Review Of The Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon
The new Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon costs more to buy outright than the petrol and diesel models. But it’s cheap to run, comes with the brand’s excellent 7-year warranty, and contributes to what is otherwise a suave-looking large family car.
The hybrid model is a new addition to the Optima family. It’s improved both emissions and economy significantly, and therefore makes sense to anyone who is either on a budget, or who cares about the environment.
You get the Optima’s other great qualities too, including fantastic value and a roomy cabin.
OSV takes a closer look at what it’s all about with our Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon review.
On The Road
Like most Kia’s, the Optima is more than capable on the road, if not much fun. It doesn’t offer much by the way of engaged handling, and its steering feels too vague. However, Kia have recently revised the suspension setup, so that it now cushions you better from any potential blows meted out by broken roads.
The deficiencies are all-too glaring at times, though. If you corner with too much haste, you will notice excess body lean. This is the same whether you opt for the hybrid model, or for a petrol or a diesel variant.
The hybrid version offers the best economy, though, as well as more power. When combined, the electric motor and the 2.0-litre petrol engine deliver a satisfying 202bhp. That probably won’t be enough to get your pulse racing, but it’s enough to get the car from rest to 62mph in 9.1 seconds.
It also comes with a drive mode that lets you flick between Normal and Eco, depending on your mood or the setting (or your bank balance). The Eco mode doesn’t offer as much power, but it does offer more efficiency. The Normal mode does the opposite.
You can pick electric-only mode, too – as long as the batteries have got plenty of charge left. On pure electric, the Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon can go for 33 miles. Not bad.
It’s easier than ever to recharge the batteries. You have three options – your house (with a 3-pin plug), a charging station, or the engine itself.
Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon Interior, Design & Build
Step inside the Optima, and you’ll be greeted by a roomy interior. It’s actually surprising how spacious the Optima is, because its dimensions aren’t as big as a lot of its rivals.
It’s also comfortable, while sound-deadening materials ensure that exterior noises are nicely subdued. The hybrid engine, meanwhile, is as quiet as a mouse, which means the cabin is a genuinely pleasant place to be. If you want to cruise and relax on your travels, you can certainly do that in the Optima PHEV.
The dash has been nicely put together, with Kia using lots of soft-touch plastics. The actual design is a bit bland, but it’s hard to complain too much when the buttons and controls are so well laid out. Compared to the outgoing Optima, this is a massive step forward.
Head and legroom is good upfront and in the back, though anyone sat in the middle seat loses out a bit. It’s raised, and only kids will get comfortable in it. There are plenty of storage spaces, such as a fold-down rear armrest and a cooled glovebox.
The door bins are a tad small, though, and boot is hit and miss. It measures 307-litres, which is miles off the standard Optima’s 510-litre luggage capacity. Naturally, this is due to the batteries.
It suffers from a narrow opening, too, as well as an unremovable parcel shelf.
Equipment & Safety Of The Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon
Standard kit is good across the range. The hybrid model has its own trim, and gets all kinds of good stuff as part of its kit. This includes Apple CarPlay, part-leather, part cloth seats, 17” alloys, and a bird’s eye parking camera. It also gets sat nav and cruise control.
The entry level model benefits from air conditioning, sat-nav, Bluetooth and alloys. It also gets all-round electric windows, and a reversing camera.
The Optima 3 model is arguably the top pick. It comes with an 8” touchscreen, larger alloys, xenon headlights, as well as a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system.
The GT-Line S completes the range, and demands a £8,000 premium over the 2 trim. That’s likely to be too expensive for many of you, but a wireless phone charger, a panoramic sunroof and auto-dipping headlights might tempt you otherwise. It also gets more safety kit, such as a 360-degree parking camera, autonomous emergency braking, and blind spot assistance.
Speaking of safety, the Optima was awarded all five stars when Euro NCAP crash tested it. A tyre pressure monitoring system, electronic stability control and airbags are all part of the hybrids standard safety kit.
Costs Of The Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon
Prices for the new car start out from £21,600 and rise to £34,000. For more information on our lease deals, check out our page here.
In terms of its running costs, the addition of the plug-in hybrid to the Optima’s engine line-up has boosted the economy. It returns 176.6mpg, which are amazing numbers in anyone’s book. It’s also better for the environment, emitting only 37g/km of CO2. This means it’s free from road tax. It’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge, too, while its BiK is 7%.
However, its mpg numbers are official ones only – in the real world, the 176.6mpg economy will be difficult to achieve.
Its batteries have a range of thirty-three miles.
The hybrid model is more expensive to insure than both the diesel and petrol Optima’s, and it occupies group 25. If anything goes wrong, it will be expensive to repair.
Pros and Cons Of The Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon
From the front, there is even a hint of the Ford Mustang about the way the Optima looks.
