Written by Anne Proffit
The 2017 Kia Optima full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan has, over the past few years become a delectable road-going vehicle. Imbued with handsome body lines and excellent drivetrain, it’s made a mark far and wide on American roads. The fact that the Optima is available in several different flavors hasn’t hurt a bit, and since all gasoline- and hybrid-powered Kia Optima sedans have the benefit of directly injected engines makes them more powerful, economical and fun to drive.
Even the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX, is an automobile that promulgates driving fun over the road. A trip to Las Vegas definitely shows the viability of this machine and its sporting tendencies. Dressed in a gorgeous crimson red exterior with black leather interior, the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX has just about any option known to mankind within its 191-inch footprint. You want it? This Kia’s got it.
Starting with its peppy 2-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that combines with a single permanent magnet synchronous motor that’s powered by a lithium polymer battery, the parallel hybrid system combines to produce 204 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. The engine is responsible for the bulk of the horsepower and the motor/battery pack produces much of the torque involved. Couple that with three driving modes: eco, normal and sport, and any driver can find the power band suited to their driving style.
While Kia claims the maximum electric-vehicle operating speed is 62mph, glancing at the dash while traveling much quicker than that yields EV running. It’s always easier on a flat or even slightly downhill roadway, of course. Kia’s electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission includes an electric motor and clutch that replaces a conventional torque converter. This is a smooth, well-geared transmission that assists in economy and ecologically sound principles.
The Optima Hybrid EX has an excellent independent suspension system with MacPherson struts and multi-links front and rear, both connected to stabilizer bars. Of course all-wheel disc brakes handily stop this 3538-pound four-door sedan and excellent motor-driven power steering feels lithe and connected. Kia fits Kumho 215/55R tires and mounts five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels with gray flower indents that add to the up-market look and feel.
The matte silver body line stretching atop the windows to the trundlid adds cohesion to an already excellent body line. The high trunk opens with a touchpad and, beneath the floor is the hybrid’s battery pack, which really doesn’t impact cargo space much, at 13.4 cubic feet. The amount of stuff (needed and superfluous) this vehicle held for the Las Vegas flog was amazing and left the cabin open for occupancy.
Five people can easily coexist inside the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX – and do so in immense luxury. As with most vehicles these days, it uses a proximity key with button on the doors for locking and unlocking. Ignition is through a dash mounted button. All four windows are one-touch, as is the exemplary panorama sunroof, which both tilts and slides.
The Kia Optima Hybrid EX has a starting price of $31,840 including freight. There is a single option on this machine for $5000, bringing the total to $36,840. The Hybrid EX technology package brings LED headlights with dynamic bending light, the lovely sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats, power seating for the passenger as well as driver, including lumbar support, advanced smart cruise control with radar-actuated following distances (thankfully this can be adjusted), autonomous emergency braking system (which I hate), blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, high beam assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist, auto dimming rear mirror, LED interior lighting and rear side window sunshades.
Already on the standard-equipment docket are leather seating, navigation system, XM/Sirius/HD satellite radio, Kia’s UVO infotainment and connectivity platform with smartphone activation for both Android and iPhone, a Harman Kardon QLS premium surround sound system that can take full activation of the volume control without falling to its knees and a heated steering wheel. Not much to add other than the package referred to above. And, of course, there’s Kia’s amazing warranties that give 10 years/100,000 miles on powertrain, together with five years or 60,000 miles basic warranty and roadside assistance.
With a hybrid vehicle, efficiency is the defining force. The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX is rated to achieve 39/46/42-mpg from its 15.9-gallon tank. During the week that netted nearly a thousand miles over the road, on a vehicle edging around the 3,000-mile mark (barely broken in), this crimson warrior didn’t get those kinds of numbers. Instead, on the trip to and from Las Vegas, mileage hovered around the 37-mpg mark. Around town and skipping about the freeways, mileage went past the 40-mpg rallying point, which gives some hope of achieving that which the EPA managed to get.
In Sport mode, handling improves immensely as the steering appears to tighten, which gives a driver more confidence. For motoring on back roads, this would be the prime choice, but over the road, keeping the Kia Optima Hybrid EX in Eco mode is definitely the way to go. This driver never did bother with the “normal” drive mode setting. Left side of the steering wheel addresses audio and phone settings while the right side guides the cruise control mechanisms.
Seating on long drives is exceptionally comfortable in this Kia Optima Hybrid EX and allows longer distances between rest stops. Technology needs are met with a hidden center forward storage with two 12-volt plugs, a single auxiliary and one USB. The bi-level armrest/storage area at the tunnel also has a 12-volt plug and removable tray. Our single 12-volt to double USB converter helped handle all our connectivity needs. Pairing the phone is easy but it’s necessary to toggle between several windows to access Apple Car Play or Android Play, which shouldn’t be the case.
When the driver exits the car, the seat retracts and returns once this sedan is re-ignited. While most buttons are arranged in compatible fashion, the cruise and information options are next to one another on the steering wheel, which can lead to changes that weren’t exactly what the driver wanted to achieve. It’s easy to access the wrong one. Both the blind spot monitoring and lane departure advisories are very sensitive and produce warning bells, while forward collision warning brings a huge BRAKE signal to the dashboard – a bit disconcerting if you’re paying attention.
There’s so much to like about the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid EX that it’s difficult to find much to kvetch about. As this writer continues to evaluate a similar hybrid sedan, we’ll do a wrap-up and comparo of what’s the good, bad and ugly about the current hybrid market. Stay tuned!