Can you feel it coming on strong ?
Not content in launching their new Optima Sportswagon, Kia’s mission to lower the average CO2 emissions of its range by 25 per cent before the end of the decade, has seen the launch of the company’s first plug-in hybrid model, the Optima PHEV. It is priced at £31,495 after taking into account the Government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant.
With a range of up to 33 miles in all-electric mode, the Optima PHEV is able to complete many regular urban commuter runs with no tailpipe emissions, while its CO2 figure of just 37g/km means company car users pay just 7 % benefit-in-kind taxation in 2016-17.
The Optima PHEV combines a 154bhp 2.0-litre direct injection petrol engine with a 50kW (67bhp) electric motor powered by a 9.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack. The electric motor replaces the torque converter in the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. When working together, the combustion engine and motor generate 202bhp and 375Nm of torque.
A package of aerodynamic, styling and technology features contributes towards the Optima PHEV’s low CO2 emissions and potential fuel economy of up to 176.6mpg while ensuring it is instantly recognisable as the high-efficiency model in the Optima range. The most significant aerodynamic change is an active air flap grille which lowers the car’s drag co-efficient (Cd) to 0.25 when closed.
The Optima PHEV is a stand-alone model in the Optima range and comes with a comprehensive range of standard connectivity and advanced driver assistance features, including an 8.0-inch touch-screen navigation system with European mapping, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (available later in the production run), Kia Connected Services powered by TomTom®, a wireless mobile phone charger, a 270o around-view monitor and a 10-speaker harman/kardon Premium Sound audio system with Clari-Fi technology to restore the sound lost when digital music files are heavily compressed. Active safety provisions include Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management and Hill-start Assist Control.
The Optima PHEV also features 17″ alloy wheels shod with 215/55 R17 tyres, LED daytime running lights and headlights – the latter with automatic levelling – welcome and follow-me-home lighting, black cloth and faux leather seats with four-way powered lumbar adjustment on the driver’s side, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera integrated into the navigation screen, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, steering wheel mounted controls, all-round electric windows, cruise control with a speed limiter, remote central locking and an electronic parking brake.
Uniquely in the Optima range, it has bespoke low-drag front and rear bumpers, the active air-flap grille, a blue tint to the headlights, blue chrome trim on the lower front air intake, upper grille and side sills and the exclusive navigation screen with a series of menus which help the driver to achieve the highest possible range in EV mode.
Technology is to the fore, with the new PHEV fully connected with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Exclusive in the Optima PHEV is a series of menus which show the car’s EV range at any time, nearby charging stations, energy usage based on driving style as well as other information to help the driver use the electrical energy stored in the batteries in the most efficient way. There’s also a DAB radio, USB sockets in the front and rear and a wireless smartphone charger is standard. The AVN system offers the full Kia Connected Services package powered by TomTom. This provides live traffic updates, speed camera alerts and local point-of-interest and weather reports. It is provided free for seven years.
The PHEV is fitted with Drive Mode Select , which gives the driver the choice of Eco and Normal settings to obtain maximum energy efficiency or greater performance. This switch is also located in the centre console. A driving style guide delivers information through the instrument panel about how efficiently the car is being driven so that drivers can adapt their driving style as necessary.
Kia’s regenerative braking system, now in third generation guise in the Optima PHEV, allows the car to harvest kinetic energy – energy created by motion – to top up the batteries when coasting or braking.The exterior of the PHEV is different to that of the diesel version and includes an all-new active air flap grille which automatically closes when engine cooling requirements are at their lowest, so that air passes more efficiently over and around the car. When activated, it lowers the drag coefficient (Cd) of the PHEV to 0.25, rather than the 0.29 of other Optima’s.
Distinguishing features of the PHEV are blue-tinted headlights and chrome enhancements with a metallic blue finish on the lower front air grille, the ‘tiger-nose’ main grille and the side sills. There are ‘ECOplug-in’ badges on the front wings, while the recharging port for the batteries is housed in the left front wing.
Hybrid sales in the UK and mainland Europe have doubled over the past five years and are expected to reach 700,000 a year by the end of the decade. Although popular with retail customers, it is in fact really a fleet car & will be competing with the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander with it’s attractive company car tax rates.
In keeping with every Kia, the Optima PHEV comes with the company’s unique-in-the-UK seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, subject to certain wear and tear conditions. The warranty is fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached.
CCV had an opportunity to drive the latest Kia in Munich at the European launch of the model & this is what we thought.
From the outside, Kia have made some subtle changes to the PHEV, which makes it stand out from it’s diesel sibling. Distinguishing features of the PHEV are blue-tinted headlights and chrome enhancements with a metallic blue finish on the lower front air grille, the ‘tiger-nose’ main grille and the side sills. There are ‘ECO plug-in’ badges on the front wings, while the recharging port for the batteries is housed in the left front wing.
Driving the PHEV & comparing it to the diesel version of the Optima is a little unfair. The sheer size & weight of the batteries in the PHEV, which are located under the rear seats, mean that the driver can really feel the added weight when cornering & it’s nowhere near as satisfying to drive as the 1.7 manual diesel version. Put your foot down in the PHEV & nothing really happens for a second or so, before the engine roars & lurches into life, a similar feeling as when driving in Kia’s new Niro model. To be fair, the gearbox does make city driving easy & in a straight line, the PHEV performs well. It’s excellent on the motorway, where any long journey, usually punctuated by traffic jams or motorway-works speed-limits, are taken in the PHEV’s stride. So if you drive mainly ojn the motorway, then the PHEv could be for you.
From a practical perspective, the batteries which are fitted in the rear, mean reduced boot space in the PHEV, with the boot space falling from a promising 550 litres in the diesel Optima, to just 307 litres in the PHEV. Of course, similar problems are faced when purchasing other manufacturers hybrid models, but they have still sold plenty, so plainly the size of the boot is not the top priority for the average plug-in-hybrid customer.
In reality, the Optima PHEV exists purely to give Kia an opportunity in this growing sector, a sector where many existing customers are company car drivers taking advantage of the UK’s current BIK rates for plug-in hybrid’s. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has sold incredibly well in the sector. I think that Kia have a real opportunity with the Optima, to appeal not only to existing PHEV customers, but also to those who have been put off leasing the Outlander because of it’s size, or who have not been turned on by the other plug-in hybrids out there.
There’s no doubt that hybrids are here to stay & Kia have cleverly joined the party, to give themselves an opportunity to take advantage of this growing sector. The Optima plug-in though, in common with all the others currently offered, is expensive, retailing at £31,495. When you consider that Kia’s own Optima ‘2’ diesel, which costs just £22,295, is actually a better car to drive, comes very well equipped & has a larger boot, then the Optima PHEV doesn’t look great value for money, despite it’s company car credentials.
A good effort by Kia but not a startling one 3/5