EV Review: 2018 Kia Optima PHEV

 In Electric Cars

Introduction

The Kia Optima has developed an excellent reputation based on longevity, reliability, and bang for your buck. It’s a stylish sedan that is surprisingly fun to drive. The arrival of a PHEV model in its lineup in 2017 has created a stir, wondering whether the inexpensive Korean brand can be a competitor in a fast-moving electrified market.

There should have been no doubt about it. The Kia Optima PHEV has been extremely well received and has shown that it’s ready to take on its competitors. The 2018 Kia Optima PHEV is thousands of dollars less than many other similar models in the segment including the Ford Fusion Energi. Although only one trim level exists for the Optima PHEV, the EX trim, it’s at a level that most PHEV buyers will be looking.

If there’s a chink in the armor, it’s probably in the brand perception. Kia has largely shaken the ‘disposable Korean car’ image, but it’s still perceived as an inexpensive brand. A starting price of just over $35,000 is quite a bit more than shoppers are expecting when they walk into a Kia store. Perhaps, with electrified vehicles like the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV, the brand can move past the low-cost image once and for all.

Exterior styling

It’s a great-looking sedan by all rights. The 2018 Kia Optima PHEV has the features and stance of a sports sedan. It has standard 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome-accented exterior trim, and Kia’s recognizable sporty honeycombed front grille. It has Smart Welcome, a fantastic LED lighting feature behind the door handles that illuminates when you approach. The 2018 Kia Optima has standard LED headlights with Dynamic Bending.

If there’s a downside on the exterior, it’s to do with color. The Optima PHEV is available in Snow White Pearl, Aluminum Silver, Gravity Blue, and Aurora Black Pearl, and that’s it.

Fit and finish interior

As mentioned, the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV comes in one trim level, Kia’s top-end EX trim. That brings a wide assortment of standard features to the cabin including UVO eco with Voice Command Navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen display, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Harmon Kardon QuantumLogic Premium sound is also standard equipment.

Driver-assistive technologies are available in the EX Technology package along with a bunch of other options. It’s where you’ll get the panoramic sunroof addon, Adaptive Cruise Control, rear window sunshades, and LED interior lighting.

Seating is surprisingly comfortable, with heated leather seats as standard equipment. The EX Technology package adds ventilated front seats, 10-way power passenger seat adjustment, and heated outboard rear seats also. There’s plenty of legroom in the back to accommodate adults, although the dropping roofline impedes headroom for taller passengers.

One major flaw in the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV is the cargo capacity. There is less cargo space in the trunk than on most compact hatchbacks – just 9.89 cubic feet. If it’s meant to be a family car, it’s for one that doesn’t need to carry any baby stuff beyond a diaper bag. The back seat will be the main place for carrying items, and that’s just not convenient.

Driving Experience

As a plug-in hybrid, the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV has two power sources: a 2.0-liter GDI gas-powered engine with 154hp and a 66hp electric motor to boot. The combined 220 horsepower puts it right in line with traditional gas-powered vehicles in its segment. In normal driving conditions, the car performs flawlessly. You might regard it as ho-hum because it does nothing to wow the driver. On the other hand, it doesn’t disappoint you either. It’s the perfect blend for everyday operation, even as a PHEV.

And that brings us to the big reason the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV is such a success: the range and efficiency is amazing. The Optima PHEV gets up to 610 miles range. On just electric power alone, it can go as far as 29 miles before needing a recharge. On gas-powered performance, it’s rated at 40mpg combined city and highway, while its electric power economy is 103MPGe. That alone is a good reason to choose the Optima over its less-impressive competition.

The drive itself is smooth as you can expect with typical MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear suspension. One notable item from the on-road experience is the serenity inside the car. The Optima PHEV is well insulated from road noise and vibration, taking it to a new level for a Korean car.

Features

MSRP $35,210 USD
Type PHEV
Electric Range 29 miles / 47 km
Total Range 610 miles / 998 km
Time to Charge 2.5 hours (Level 2)
Electric Motor 50 kW
Battery Capacity 9.8 kWh
Top Speed 119 mph / 192 km/h
Warranty 6 years/60,000 miles or 100,000 km

Conclusion

For what you get, the 2018 Kia Optima PHEV is a class-leading car. The price is right to be competitive in the market, and it performs extremely well also. With just one trim level available, it could be an issue for those who want to get into a very basic hybrid model, but that’s a small swath of the population. Although its rear-seat headroom is a touch less than it could be, it’s largest detractor is the lack of cargo space. Typical purchasers will be commuters or business fleets with no need to be away from home overnight.

Top Competitors

  • 2018 Hyundai Sonata PHEV
  • 2018 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
  • 2018 Ford Fusion Energi
  • 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

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