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Review of: 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid 4dr Sdn EX Premium
2016 Kia Optima Hybrid EX Premium: Unique for a year
By G. R. Whale
Jun. 23, 2016
Since the standard 2016 Optima got restyled and updated, this is the only model year the Hybrid version looks distinctly different. Let’s see what works and what we hope will change on the restyled and updated 2017.
Pros & Cons
- + Interior space
- + Value for money
- + Attention-getting styling
- - Steering feel
- - Trunk space
- - Advanced safety features
Kia does mid-size a bit differently, beginning with the family “tiger-nose” (I don’t see it either) grille that’s echoed atop the windshield and the trim line on the upper doors that carries across the pillar to frame the rear window. Quad-element fog lights remind of Porsche running lights and the badges are “eco hybrid” so no one mistakes it for, oh I don’t know, some non-eco hybrid like a LaFerrari or McLaren P1.
Curiously, the mirrors unfold as the key approaches, but it doesn’t unlock until you press a button.
In top trim, the Optima’s interior catches me off guard: Leather upholstery, stitched dash and some door panels appeal, then you touch a generic plastic surface and get sent back to family-sedan reality. Gloss-black trim is fine where it doesn’t generate glare, but the window-switch panel does that, and the fingerprint count proves that’s not the place to use it.
There’s no shortage of amenities like power seats, driver memory and a heated steering wheel. Some call ventilated seats mere gadgets, but they allow another few degrees in ambient temperature before engaging fuel-using AC, especially useful with this greenhouse of a moonroof.
Generously reclined seatbacks make the back almost as comfortable as the front, and there is a small pass-through that might fit 1-2 pair of skis. Like many hybrid sedans, folding seats and trunk volume (305 litres) are compromised, but the shape remains usable.
EX Premium comes loaded and includes blind-spot monitors, rear camera, park sensors and a touchscreen that approaches Fiat-Chrysler’s Uconnect for ease of use…it seemed to know what I wanted at every touch. Some settings are done strictly through the wheel, others on the main screen, and shouldn’t take long to master.
If you want automatic emergency braking and the like, you’ll have to wait for the 2017.
Maybe because of the label, my Optima Hybrid defaults to ‘eco’ mode, which translates to lackadaisical “gas” pedal response. This is not unique to Kia, and a simple tab right on the steering wheel improves things to adequate—not fast, but responsive enough. With 199 hp and 235 lb-ft combined output and a conventional six-speed automatic, the Optima does a torquey, tire-scuffing launch without full-throttle drone but it’s not as refined as an Accord or VW Jetta hybrid.
Optima’s like standard petroleum cars that use less fuel on the highway, where many hybrids do better in town. Upper trims lower ratings slightly (thanks to bigger wheels and 50 kg in luxuries like that big glass roof) to 6.7/6.1 L/100km while I observed 5.4-5.6 on road trips, averaged 6.5 and did worst (7.6) on cold-start, short trips, which are the bane of most gas-electrics.
My highway consumption and the 65-litre tank yield a diesel-like range of more than 1,100 km. Noise levels are fine but I might choose less eco-optimized tires, the brake pedal’s as touchy as any hybrid and the steering’s precise but very artificial in feel and effort variance.
For this Optima’s $37,000 (with longer-than-average warranty) you could get a Camry XLE Hybrid (5.5/6.0), shorter outside but similarly roomy, or the more fun-to-drive but less lux Jetta Hybrid. Malibu Hybrid (5.0/5.1) isn’t yet out, there’s no 2016 Accord Hybrid, and a Fusion Platinum with lane-keeping and adaptive cruise is $42,000.
The 2017 targets 5.6 l/100km combined with a smaller gas engine, is aero-sleeker, and slightly roomier from a few mm added width, length, and height. It will offer Android Auto, CarPlay, collision mitigation braking and 24 per cent more trunk volume, suggesting the fuel tank (capacity unannounced) shrinks considerably. We’re betting the price doesn’t shrink, so which one really looks better to you?