First Drive: Kia Optima PHEV
Kia’s first plug-in hybrid is certainly capable, but it’s in a tough class. Alex Grant explains.
SECTOR Upper Medium PRICE £31,495 (after Plug-in Car Grant) FUEL 176.6mpg CO2 37g/km
Kia sees a much bigger role for the Optima in its European fleet presence and, while it’s the estate that’s likely to be the volume model, the brand’s first plug-in hybrid has a role to play as well.
A step forward from the Optima Hybrid, which was only offered in left-hand drive markets, it’s a familiar package of high-specification, attractive performance and BiK-beating 37g/km CO2 emissions which is anticipated to take around a third of the saloon’s UK volume, weighted towards fleets. That won’t make this a common part of the company car park, but it’s useful for improving the Optima’s visibility.
Underneath aerodynamically tweaked bodywork, the 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and 67bhp motor can be combined to produce 202bhp, while the mains-rechargeable battery offers a 33-mile electric range. Once that range is depleted, the Optima functions as a normal hybrid, intelligently using the motor to assist the petrol engine, reducing fuel use, or as a generator supplying the battery.
Like other PHEVs, it suits a specific use case, of religiously frequent charging and irregular long distance trips. Charging takes up to four hours, the battery significantly compromises boot space and, in hybrid mode, it’s less efficient than the diesel Optima. Drivers expecting its generous power output to deliver exhilarating performance could be left wanting; it’s quick and quiet, but not an engaging drive.
Its hardest task is standing up to more familiar rivals, which at this price/CO2 point include BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, though it’s technologically capable of competing with all of them. And that’s perhaps the interesting point. This might not be a mass-market car – a plug-in Optima estate would certainly have wider appeal – but it’s a component of a wider footprint in fleet which can only raise Kia’s profile in this segment.