2012 Kia Optima Hybrid Review: The Hybrid That Acts Like it’s Not

The Kia Optima Hybrid might call itself a hybrid but it has the looks and performance of a traditional automobile. While most consumers might be brainwashed into thinking going hybrid means going ugly; that is far from true with the Optima Hybrid. This is a stylish and impressive car that doesn’t dumb down any features for the sake of being a hybrid car. In fact it is even more impressive looking than the 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo we reviewed last year.

Overall the Kia Optima Hybrid is a car that wants to impress. The MSRP for the vehicle is $25,700 and when you throw in all the additional packages, the Optima Hybrid easily tops out at $32k. That is certainly not a price that will cause sticker shock, but it is a bit pricier than some vehicles that lack the hybrid feature. But isn’t saving the environment worth the few extra bucks?

The Optima Hybrid is comfy and relatively speedy with a 2.4L cal hybrid engine and a 6 speed Sportmatic Transmission. Standard features like dual, front, and curtain airbags are a plus. Temperature control seats, USB port and AUX jacks, power steering, lumbar support in the drivers seat, fog lights, and more make the Optima Hybrid feature-rich enough to challenge some non-hybrid vehicles.

But what is probably the most disconcerting part of the Optima Hybrid is the car dashboard display. It has so much going on, that it almost becomes a distraction while driving, you find yourself drawn to the dashboard to watch the electric part of the car charging and then of course to watch your speed or trip miles. There is so much going on from animations to incidental items, that paying attention to the road seems almost to difficult and less interesting. Also, the Optima Hybrid is soo silent when you turn it on, that at times I wasn’t sure the car was running when I hit the push-button ignition!

There is no sound of an engine turning over like with traditional cars. The only time there is some significant engine noise is when accelerating after braking in street traffic. Not only is there a rumbling sound in that situation, but acceleration is kind of lagging as well. This is not an overall deal breaker but the noise in street traffic conditions did get annoying after awhile. On the open road, these noises were less noticeable and didn’t adversely affect the quality of the driving experience.

The Infinity sound system is rich and detailed – especially when listening to music via an AUX or USB input. SiriusXM is also available with a subscription. The navigation system is the same as on the 2011 KIA Optima Turbo. And while there have been a few software upgrades since we last reviewed the Optima SX Turbo, the overall touch screen and functionality has remained the same.

The Optima Hybrid went as far as 460 miles on a single tank of gas with a mix of electric and fuel powering our trip from New York City to Baltimore. While that is impressive, I was expecting a bit more mileage out of my trip since this is a hybrid after all. I also wasn’t thrilled with the defogging feature of the car. At certain points the windows got really foggy from the humidity and moisture and it took turning the heat up in the car to a crazy temperature to clear the windows. So when the car was baking; the windows cleared – odd.

 Verdict

All in all the Kia Optima Hybrid is a really nice ride and quality car for being a hybrid. The hybrid aspect doesn’t deter the the experience of being in the Optima. In fact, the interiors and the electronic features are better than ever. The seats are super comfortable and the car handles well on the road. The trunk has shrunk however due to extra mechanicals for the car. But this shouldn’t be a deal breaker for many – unless you like to fill your trunk to the brim with food shopping and luggage. For those looking to give back to the environment, then the Kia Optima Hybrid is a solid choice – it looks a hell of a lot better than the Toyota Prius and it gives you the best of both worlds without feeling like you are driving a toy car. The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is available now for a base MSRP of $25,700.

The Good: Solid car with features that are typically found in a fuel only automobile. Smooth ride with decent MPG. Hard to believe this is a hybrid but I guess that is the point now isn’t it! Lots of room for passengers.

The Bad: Too noisy in street traffic when accelerating and braking. Acceleration could be better on highways. Expected a smidgen better MPG considering this is a hybrid vehicle. Car dashboard is way too busy.

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