It’s the end of 2012 and the Kia Optima Hybrid with a Premium package finally made it’s way to my house. The only other Kia I’ve driven has been the Rio and as adorable as the Rio is you get zero respect from the valet attendants (except the guy at Barneys who happened to love it as much as I did).
The Optima is a mid size sedan maybe teetering on the edge of full sized. It’s got a lot of leg room for everyone and parked next to the XF it looked similar in stature. The Optima has something that most luxury cars charge a ton of dough for, luxury. The sun roof on the Optima is not to be missed. If you love light coming at you Kia has embraced the oversized sunroof with a dual design.
Driving the Optima Hybrid is lovely. It’s a fairly quiet car. It doesn’t have the capsule like feel of a heavier sedan and you can hear the engine wind down into hybrid mode but that’s something that I’ve experienced with every hybrid under $50,000. With a $25,700 base price the Optima Hybrid exceeded my expectations on everything but fuel consumption. It pains me to say it but I got just 29 miles a gallon from this vehicle after a week. I thought I was doing something wrong and when I ran into my friends at Gadget Review I asked them what kind of mileage they got and they were 36 or so… I’m just baffled by this and don’t really have a good explanation.
Here’s the window sticker for the vehicle I drove. You’ll see it’s very nicely equipped.
Driving the Optima in the Los Angeles rain was interesting. One of the reasons that Angelinos drive so poorly in the rain is because it rains so rarely that in a downpour (like I had while driving this car) loads of grease and oil and make the roads suddenly slick, there’s no slow washing away of debris so our streets are a disaster in the first hours. Not being one to miss an opportunity I found myself an empty road, got up to 45 miles an hour and slammed on the brakes. The Optima handled this like a champ, stopping on a dime without even the tiniest swerve.
The crash ratings are good on this car, I’d like to see five stars everywhere but with things like effective ABS brakes (I assure you not all ABS braking systems are made equally) and Hill Start Assist (no more rolling backwards when you’re stuck at the light on Sunset and La Cienenga) you’ll have much less use for curtain airbags. Since I’m two years away from having a teenage driver I’m starting to look at vehicles differently, accident avoidance is key.
The Optima is a good car in many ways. It’s not an exciting drive, it’s not particularly fast but it’s also not annoyingly slow. It’s a sedan and has the capability of being a great daily driver. What makes the Optima a brilliant sedan is that it’s a Kia. If this vehicle had any other badge on the hood it would be at a different price point. The 10 year powertrain warranty and five year limited are also incredibly convincing reasons to buy a Kia.
If you’ve got a family back seats matter. There is a lot of legroom in this car and as an added bonus you can get heated rear seats. I’ve only seen this in the 7 series BMW and the S Class Mercedes. My iphone integrates beautifully with the Kia and as I’ve noted before the navigation system is wonderful.
This is a smart car, it’s simple and sturdy. I’m more than a little concerned about the difference I experienced in fuel consumption but even with that in mind I think it’s a smart purchase for folks who love sedans.