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Kia plugs in Optima Hybrid. Image by Kia.

Kia plugs in Optima Hybrid
New Kia Optima plug-in hybrid launched at the Chicago Auto Show.
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What's all this about?

Kia has added a plug-in hybrid to its global range; the Optima PHEV was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. Launched under the Kia Motors EcoDynamics sub-brand, the Optima is claimed to offer a superior hybrid driving experience. It is aimed primarily at the US market; there is no word on whether it will come to Europe.

How does it work?

Under the bonnet there is a 154hp, 2.0-litre, direct-injection petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox. A 50kW electric motor is included in the transmission; this is 42 per cent more powerful than the motor in the previous Optima Hybrid for better transition between electric and internal combustion modes. Enhancements designed to further improve economy include a high-voltage electric oil pump and water cooling for the transmission.

A 9.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack gives an estimated range of 27 miles in full electric mode. A full charge takes less than three hours via a 240-volt electrical supply.

To encourage efficient driving, Eco-DAS (Driving Assistance System) is fitted. This includes Kia's first coasting guide, coaching the driver on when to coast and brake via an icon in the instrument panel and an audible alert.

Where do the batteries go?

The battery pack is fitted behind the rear seat and in the spare tyre well; Kia claims the Optima PHEV has one of the largest boots in its sector. The location of the batteries hasn't prevented the fitment of a 60/40 split folding rear seat.

Anything else I should know?

Kia has given the Optima PHEV a few styling tweaks to help it stand out: a new front air dam, bevelled rear bumper and 'Eco Plug-In' badges. The PHEV also features an active radiator grille to improve aerodynamics; the drag coefficient is very low at 0.24.

Melanie May - 12 Feb 2016

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