First Drive – 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid Raises the Bar

by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Motors gives fans another reason why they’re one of the fastest growing automakers. The 2014 Optima Hybrid sets a new curve for efficient mid-size sedans. For $31k the Kia Optima Hybrid offers a ton of savings at the pump and an athletic powertrain. New standard lux features inside and out could make the Optima Hybrid one of the best buys for a $30k mid-size sedan. Stiff competition comes from the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Honda Sonata Hybrid. The Kia Optima Hybrid has a plethora of standard features like LED headlights and taillights and heated and ventilated leather seats. Available LX, EX, SX, SX-Turbo, and SX Limited models offer new premium and convenience features. We reviewed the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX that boasts a combined EPA of 37 mpg and 235 lb-ft of torque.

 

Refined Sedan Style

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid

The 2014 Kia Optima impressed fans with its Euro-inspired – athletic exterior and contemporary luxury inside. Many of the Optima’s cool features are standard, like the power folding outside mirrors, and blue enhanced HID headlamps with levelizers. The Optima Hybrid EX also has standard 17 inch alloy wheels and cool ice blue hybrid badging. Some bolder paint jobs could add more flair. The signature tabbed grille has been redesigned to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid rear
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid rear

The sporty design of the gasoline powered 2014 Optima are retooled for the Hybrid to increase efficiency. New vents in the front bumper increase airflow and reduce drag. Newly designed and more aerodynamic 17 inch alloy wheels reduce weight and drag.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is long and wide with a spacious interior. The sloping roofline and sharp nose aids aerodynamics. From the outside, the K900 looks just slightly smaller than its  big sis, the K900 with a fresh  exterior design that’s still mature and well-rounded.

 

Impressive Luxury Interior

The EX we reviewed offered a exclusive  leather-trimmed cabin full of standard amenities. Along with a push button start with Smart Key, the Hybrid EX offers heated an ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, a heated leather wrapped steering wheel and navigation system with rearview camera. Dual zone climate control is also standard.

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid interior
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid interior

The dash is highly functional offering digital technology for convenience and safety. Along with the fuel gauge, eco guide, and speedometer, drivers have a 4.3 inch TFT LCD instrument cluster that can display hybrid information, average fuel economy, trip, EPA, average speed, and outside temperature. The LCD display also has settings for the locks, steering wheel, seat easy access, language, and service. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for the audio, cruise control, Bluetooth, and the LCD display.

The available Limited trim adds chrome side sills and nappa leather trimmed seats. The interior of the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX poses a real threat to the Honda and the Hyundai mid-size sedans offering standard soft-touch heated and ventilated leather seats, a premium infotainment suite, and plenty of room to stretch out.

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid interior
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid interior

The Eco Monitor is another cool feature that displays an illustration of regenerative power restored (braking), engine only propulsion (revving), and EV propulsion (low speed cruising or idle).

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid center stack
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid center stack

An 8 inch high resolution touch screen is also standard and features Uvo eServices and telematics, navigation, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and a rearview camera. The standard Infinity audio system has 8 speakers and includes satellite radio and XM Traffic.

The Kia Optima has a few drawbacks though. There is no sunroof. The climate control is weak- it takes way too long to warm up the car in a Chicago winter. There should also be more space for programming radio stations.

 

 

Efficient Well-Balanced Powertrain

A phenomenal EPA and the interior design make the Optima Hybrid one of the most worthwhile mid-size sedans for $30k. It’s unique in its segment because the Optima not only gives owners savings at the pump and a smaller carbon footprint, but it also delivers robust performance and upscale character.

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid interior
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid

The Hybrid EX has a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder Hybrid engine with a 47 horsepower electric motor, Hybrid Starter Generator, (HSG) and a powerful 47 kW lithium ion battery for a total output of 199 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. Both the EX and the LX features a 6 speed automatic transmission. The Optima EX has a combined EPA of 37 mpg (35 mpg city/ 39 mpg highway) and the LX has an impressive EPA of 38 mpg combined (36 mpg city/ 40 mpg highway).

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid driver info center
2014 Kia Optima Hybrid driver info center

The Active Eco System improves fuel efficiency by controlling the engine and transaxle. The gas mileage in the Optima Hybrid is amazing with well over 350 miles to a full tank.

The Optima Hybrid performs well on the road with great acceleration, fluid & responsive steering, and impressive agility. Braking is rigid and responsive. Manual mode is boring.

A Vehicle Stability Management system provides further enhancements to traction and steering to resolve slipping. Other standard safety features include traction control, electronic stability control, Hill Assist Control, Blind Spot Detection, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

In a growing demand for more eco friendly vehicles, the Kia Optima Hybrid tries to takeover its segment offering efficiency, standard luxury, and a balanced powertrain. First quarter 2015 sales will be a true test of how successful the Kia brand will be next year.

 

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