2017 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.7

The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid provides a smooth, comfortable ride. It gets the best highway fuel economy among the midsize hybrid sedans. It also offers a traditional six-speed automatic transmission in a segment that relies more on continuously variable automatic transmissions, which tend to drone noisily at higher speeds.

  • "While most other hybrid systems use continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs), the Kia matches its 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a conventional six-speed automatic, with the electric motor and a clutch replacing the torque converter. This slightly unconventional setup pays off in terms of refinement, as it avoids the droning sensation present in many other hybrids when the powertrain is tasked with urgent acceleration." -- Car and Driver
  • "In the inevitable comparison of fuel economy, the Optima Hybrid scores well for highway drivers. Its 46-mpg highway rating is five above the Ford Fusion Hybrid's, eight above the Toyota Camry Hybrid's, and only one behind the new Honda Accord Hybrid's. Things aren't as rosy for the Optima Hybrid in the city – its 39-mpg city rating is down four on the Ford, three on the Camry, and eight on the Accord. The Optima's 42-mpg combined rating wins out against the 40-mpg Toyota, ties the Ford, and is six points behind the Honda." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid has a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and a 38-kilowatt electric motor that together make 193 horsepower. The torque from the electric motor helps boost acceleration for passing and departing from traffic lights. Both the Camry Hybrid and the Honda Accord Hybrid offer slightly more horsepower (200 and 212, respectively).

A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard. That’s unusual in a segment that favors continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVT) for their better fuel economy. Using a traditional automatic helps smooth the transition between electric and gas power.

The base Kia Optima Hybrid gets 39 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. It compares favorably to other midsize hybrid sedans, like the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (49/43 mpg city/highway) and the Honda Accord Hybrid (49/47 mpg city/highway) offer better numbers.

  • "With 192 total horsepower lugging a bit more weight than in the standard model, the Optima hybrid doesn't feel appreciably quicker than the regular four-cylinder, although the instantaneous torque from the electric motor does help make it more responsive when merging or passing." -- Car and Driver
  • "Kia didn't try to get too creative with the Optima Hybrid's powertrain for 2017. There's a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder gas engine, a 38-kilowatt electric motor, and a 1.62-kWh battery pack. … Lift off the throttle and the four-cylinder engine shuts down and lets the 50-hp electric motor handle light, constant-throttle cruising below 62 miles per hour. Dig deeper into the gas, and the [gas] powerplant quickly restarts and delivers the bulk of the Optima's power for heavy acceleration and higher-speed conditions. The Optima's back and forth is rarely disjointed – Kia's hybrid feels a lot like its conventionally powered model in normal driving." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel-drive Kia Optima Hybrid has a smooth, comfortable ride around town and on the highway. Yet, it still demonstrates some ability to take you through twisting roads.

The Kia Optima Hybrid uses regenerative brakes, which capture energy to recharge the hybrid batteries. Traditional brakes work in conjunction with the regenerative brakes. Sometimes the combination can feel grabby and take some getting used to. If you decide you can't tolerate the Camry Hybrid's brake feel after taking a test drive, but you still want a hybrid, you should consider the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. Its brakes are much smoother.

  • "The car's dynamics are mostly unchanged from the standard Optima, with accurate steering, well-controlled body motions, and a quiet cabin. The only giveaway that you're piloting a hybrid is the spongy and vague brake-pedal feel, a common sore spot in hybrids because of the difficulty of blending regenerative and friction braking systems. There also are numerous eco-focused menus and displays available in the instrument cluster and dashboard screens for those who are inclined to hypermile their Kias." -- Car and Driver
  • "No sports car, the midsize hybrid performed confidently in curves and handled well during normal cruising." -- New York Daily News
  • "Powertrain tweaks aside, the Optima Hybrid rides and handles largely like its gas-only counterpart. That's to say the steering is light and pleasant, but doesn't do a great job transmitting finer road detail to the driver's hands. The ride is heavily biased towards comfort – a Mazda6 this isn't – but it feels perfectly average in a turn, with predictable levels of body roll, squat, and dive." -- Autoblog

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