Kia has been lagging behind the competition when it comes to preparing for tighter fuel economy and emissions standards. But it is smack dab in the middle of a major push to get those numbers up, starting with the all new Kia Niro hybrid crossover specifically designed to eat the Toyota Prius’ lunch. That car was unveiled for the first time at the Chicago auto show last week.
It also revealed a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version of the Kia Optima sedan. “As part of our bold initiative to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent across the entire Kia model line-up by 2020, a plug-in hybrid was a critical addition to our offering. The Optima HEV adds hybrid efficiency to the standout styling and vehicle dynamics of our all-new Optima, and the PHEV takes things one step further with all-electric range that is among the best in the segment,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, Kia Motors America. “All three of the vehicles being introduced here at the Chicago Auto Show are emblematic of Kia’s commitment to sustainability and our philosophy that you shouldn’t have to accept compromises when making a green choice.”
Both new Kia models use the same 154 hp, 2.0 liter four cylinder GDI engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The normal hybrid has a 1.62 kWh battery and 38 kW electric motor. The plug-in has a 9.8 kWh battery and a 50 kW motor. It’s all electric range is 27 miles. Total range is over 600 miles, according to Kia. Drivers can select an all electric mode, a hybrid mode that saves electric charge, or a charging mode which charges the battery pack.
Both are similar in appearance to the gas powered Optima sedan, but have subtle visual differences like active grille shutters and other aerodynamic tweaks to lower the coefficient of drag to a remarkable Cd 0.24. Inside, both showcase the updated interiors introduced last year along with much improved driving dynamics. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported on the central touchscreen and a ten speaker, 630 watt Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system is available.
Kia boldly announces the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid with highly visible exterior labels, whereas Chrysler makes no reference to the fact that its new Pacifica minivan is a plug-in hybrid. Chrysler seems to think its customers are afraid of the word “plug-in,” while Kia obviously thinks otherwise.
Look for both the Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid in showrooms this fall. Final pricing and option availability information will be announced closer to the official on sale date.