Test Drive: 2012 Kia Optima Premium Hybrid

?Kia introduces their first ever U.S. Hybrid vehicle ? The 2012 Optima?

The Sonata Hybrid from Hyundai bowed first, claiming the best mid-size sedan highway fuel economy. Now Hyundai?s Korean sibling Kia has introduced their first ever Hybrid for the U.S. market ? the Optima for 2012, boasting the same EPA mileage ratings from the same basic powertrain. In fact the Optima, which is not an exact clone of the Sonata, is pretty darned close, even within the same pricing range.

Hyundai calls their production application of its hybrid system? ?Hybrid Blue Drive? which debuted in mid-2009 featured in the Korean domestic market?s Elantra LPI mild-hybrid.? As implemented in the 2011 Sonata Hybrid, Direct Hybrid Blue Drive is now a full parallel hybrid system. Both the Kia Optima Hybrid and the Sonata Hybrid are full parallel systems, and may be operated in a zero emissions, fully electric drive mode at speeds up to 62 miles per hour, or in a combined gas-electric mode at any speed. When the car comes to a stop and the electrical storage load is low, the engine shuts down, completely eliminating idle fuel consumption and emissions.

At the core of the Hybrid System is a lithium polymer battery pack. The Kia Optima Hybrid powertrain is configured with a unique architecture. In contrast to the more familiar power-split hybrid systems such as those from Toyota and Ford, Kia?s Hybrid Drive utilizes a transmission-mounted-electric-drive layout where the motor is separated from the transmission gear-set. This modular layout offers both Kia and Hyundai a number of advantages. Most importantly, the TMED configuration provides flexibility to mix and match different sized electric motors and transmissions to suit different vehicles.

The Hybrid Drive System consists of a 2.4-liter Theta II DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder hybrid with Continuously Variable Valve Timing and a 270V Maximum Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric motor. The gas engine delivers 166 horsepower at 6,000 rpm along with 154 pound feet of torque at 4,250 rpm, while the combined gas/electric operation generates 206.2 horsepower and 193.4 pound feet of torque. The system transfers energy through a six-speed automatic transmission without a lock-up torque converter. Another unique aspect of system is the 8.5 kW Hybrid-Starter-Generator, which is belt-driven off the Theta II engine. It is not to be confused with integrated starter systems used for so-called micro or mild-hybrid systems from other manufacturers.

Regenerative braking plays an important role in recovering kinetic energy lost during braking and storing it for future propulsion.

The newest member of the Kia stable was the all-new, third generation 2011Kia Optima. First seen at the 2010 New York International Auto Show, this latest iteration Kia Optima reflects Kia?s design-led transformation, and perpetuates Kia?s completely new and emotion-stirring design philosophy. The new Optima is longer, wider and lower than its predecessors. The sleek and streamlined Optima profile is coupe-like with its blacked out ?B? pillars and gracefully arched roofline that is highlighted by a bright chrome trim strip that runs from the ?A? pillar to the ?C? pillar, which features an intriguing reverse treatment. The car?s shoulder line runs from the headlamps to the decklid, with another indented character line riding at the rocker lever, and connecting the pronounced wheel wells. The overall effect is bold and athletic. The new signature grille is individualistic and quite attractive, flanked by projector headlamps.

The New Kia Optima displays an allure that is missing from many other mid-size sedans, regardless of price point, and will be offered in three trim levels featuring a host of standard features: a base LX model with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission with; a more upscale EX model; and the cream of the crop SX flagship model. The LX is powered by a 2.4-liter, DOHC, 16-valve normally aspirated inline four cylinder with Gasoline Direct Injection that delivers 200 horsepower at 6,300 rpm while generating 186 pound feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. The same engine will power the EX models with a 2.0-liter turbocharged GDI variant optionally available at a later date. The Optima Hybrid model is based upon the 2.4-liter four-banger. The turbo motor will crank out 274 horses, along with 269 pound feet of torque and will be the exclusive source of energy for SX model Optimas. EX and SX model Optimas are not available with the six-speed manual gearbox.

