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Kia follows industry suit with hybrid model

October 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Following on the heels of the Optima sedan, Kia has done what more and more auto manufacturers are doing: added a hybrid version.

The Optima hybrid combines battery power with its four-cylinder gasoline engine for better fuel economy, less carbon output and - equally important to many buyers - a hybrid badge on the back.

Ten years ago, there were only two car brands selling hybrids. Today, there are 17, now including Kia, and more will be joining in soon.

You can spot the Optima hybrid right off the bat by its distinctive wheels, which are part of the car's aero efficiency.

Inside, the hybrid treatment gets you a different instrument display to show you how the systems is working and how efficiently you're driving.

The system defaults into "eco" mode every time you start the car. That can make it a little pokey, however, in the interest of mileage numbers.

If you want to scoot a little quicker every now and then, you can switch it off and trade mpg for mph.

One interesting thing about the Optima hybrid is that the highway fuel economy number is better than the city number, 35 and 40, respectively. Usually the opposite is true. Kia says they engineered their hybrid system to do better on the highway because that's where most motorists do most of their driving.

However, that's assuming you spend most of your freeway time zooming along and not stuck in traffic.

When you're moving, the car's six-speed automatic transmission combines with aerodynamic efficiency. The lower grills even close to help that to achieve a highway rating of 40 mpg. That's much easier to do with a small car than with a fairly substantial sedan like the Optima.

The city number of 35 is also fairly impressive. The Optima hybrid can stay in electric vehicle mode with the engine completely off at speeds of up to 62 mph. That helps to save fuel when driving around town or driving on our crowded freeways.


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