.

The Optima Hybrid's engine power and acceleration is decent, but some may feel it weak. There is noticeable delay in acceleration after hitting the gas. Some critics report that the transition between gas and electric power is good most of the time, but it can hesitate from a stop.

  • "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 (2015)
  • "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)
  • "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

The Kia Optima Hybrid has a fairly smooth ride, though its weight means you'll feel road imperfections more than you would with the lighter gas-only model. The Optima Hybrid has precise steering and well-tuned handling. The regenerative brakes, as in other hybrid cars, take some getting used to. Still, the Optima Hybrid’s brakes feel relatively strong. The Kia Optima Hybrid is front-wheel drive.

  • "The only real issue on the road is the odd braking response, which stems from the car's hybrid regenerative braking system. There's a tiny but noticeable delay between pressing the brake pedal and actually getting the desired braking force. Make no mistake, the 2016 Optima Hybrid provides sufficient braking power when you need it, but its pedal feel is a peculiarity that may require acclimation." -- Edmunds
  • "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)

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