The Kia Optima?s styling is shared with its gasoline-powered sibling ?It is sleek and aerodynamic with accentuated character lines that emphasize motion even when parked. The wide front opening houses a mesh grille, which is flanked by futuristic headlamps and fog lamps. The cabin or greenhouse curves gracefully from the sharply raked windshield to the equally raked rear glass and abbreviated deck. The car sits low over amply filled wheel wells displaying a bold, athletic stance.

My test 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid Premium sedan wore an exterior coat of Satin Silver metallic, which was complemented by a two-tone Sand and Black leather?interior. The base price was set at $26,500 slightly more than the Sonata Hybrid, while the addition of the $5,000 Premium Technology Package, with a host of extra features and equipment, along with inland Freight and handling charge elevated the final purchase price to $32,250.

SUMMARY:? I drove my test Kia Optima Hybrid in a variety of situations, which included both urban and suburban scenarios. The expected range, depending of course upon driving style and terrain can easily reach 600 miles. I was hardly aware of the Hybrid system?s operation, which is seamless for all intents and purposes except for the gas engine shutting off when the car comes to a complete halt. My driving partner and I managed to glean 44 mpg on a recent Florida trip from Miami to Key West, without really employing any serious hypermiling exercises.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is very attractive and appealing, with a bold and athletic persona, that should find favor with both genders and all age groups. It performs much as one would expect from a conventional vehicle?s operation, but with much greater efficiency. The electric power-assisted steering delivers a sporty and positive feel, and the ride quality is very comfortable.

Additional possible powertrain combinations are on the horizon, including the use of even more powerful motors and higher capacity batteries that will possibly spawn plug-in hybrids.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a very affordable and impressive five-passenger, four-door sedan that features a lengthy list of standard features and equipment. Kia Motors America is the marketing and distribution of Kia Motor Corporation based in Seoul, Korea, offering a complete line of vehicles through more than 730 dealers throughout the United States.

SPECIFICATIONS:?Kia Optima Hybrid Premium-?12

?Base Price:?????????????? ??????????? $26,500.

Price as Tested:??????????? ??????????? $32,250.

Engine Type and Size:??????????? 2.4-liter Theta II, DOHC, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder with CVVT and Multi-point fuel injection in combination with a Permanent Magnet Synchronous electric motor and 270V Lithium Polymer battery.

Horsepower (bhp):??????????? ??????????? 166??????????? @ 6,000??????????? rpm-engine only

Torque (ft./ lbs.):??????????? ??????????? 154??????????? @ 4,250??????????? rpm-engine only

Horsepower (bhp):??????????? ??????????? 40.2??????????? @ 1,400-6,000 rpm? HEV only

Torque lb-ft.:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 151.2? @ 0-1,400 ??????????? ??rpm ? HEV only

Power Electronics (HEV):??????????? HP= 206.2 @ 6,000 rpm

Lb.-ft.= 195.4 @ 4,250 rpm

Transmission:??????????? ??????????? Six-speed electronically controlled automatic without ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? lockup torque converter ? with wet-type laminated ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? clutch.

Drive Train:??????????? Transversely mounted front engine / Front-wheel drive.

Suspension:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Front ? Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? and anti-roll bar.

??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Rear ? Independent Multi-link, coil springs and anti-??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? roll bar.

Brakes:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Active Hydraulic Boost four-wheel discs (vented front) ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? with ABS, TCS, ESC, HAC, TPMS and regenerative ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? braking.

Tires:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Kumho Solus KH25 -? P215/55 R17 mounted on 5-slot ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Geo Disc alloy wheels.

Wheelbase:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 110.0??????????? inches

Length Overall:??????????? ??????????? 190.7??????????? inches

Width:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 72.1??????????? inches

Height:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 57.0??????????? inches

Curb Weight:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 3,490??????????? lbs.

Fuel Capacity:??????????? ??????????? ? 17.2??????????? gallons

EPA Mileage Estimates:??????????? 35??????????? mpg city / 40??????????? mpg highway

Drag Coefficient:??????????? ??????????? 0.25

0 – 60 mph:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Not tested.

 

 

 

 

 

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