2014 Kia Optima Hybrid
By Tony Swan
On Sale: Spring 2014
Expected Pricing: About $26,000
Kia Optima is freshened for the 2014 model year, and an updated hybrid version joins the lineup. The front-wheel-drive midsize sedan is Kia's bestseller.
The updated 2014 Optima Hybrid was introduced at February's Chicago auto show and Kia said it would go on sale sometime this spring. Pricing for the 2014 Kia Optima had not been announced when this was written, but the 2014 manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for a basic four-cylinder Optima LX sedan is $21,500. MSRP for a 2013 Optima LX Hybrid was $25,900. We are guessing the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid will retail close to the same price.
Like most contemporary carmakers, Kia shares most of its structural and propulsion hardware with its parent company. In the Optima's case, that means chassis and powertrain commonality with the Hyundai Sonata line, including the Sonata Hybrid.
The Hyundai/Kia hybrid system, a 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine (159 horsepower, 154 pound-feet of torque), supplemented by an AC synchronous electric motor (47 hp, 151 lb-ft), with a 47-kilowatt lithium polymer battery and 6-speed automatic transmission, carries over from the 2013 model year.
As with the Sonata Hybrid, the Optima Hybrid system's combined output continues to be rated at 199 hp and 235 lb-ft. Although the horsepower rating is down slightly from the 166-hp 2012 version, a more powerful (by 7 hp) electric motor gave the combined output a slight boost to its current rating.
More important, after an unhappy 2012 pas de deux with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning the accuracy of some Hyundai/Kia fuel economy forecasts, Kia confidently forecasts 36/40 mpg City/Highway for the standard Kia Optima Hybrid LX. The fancier Optima Hybrid EX model, with its heavier load of standard features, is rated 35/39 mpg.
Where the 2014 Optima Hybrid differs from the 2013 model, and from other Optima models, is in exterior appearance. For example, the front bumper displays a number of addition vents, which Kia says will improve the car's aerodynamic efficiency.
The front end of the 2014 Optima Hybrid is also distinguished from the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima by its own grille design, as well as a new LED light array.
Restyled aluminum alloy wheels add another visual distinction to the Hybrid, 16-inch for the LX, 17-inch EX. In addition to adding style, the design of the new wheels contribute to aerodynamic efficiency, according to Kia, and their metallurgy reduces unsprung weight.
Continuing Kia's strategy of positioning its vehicles slightly upscale from those of its Hyundai parent, the Optima features high quality interior materials, highlighted by a new white leather option package. (While that all-white upholstery is beautifully fabricated and undeniably classy, we feel obligated to observe that it may not be quite the thing for families with young kids, dogs, or both.)
Infotainment features are contemporary, including a nav system option, eight-speaker Infinity audio, satellite radio and real-time traffic info, and comprehensive connectivity.
Safety features are consistent with contemporary standards, which is to say average: ABS, Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, hill start assist, and a bevy of airbags, front, front side, and side curtain. All the foregoing is standard equipment.