As part of their attempt (and stated mission) to lower the average CO2 emissions of its range by 25% before 2020, Kia has launched their first plug-in hybrid model - the Kia Optima PHEV.
Featuring a 154bhp 2.0-litre direct injection petrol engine that combines with a 50kW (67bhp) electric motor powered by a 9.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, the Optima PHEV offers the capability of a 33 mile all-electric drive, 202bhp and 375Nm of torque, and an overall CO2 figure of just 37g/km (which means that company car users pay just 7 BIK taxation in 2016-17.)
Having looked at the whole package, designers at Kia have made sure that the Optima PHEV makes use of all its style, design, technology and aerodynamics to provide a potential fuel economy of up to 176.6mpg while maintaining practicality so that there is a generous 307 litres of luggage space.
The Optima PHEV has been positioned by Kia as a unique, extensively equipped stand-alone model aimed very much at the fleet market, with a standard specification that puts some similar models to shame. It includes:
For many people, a car's technology is nearly as important as its performance, style and economy, so Kia have made sure that the Optima PHEV is chockfull of connectivity features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (available later in the production run).
At the heart of it all is the very latest Kia audio-visual navigation (AVN) system, accessed and operated via an 8" touchscreen featuring Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity with audio streaming and linked to a rear parking camera.
When it comes to practicality in driving, the AVN system offers the full Kia Connected Services package powered by TomTom that provides live traffic updates, speed camera alerts and local point-of-interest and weather reports - all free for seven years - and also displays on-screen 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 all sorts of other information that the driver can use to make sure that they are using the electrical energy stored in the batteries in the most efficient way - exclusive to the Optima PHEV, and a vital part of its electric usage.
There are USB sockets in the front and rear, and a wireless smartphone charger as standard, so you can stay connected at all times, as well as enjoying the infotainment on offer.
The AVN system is linked to a DAB digital radio as part of a 590-watt harman/kardon 10-speaker Premium Sound system, which includes an external amplifier and sub-woofer plus Clari-Fi technology (which restores the sound usually lost when digital music files are heavily compressed), and the system is also available with Android Auto for use with Android phones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, and will also offer Apple CarPlay with iPhone 5 or newer from late 2016.
Right at the heart of the Optima PHEV hybrid system is the next-generation 9.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, newly designed and refined to produce significantly more energy than that in previous Optima hybrids, and capable of helping the car produce an all-electric range of up to 33 miles at speeds as high as 75mph, with 0-60mph acceleration in 9.1 seconds in hybrid mode.
Able to switch from electric to hybrid seamlessly, the electric motor's 205Nm of torque from standstill ensures rapid acceleration and instantaneous response to the throttle pedal.
The Optima PHEV is equipped with a number of energy-harvesting technologies and technological innovations (adapted from the EV version of the Kia Soul) to help it use the power in its battery pack in the most efficient way and top up its batteries on the move. This includes:
The Optima PHEV DOES look a bit different from other Kia models, primarily due to a package of aerodynamic changes amongst style ones, although it is still a Kia. But it is the aerodynamic changes that make the Optima PHEV what it is, and how it performs, cutting through the air and saving precious energy.
Leading the aerodynamic charge is the all-new active air flap grille which automatically closes when engine cooling requirements are at their lowest to allow air to pass over and around the car more efficiently, lowering the drag coefficient of the PHEV to 0.25. There are also uniquely profiled front and rear bumpers to reduce air turbulence.
When it comes to looks, the 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 are the first things that you notice, along with 'ECOplug-in' badges on the front wings, and a recharging port for the batteries housed in the left front wing.
Apart from that, the PHEV retains the profile and styling which earned the second-generation Optima the ‘Best of the Best’ title in Germany’s Red Dot design competition, matching the success of the first-generation model.
The Optima PHEV's body is built with advanced high-strength steel at its very core, making up 51% of the body, and built around the same, highly protective crash structure that earned the Kia Optima a five-star rating in Euro NCAP impact tests, and has also had the suspension and brakes calibrated to allow for the extra weight of the battery pack.
Both passive and active safety are exemplary thanks to its occupant restraint systems and advanced active driver assistance features that includes six airbags as standard, Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-start Assist Control, a reversing camera, audible front and rear parking sensors and a 270o Around View Monitor.