The Korean Invasion is in full swing, and with Hyundai leading the charge, little sister brand Kia is starting to get into green action. Their first hybrid model, the Optima Hybrid, will start off at $26,500.
If you’ve been paying attention, that is about $1,000 more than the Sonata Hybrid, upon which the Kia is built. Why the extra G-note? The Kia comes better equipped with more standard features, including Uvo infotainment system, the first such application of this system. It appears to me that Hyundai is trying to push Kia up market, and they just might be able to do it.
$26,500 is not exactly chump change, but Hyundai’s hybrid system is remarkably robust, allowing all-electric speeds of up to 62 mph. It also comes with a “pre-recorded engine sound” during EV mode to alert nearby bystanders. So much for a whisper-quiet Kia…but with a 35 city/40 highway mpg rating (though a trip cross-country in two Sonata Hybrids proved they can get even better mileage when driven right) the Optima stands to deliver some pretty good gas mileage. Plus, the new Optima a good loking car (in my humble opinion) and possibly the most-aggressive hybrid sedan I’ve seen to date.
What concerns me though is that Kia is a brand that is strill struggling to find direction. After releasing various concept vehicles, from the plug-in hybrid “Ray” to the all-electric “Pop.” On the same token though, the Kia is priced higher than a similar Sonata, and there have been plenty of performance concepts on the auto show circuit as well. I am still waiting for somebody to build a bare-bones hybrid that ditches all the fancy gadget wizardry for some truly remarkable mileage.
So which is it Kia? Green, luxury, performance…or perhaps all three?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.