I spoke with Stephen Kosowski, Kia’s manager of long-range strategy & planning about their new Optima Hybrids, then gave him my 2¢ on the sexiest car I’ve seen since the Fisker Karma. Kia delivered their first hybrid Optimas in 2011, and will continue to expand their hybrid offerings. When I asked which country seemed most receptive to hybrids, he explained that all the countries they sell in are increasing legislation to reduce CO2, and they’re finding an increase in consumer interest for cars with greater fuel efficiency. He explained that given the tightening CAFE standards, he can only see hybrids becoming more commonplace.
Kosowski also told me that Kia is planning to unveil a pure electric in Korea very soon, which he hinted will be “far ahead of the competition.” Very exciting news from the company who is gaining market share faster than any other brand. One of his associates told me that their designs, especially the Sol, have helped them catch the eye of new customers, while their reliability and other qualities have made it number one in household loyalty.
Although he teased me by suggesting that the GT could possibly have a 2.0L hybrid motor, the press release claims it will have a 3.3-liter turbocharged Lambda V6 Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. This will give the rear-wheel-drive sports sedan a thrilling 395 horsepower and 393.5 pound-feet of torque. Sounds like fun! But with the hybrid drive I wouldn’t have to feel like I’m wasting all that potential sitting in traffic. Which is why Los Angeles is a leading market for hybrids, the perfect vehicle for sitting in traffic then keeping up with 80mph average traffic when it does move.
That little stalk you see where the mirrors belong is actually a side rear view camera and turn signal. As you can see when the doors are opened, the “mirror” is actually an interior screen right where you’d look to check that mirror.
The 2012 Optima comes in three varieties- a 2.4L gasoline direct injection 4 cylinder, a 2.0L turbo gasoline direct injection, and a 2.4L multi-point injection hybrid electric. The 2012 Optima Hybrid has a more fuel-efficient drivetrain and state-of-the-art lithium-polymer battery pack to deliver a claimed 35 mpg in the city and a class-leading 40 mpg on the highway.
The Optima Hybrid under the hood:
Kia, like other foreign brands I saw today, also manufactures in the US. Although their Optima Hybrids are still made in South Korea, the gas-only Optimas are made here in Georgia. Another Optima they unveiled was the Blake Griffin special designed by West Coast Customs for the LA Clippers player. Yes, it’s a basketball themed car, and Blake is an excellent spokesperson. But I moved the seat as far back as it would go and it still didn’t seem like quite enough legroom for the 6’10 professional basketball player.