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2018 Kia Optima Hybrid: New Car Review

The 2018 Kia Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid (dubbed PHEV) offer customers all the sporty driving attitude and luxurious features found in a conventional Optima, but with the fuel efficiency of lightweight compact car. Kia is not alone in the midsize hybrid market, meaning the Optima Hybrid has some heavy hitters to take on, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid, all of which get better fuel economy than the Kia. Still, with its sharp lines, stylish wheels and upscale interior, the Optima Hybrid has a certain swagger that adds to its appeal. And it comes with a healthy list of standard and available features, plus one of the best standard warranties in the business.

What’s New for 2018?

The 2018 Kia Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid get some new colors this year, but everything else remains the same.

What We Like

Attractive styling, decent performance; roomy interior; lots of upscale features; excellent warranty

What We Don’t

Limited rear-seat headroom; driver-assist safety features cost extra; fuel economy doesn’t come close to rivals from Toyota or Honda

How Much?

$26,890-$41,555

Fuel Economy

Both the Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid use the same 2.0-liter gas engine and hybrid/electric powertrain, but the Plug-in can travel up to 27 miles in full EV mode. Power from the combined gasoline and electric powertrain for the Optima Hybrid is rated at 192 horsepower, while the PHEV ups that figure to 202 hp.

Fuel economy for the Optima Hybrid is rated at 39 miles per gallon in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. The PHEV version scores 38 mpg city/43 mpg hwy, with a 103 mpge rating from the EPA.

Standard Features & Options

Kia’s 2018 Optima Hybrid is offered in Premium and EX trim, while the plug-in version is offered only in the EX trim.

The Optima Hybrid Premium ($26,890) comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless access with push-button start, power heated outside mirrors, Smart Trunk automatic trunk release, UVO infotainment with a 7-in touchscreen and 6 speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering column, dual-zone automatic temperature control, an 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support, cloth seating and a fixed rear seat with pass-through.

Step up to the EX ($31,885), and you’ll get an impressive array of equipment that includes sound-absorbing front windows, 17-in alloy wheels, Kia’s UVO infotainment system with navigation and an 8-in touchscreen, leather upholstery, a 12-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support and driver-memory settings, a 10-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and an upgraded 630-watt Harman Kardon 10-speaker sound system.

The Optima Plug-in Hybrid EX ($36,105) is similarly equipped as the Optima Hybrid EX.

The Premium model can be upgraded with the Convenience package ($1,795), which brings blind spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a 12-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support and memory, rear air vents and rear-seat dual USB power outlets, plus a 12-volt power outlet.

The EX trims can be equipped with the Technology package ($5,000), which brings the driver assists from the Premium’s Convenience package, then adds collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. Also included are LED headlights with an adaptive bending feature, automatic high beams, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear-window sunshades, a 10-way power passenger seat and LED interior lighting.

Safety

The Kia Optima Hybrid comes standard with antilock brakes plus electronic traction and stability control. Front, front-seat-side-impact and front- and rear-side-curtain airbags are also standard, as is a driver’s-knee airbag. Also standard are hill-start assist control and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

In crash tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Optima Hybrid earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. The sedan also earned the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ rating, with top scores in all tests and a Superior score in the crash avoidance and mitigation test.

Behind the Wheel

Our own Doug DeMuro spent some time behind the wheel of the Kia Optima Hybrid. Here’s what he had to say:

So what did we think of the hybrid-powered Optimas? Simply put, they aren’t the Kia models of years past. They’re smooth, they’re stable, and they’re quiet — and they’re capable of competing with the best that Toyota, Honda or Ford have to offer. They’re also roughly the same to drive, with no noticeable differences, save for a few badges, a revised gauge cluster and a small cubby on the front fender where you plug in the Plug-In Hybrid model.

We’ll start with ride quality. While the Optima Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid aren’t exactly luxury-car smooth over bumps and pavement imperfections, they insulate you from the road surprisingly well — noticeably better than the first generation, which always felt a bit too crashy for our liking. As for handling, the hybrid-powered Optima models offer a stable, strong feel with smooth steering and limited body roll. No, these aren’t sports cars, but as driving experience goes, they’re hardly at the bottom of their segment, either.

In both the Optima Hybrid and the Optima Plug-In Hybrid, fit and finish appears to be excellent, while wind noise is also hushed, and the operation of the hybrid powertrain never intrudes on your driving experience.

Speaking of that hybrid powertrain, it hardly transforms the Optima into a sports car when it comes to acceleration, but the sedan isn’t slow, either, regardless of whether you choose the Hybrid or the Plug-In Hybrid model. Sophisticated drivers will notice that the sometimes discomforting regenerative-braking feel has been mostly eliminated, which means these models barely distinguish themselves from a gas-powered Optima when you’re slowing down to a stop.

Although we didn’t get to carry out a sincere fuel economy test in various driving conditions, it’s worth noting that the Optima Hybrid’s in-car fuel economy gauge generally read over 40 mpg while we were behind the wheel — not bad for a midsize sedan, and only slightly behind major competitors like the Honda Accord Hybrid, but better than the Ford Fusion.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid — The Accord hybrid earns excellent marks in the areas of fit and finish, safety and resale, not to mention its standard suite of driver assists and superior fuel economy.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid — Like the Accord Hybrid, the Camry offers excellent marks in every category, comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense P driver assists and earns the best fuel economy of the bunch.

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid — The Fusion offers a sporty ride, lots of high-tech options and the option of all-wheel drive.

2018 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid — The Malibu offers a number of high-tech features, sleek styling and excellent fuel economy figures. Like the Toyota Camry, the Malibu Hybrid’s base price is a few thousand higher than the Kia Optima Hybrid or Honda Accord.

Used Lincoln MKZ Hybrid — A 2014-2016 Linlcon MKZ hybrid offers more power, luxury and style than the Optima Hybrid, plus it can be had with all-wheel drive.

Autotrader’s Advice

For the added features and available driver assists, we’d go with the Optima Hybrid EX with the Technology package. This version gives you all the luxury of a loaded Optima with better fuel economy than a compact Kia Forte sedan.

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