Coming from the Kia Stinger test dive in LA and hopping into a 2017 Kia Optima HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle), I wasn’t sure what to expect. The new 2018 Stinger is Kia’s first high-performance vehicle, capable of going toe-to-toe with Porsche, while the Kia Optima is more of a daily-driver midsize sedan. In all fairness, comparing one to the other is definitely apples to oranges.
The Optima is Kia’s flagship sedan and has been a staple of the Korean car maker’s lineup since about the year 2000. The 2017 Optima HEV was launched under Kia’s EcoDynamics, which is their “environmentally friendly sub-brand.” Since I didn’t get to spend much time with the car before hitting the highway for Thanksgiving, my impressions were developed on the road to Boston.
For those of you who haven’t driven a hybrid, let me answer a question I get asked frequently. No, a hybrid does not require any manipulation from the driver to switch from electric power to gas power. Typically, the car is pre-programmed to use 100% electric power at low speeds and/or when the vehicle is coasting. It switches over to gas based on how hard the driver pushes the gas pedal. Hybrids also harness the kinetic energy generated while braking to recharge their batteries.
That said, if you drive a hybrid exactly the way you would drive a regular gasoline powered car, you’ll still enjoy a slightly better fuel economy. If, however, you work at driving the car optimally, you can decrease your gas significantly. Of course, it’s not always easy to be mindful of your driving habits, so Kia has added some technology to help you out. While I was zipping down the highway, my Optima prompted me to ease off the gas and coast at certain points to improve fuel efficiency. I averaged about 36 MPG.
For those of you who haven’t driven a hybrid, let me answer a question I get asked frequently. No, a hybrid does not require any manipulation from the driver to switch from electric power to gas power.
Another interesting thing about hybrids is how quiet they are. Once, while approaching my parked car, I noticed two guys standing near it. I started the engine, expecting the noise to drive the men away… but there was no noise. They weren’t aware of me at all until I turned on the car’s headlights. In fact, several of my passengers asked if the car was even on while we were idling.
Since I was test driving the Optima HEV during the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to test out the car’s people-storage capacity. I found that there was plenty of room for five adults and enough trunk space to fit lots of luggage along with some unexpected items like lamb, salad, pies, a full ham and a few other knick knacks that Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be the same without. Speaking of which, we couldn’t even smell those foods from the trunk, which was great—it certainly kept us from being driven mad by hunger.
Speaking of the trunk, I should mention a Kia feature that I love. If the car is locked and you stand behind the trunk with your arms full, you’ll be happy to know that after a few seconds, the trunk will pop open by itself. This feature definitely saved me some time out in Boston’s cold air.
Just The Facts
- 2017 Kia Optima HEV
- Starts at $25.9K
- Listed MPG: 42 combined
- Actual MPG during test drive: 36