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2019 Kia Optima Hybrid: New Car Review

A hybrid-electric vehicle like the 2019 Kia Optima Hybrid offers buyers the fuel-efficiency of a compact car in a larger, more comfortable sedan that is also eco-friendly. In the case of the Optima, Kia offers two variations on the theme. The Optima Hybrid uses a gasoline engine backed up by an electric motor/generator, while the Optima Plug-in Hybrid can be recharged at home and drive short distances solely on electric power. The Optima Hybrid is not alone in offering these advanced technologies, and it faces stiff competition from more efficient hybrids like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Honda Accord Hybrid and the 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 2019?

The 2019 Kia Optima Hybrid and the Plug-in Hybrid are reduced to a single trim, the EX. The EX Hybrid sees a price drop of nearly $3,000, but also has some of its standard equipment moved to the option category.

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?

$28,905 — $41,700

Fuel Economy

Both the Optima Hybrid and the Plug-in Hybrid use the same 2.0-liter gas engine and hybrid/electric powertrain, but the Plug-in can travel up to 29 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 45 mpg on the highway. The PHEV version scores 40 mpg in combined driving, with a 103 MPGe rating from the EPA.

Standard Features & Options

Kia’s 2019 Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid come nicely equipped in a single EX trim with one Technology package containing all optional equipment.

The Optima Hybrid EX ($28,905) comes with 16-in alloy wheels, keyless access with push-button start, power heated outside mirrors, a 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, blind spot warning, rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, a tilt-telescopic steering column, dual-zone automatic temperature control, a 10-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support, leather seating, heated front seats and a 60/40 split folding rear seat.

The Optima Plug-in Hybrid EX ($36,210) is similarly equipped as the Optima Hybrid EX but adds 17-in wheels, a 12-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar, a heated steering wheel, an 8-in touchscreen with navigation and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The EX trims can be equipped with the Technology package that differs slightly depending on the model. The Optima Hybrid Technology package ($5,200) adds 17-in wheels, 8-in touchscreen navigation with UVO services, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio, an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and avoidance assist, lane-departure warning, adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 12-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support, a 10-way power passenger seat, 2-position driver’s seat memory and LED interior lighting. The Optima Plug-in Hybrid Technology package ($5,000) includes the same equipment minus those features already standard on the Plug-in version.

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.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 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.

2019 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.

2019 Ford Fusion Hybrid — The Fusion offers a sporty ride, lots of high-tech options and the option of all-wheel drive.

2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid — The Malibu offers a number of high-tech features, sleek styling and excellent fuel economy figures.

Used Lincoln MKZ Hybrid — A 2014 — 2017 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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