Think you know Kia? This car will challenge your preconceived notions of the automobile manufacturer. Everyguyed recently spent a week with the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid. The Kia Optima Hybrid combines creature comforts, a video game-like driving experience, and an environmentally friendly system to make for an impressive automobile.
Creature comforts abound in the Kia Optima Hybrid. A built-in USB charger is included along with dual 12-volt chargers in the front, with the USB charger and AUX input allowing for an easy plug-in of your iPhone or iPod (or Android). The playlist integration is seamless, with the Optima displaying my iTunes library (including podcasts) on its touch screen. The trunk is roomy, as the Optima’s battery is roughly two feet long by one foot tall.
The car has touch-ignition, with a number of fail-safes (including a beeping signal) to keep you from locking yourself out of the car just in case you don’t keep the key in your pocket.
A Quiet Ride
The Optima is extremely quiet. So quiet that the people around you might think your engine died. Start-up typically only uses the hybrid’s battery, with the car relying on this energy source for most low speed and stop and go traffic. On start up, the driver’s seat automatically moves forward to adjust to the proper distance to the steering wheel. Head room is snug, but I did not have to slouch – the driver’s seat is definitely comfortable for a larger guy. The model I drove had a rear view monitor as well as heated and cooled driver and passengers seats.
The 2013 Optima has excellent sight lines, with little or no blind spot. The view gets even better thanks to dual sun roofs, making for a nice view akin to the lost Pontiac Banshee IV concept car.
Driving the Optima
The 2.4L 4 cylinder engine fared well, providing an especially zippy ride in downtown areas and on the interstate. While driving, I usually kept the Instantaneous Fuel Economy screen in view. I found myself trying to beat a previous high on average MPG, successfully hitting 40.0 miles per gallon on an extremely hilly drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama.
The Kia Optima comes with an Active ECO system that “optimizes certain vehicle operations” including the drive train and air conditioning system to increase fuel economy. Honestly, the Active ECO system is the only part of the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid I didn’t like.
With the Active ECO system on, additional resistance is felt upon acceleration, placing the car into a cruise control-like state. I live in a hilly area, and this proved to be a problem, with the resistance on the pedal frustrating in interstate traffic and increasing passing difficulty. I did a trial to compare my fuel economy on the interstate with the Active ECO system on and with it off, and my struggles with the system resulted in a decrease in fuel economy of roughly two miles per gallon. I imagine the Active ECO system would work optimally in areas with level terrain and on extended downtown driving.
An immediate difference is felt when the Active ECO system is turned off, and thankfully, this feature can be turned off or on at any time.
The car accelerates exceptionally well with the Active Eco system off. While on the interstate and in traffic, the Optima switches back and forth from using the gasoline engine even at high speeds. The cockpit display is extremely useful, allowing you to monitor different aspects of performance monitor and determine when your car is running off of battery power versus gasoline engine to enhance your driving experience and fuel economy.
Driving becomes a Video Game
The environmentally friendly systems (which you can see for yourself in the videos) are integrated into the dashboard software in a fun way, turning driving the Kia Optima into a video-game-like experience.
When I compared my average MPG with and without the Instantaneous Fuel Economy screen in view, I averaged about 3 miles per gallon better when I kept an eye on the IFE info screen. An increase in fuel economy is a real-life benefit of the video game-like experience, a better benefit than leveling up your multiplayer person in Call of Duty: Black Ops II or Halo 4.
Including in the Optima’s monitoring system is the car’s ECO score, which add an RPG-video game quality to your driving experience. When the car is built, the ECO level is 0, with a high score of 1000 attained through driving over time. These points increase slowly, like levels in a role playing game – I went from level 211 to 221 during my period with the car.
At an MSRP of $31,750 fully loaded with extras including a navigation system, heated & cooled seats and steering wheel, and dual sunroofs, the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid provides an excellent mix of quality, environmental conscientiousness, and value.
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