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2020 Kia Optima Hybrid Performance Review


Performance: 7.2

The 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid is composed, comfortable, and capable. One big plus is the smoothness of its regenerative braking system, which lacks the grabbiness often associated with hybrids. However, while fuel economy is great for a midsize car, it's lower than the estimates of many midsize hybrid sedans.

  • "We'll start with ride quality. While the Optima Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid aren't exactly luxury-car smooth over bumps and pavement imperfections, they insulate you from the road surprisingly well -- noticeably better than the first generation, which always felt a bit too crashy for our liking. As for handling, the hybrid-powered Optima models offer a stable, strong feel with smooth steering and limited body roll. No, these aren't sports cars, but as driving experience goes, they're hardly at the bottom of their segment, either." -- Autotrader
  • "A less obvious benefit of the six-speed automatic, of course, is that it leads to quieter operation. There's no rubber-band-like revving like you'd get with a CVT because the transmission can actually shift up a gear." -- Autoblog (2017)
  • "It's all tuned for minimum drama, including the kind of drama we enjoy as car lovers. Whether you interpret that as 'smooth' or 'slow' depends on your attitude, but both accounts are objectively correct." -- Jalopnik (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The Kia Optima Hybrid pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor, and they combine to make 192 horsepower. The plug-in hybrid also has a four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, but its powertrain makes 202 horsepower. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Both powertrains help this sedan get up to speed relatively quickly. Neither setup is exhilarating, but you’ll get around just fine. The automatic transmission makes prompt yet smooth shifts, which is a nice break from the continuously variable automatic transmissions that cause the powertrains in some vehicles to drone.

The Optima Hybrid gets EPA ratings of 40 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. While those are great figures for a midsize sedan, they’re less impressive compared to rival hybrids.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid gets 101 MPG-equivalent and 41 mpg combined city/highway. According to the EPA, it has up to 28 miles of all-electric range. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger fully recharges the battery in less than three hours, while using a standard 120-volt household-style power outlet takes around nine hours.

  • "Speaking of that hybrid powertrain, it hardly transforms the Optima into a sports car when it comes to acceleration, but the sedan isn't slow, either, regardless of whether you choose the Hybrid or the Plug-In Hybrid model." -- Autotrader
  • "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 (2017)
  • "Kia didn't try to get too creative with the Optima Hybrid's powertrain. ... There's a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder gas engine, a 38-kilowatt electric motor, and a 1.62-kWh battery pack. Total system output is 192 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. … That's all spiffy. But taking a six-speed automatic and replacing the torque converter with a clutch and the electric motor, Kia built a hybrid sedan that smoothly intertwines disparate power sources as well as a conventional hybrid like a Toyota Prius, while allowing the Optima Hybrid to take greater advantage of zero-emissions systems." -- Autoblog (2017)

Handling and Braking

On the road, the Optima Hybrid feels a lot like the nonhybrid Optima. It’s composed, though not especially sporty, and it provides a cushioned ride over most roads. Unlike in many hybrids, the regenerative braking system in the Optima Hybrid doesn’t feel overly grabby. Instead, it feels natural and smooth. Front-wheel drive comes standard.

  • "Sophisticated drivers will notice that the sometimes discomforting regenerative-braking feel has been mostly eliminated, which means these models barely distinguish themselves from a gas-powered Optima when you're slowing down to a stop." -- Autotrader
  • "The LX and EX are geared more toward comfort, which is no bad thing really. The good news is that superior handling doesn't come at the expense of a harsh ride." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "Small, high-frequency bumps are absorbed well for a decent, smooth ride. Larger undulations cause some jostling, but not significantly more than what you'd experience in other cars in this class." -- Edmunds (2018)
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2020 Kia Optima Hybrid

MSRP: $29,310 - $36,090

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