We drove the Kia Optima SW PHEV: the joys of clever propulsion…

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They are coming our way in increasing numbers: the plug in hybrids, and rightly so. They bring the environmental friendliness of “pure” E power, combined with the unlimited action range and economy of a hybrid, with the added bonus of charging through the grid. The Kia engineers also decided to have a go, and put forward the stylish Optima, also in the estate version. We truly enjoyed it, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The PHEV version of the Optima has the well known 2 liter 154 hp four cylinder as its well proven petrol engined power plant, coupled to a 67 hp electric engine via a 6 speed auto transmission. This Optima has a 11.26kWh Lithium-ion battery pack, housed under the floor. It gives this Optima a range of a good 29 miles or 51 km on electrical power, and this can be used up to speeds of 120 kmh or 75 miles.

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This Optima can be charged through the mains, about 3 hours of charging will fill the battery. This hybrid will also recharge the battery under engine power, to let you enjoy all the pleasures of “zen” pure E power in dense stop and go traffic.

Smooth and agile

The electric motor acts as a torque converter, and driving away in this PHEV Optima is a very smooth affair indeed. Lest not forget that it shares mechanical components with the existing Hyundai Sonata plug-in. So well proven and well honed it is. Needless to say that with a total system power of 202 hp, and 375 Nm of torque, this is a very lively performer, when it comes to accelerating at urban speeds. 0 to 100 takes a swift 9,4 seconds, and especially in the lower speed ranges, accelerations are impressive.

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Don’t expect this Optima to show supercar performance when the pace gets faster though, and top speed tails off at a still quite creditable 191 kmh. The petrol engine has to do the brunt of the work then, and this Optima is rather more built for relaxed cruising at legal motorway speed limits. As said, “pure” electrical power is available up to 120 kmh, and typically this Optima will try to use E power as much as the battery charge allows it (even when the battery is low) at these constant speeds.

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The Optima will at constant 120 km/h cruising speed use the engine to propel the car and charge the battery, and switch to E-power as soon as the battery can “take” it, and then restart engine as soon as the battery charge drops below the critical safety level. It will repeat this sequence over and over while you cruise along, and all this is done totally imperceptibly and very smoothly indeed.

Of course, consumption also depends greatly on available battery power, and whether you charge your Optima through the mains. If the efficient petrol engine has to do all the (hard) work and maintain also the battery on charge, consumption will hover between 6 and 8 liters per 100 km. The laws of physics are valid for everybody…

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The advantage of the PHEV layout lies in the smooth and “Zen” propulsion in urban traffic, and when in the future oil/gasoline prices will spike up, you are blessed with E-power charging possibilities through the mains. Taxation is also friendly, and yes, whatever the politicians decide on future megacity mobility, you are on the right side…

A cosy cabin and lavish equipment…

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Kia excels in offering a comprehensive kit of infotainment, driver assistance goodies and connectivity. Sound system is excellent with a Harman Kardon audio system. The equipment includes things like tyre pressure monitoring and hill start assist.

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The navigation system is a dream to use, accurate, clear and very intuitive and simple. Seats are also excellent, and easy to adjust. In terms of practicality, the SW version scores very good, keep in mind that standard luggage room is 440 liters through, 112 liters less than the comparable Diesel version.

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We like the clean styling of instrument, knobs and further handles. Surfaces are well finished and the quality of the materials used is quite good. Considering who is at the helm in the Kia styling department, it doesn’t surprise that some things like the instrument dials are reminiscent of Ingolstadt products, but that doesn’t spoil things at all!

Conclusion

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If you are looking for a tax friendly, future oriented practical estate, which is a very smooth daily runner which guarantees relaxed transport wherever you go, then this Kia Optima might prove indeed what it is for you: the optimal choice…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

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