2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX Review

A perfectly fine hybrid, but alas, still a hybrid.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: July 31st, 2014

Hybrids are an excellent first step toward a less eco-hostile automobile, but they may now be falling victim to the very eco-conscious auto culture they helped to foster.

The Kia Optima is a great car. It's an attractive, capable, comfortable sedan that offers tremendous value for the dollar and a better-than-average driving experience. It also gets damn good gas mileage, with a 23 city / 34 highway mpg rating, which is nearly as good as the Accord.

All of which makes it hard to understand paying 10 grand more for a hybrid version that only offers three additional miles per gallon on the highway. Of course, hybrid buyers are often more concerned with emission ratings than mpg numbers, which is highly commendable, especially considering the additional financial sacrifice.

Of course, you also sacrifice the ability to have a ton of fun behind the wheel, but this too, is an aspect of cars that is not necessarily a priority for hybrid buyers.

The Optima Hybrid shares its gas-powered sibling's upscale-leaning design - it's a very handsome sedan that succeeds at looking more expensive than it is. The only design flaw on the hybrid version is the seemingly-mandatory-that-it-be-ugly-as-possible hybrid badge that features a shade of green guaranteed to clash with any and all exterior colors.

The interior is full on luxury level. Well appointed, with uses of obviously cheap plastic kept to a minimum, the cabin is pretty damn nice. It's an insane level of comfort and tech for the $21,000 Optima, but once the hybrid drive boosts the MSRP to $32,000, it becomes merely average for the price point.

On the road, the disadvantages of hybrid technology become all too apparent, as the eco-tuned six-speed transmission means no quick accelerations basically ever. As an around-towner, however, the Optima Hybrid is fine, as its luxurious touches and soft suspension make stop-and-go driving far more tolerable. On the whole, the Optima Hybrid would be more tolerable with more engaged steering and less spongy brakes.

But just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean it isn't very good. And if you are more concerned with low emissions than with an engaged driving experience, the Optima Hybrid is a fierce competitor.

Kia's UVO infotainment system remains the most user-friendly and bug-free that we've come across, and the Infinity sound system is also better than those found in the Accord and the Camry.

If you can do without a full trunk (the batteries eat away at about half the trunk space, as in all hybrids) and anything other than a comfortable driving experience, the Optima Hybrid more than makes the grade. It's a decent value, as hybrids go, and it's a perfectly reasonable commuter car. If you need your car to be a calming force, a voice that says "Whoa, there! Where's the fire? Why not slow down and appreciate the scenery?" then this, friend, is your dream car.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.4-liter four-cycle gas/electric

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, front wheel drive

    Power Output: 199 hp / 235 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 35 city / 39 highway

    Price (base): $31,995

    Price (as tested): $32,795 (includes $800 destination charge)

    Available Features: Heated and ventilated first-row seats, heated rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, power folding side mirrors, 17" alloy wheels, UVO system with navigation and satellite radio, Infiniti audio system.

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