It’s impossible to be unhappy with the amount of standard kit the plug-in hybrid version gets. Apple CarPlay, 17” alloys, and part cloth, part leather seats are all part of the deal.
Kia claims it can return over 176mpg, and it’s free to tax.
Expensive To Insure
The hybrid requires a more sophisticated mechanical setup than the petrol and diesel models, which means insurance is higher.
Not Much Fun
It’s quiet and competent, but not entertaining.
Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon vs BMW 330e vs Volkswagen Passat
Let’s see how it fares against its rivals in the comparison section of our 2017 Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon review.
Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon vs BMW 330e
Uh oh, the Kia is up against a BMW of all things. The new BMW 330e indeed offers the strong performance we expect of all BMW’s. Surprisingly, however, it doesn’t offer the same sleek handling.
BMW have got the edge on Kia by virtue of the fact that they’ve already done their homework in this sector. With the fireball i8 supercar and i3 hatchback under their belt, they know what they’re doing. The 330e is their first proper mainstream offering. So how does it fare?
The Sport model is the one we’re looking at here, as this is the Kia’s direct rival. It’s powered by a combination of an electric motor and a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine that delivers 249bhp.
That’s hefty. But despite all that power, it can return 148.7mpg economy on average – though exact figures will depend on the size of the wheel you go for.
On a full charge, the 330e can last for up to 25 miles and at speeds topping 50mph. That’s not bad, but not as good as the Optima. At low speeds, the car feels powerful enough, and can do 0-62 in 6.1 seconds before maxing out at 140mph. It’s three seconds faster than the Kia.
In terms of its driving experience, there isn’t a lot to get excited about. This is a surprise when you consider how daring BMW have been with their previous electric cars – as well as how exciting their cars normally are. The 330e’s on-the-road experience is unexceptional, and could even be described as run of the mill.
Inside, there is little that sets the BMW 330e apart from standard 3 Series models. There are few clues that this is an electric car. Indeed, you’d need to have your best private detective game on in order to find them.
The eDrive button is one. It lurks behind the gear stick (hardly easy to spot).
And, naturally, the boot is another. In the standard model, the boot measures a respectable 480-litres. Here, it has to accommodate the batteries, which shrinks the boot to 370-litres.
Verdict? The BMW is the headline name in our review – but look past the glamour, and it’s not the best all-rounder.
Kia – £21,600 – £34,000
BMW – £34,000
Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon vs Volkswagen Passat
The new Volkswagen Passat is a spacious, commanding saloon car that boasts a strikingly upmarket interior. For the purpose of this review, we’re focusing on the 1.4-litre TSi GTE petrol-hybrid model.
This is actually the most recent addition to the Passat’s line-up, although it’s now almost two years old. It combines an electric motor with a 1.4-litre engine to deliver a punchy 264bhp. That allows it to thrust you from a standstill to 62mph in 7.6 seconds, which is over 1.5 seconds faster than the Kia.
The electric motor is impressive, and can travel alone for just over 30 miles before the petrol has to kick in.
It accelerates well, although you do have to work it hard to get the best out of it. Moreover, its acceleration dries up pretty fast, as the heavyset nature of the car soon becomes apparent. Especially in corners, you will notice the extra weight of the batteries.
Still, performance is smooth overall.
In terms of economy, the Passat plugin hybrid fares well. It returns 166mpg and emits just 37g/km of CO2. However, these are official figures only, and they don’t take into account what a varied journey can do to the economy. For example, if you take in motorways, cities and country roads in one go, you will find that economy dwindles into the 60mpg region.
The GTE model is quite expensive, but inside you can see that it would be money well spent. VW has a knack for crafting elegant interiors that make you feel like a million dollars. The styling is upmarket, as are the materials used.
The hybrid model is like the standard Passat in a lot of ways, but there are discrete changes. For example, it gets blue-tinted badging, and a subtle blue line ahead of the grille.
One area where it isn’t any different is the boot. Unlike the Kia and the BMW, the Passat hybrid’s boot is the same as the standard model, measuring 586-litres. Even better, that’s 21-litres bigger than the old model.
This is because VW have “hidden” the 180-litre batteries under the boot floor. Excellent!
Other than that, practicality is good. Head and legroom is fine upfront and in the back, although anyone sat in the middle will have to deal with a transmission tunnel. Storage spaces include a decent-sized glovebox and large door pockets, while the boot comes with a 12v socket.
Volkswagen – £36,000
Verdict Of Our 2017 Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon Review
Plug-in hybrids have their pros and cons. For environmentally conscious buyers, their low emissions are huge strengths. For cash-conscious buyers, the huge savings you can make from their excellent economy are strengths.
But there are weaknesses, too, such as high insurance costs and a high listing price.
The Kia Optima Plugin Hybrid Saloon has all the pros and cons, but we think its stylish looks, stacks of equipment and sophisticated image count too much in its favour for any weaknesses to prove deal breakers.
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