2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Review

Kia makes being green look smart

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Review

It has been just over a decade since Honda and Toyota first introduced the hybrid drivetrain in a production vehicle. Then Ford, GM and to some extend Chrysler followed suit, offering hybrid vehicles in their respective lineups. And now you can even buy hybrid models from Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.


1. Making 206-hp the Optima Hybrid gets a 36/40-mpg rating.

2. Priced at $26,500 the Optima Hybrid is roughly $7,000 more than a base Optima, although it does come better equipped.

3. A $5,000 Hybrid Technology Package includes features like HID headlights, 17-inch wheels, heated and cooled power front seats, a heated steering wheel, leather, illuminated door sills, an upgraded Infinity audio system and a panoramic sunroof.

Until recently, the only mass car producing nation that had not caught on to the hybrid game was Korea, but that has all changed in 2011. First came the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and now it’s followed by the Kia Optima Hybrid.

We recently spent a day driving the new Optima Hybrid on the Pacific Rim Highway between Nanaimo and Tofino in beautiful British Columbia, Canada to find out how the latest offering from Kia stacks up against the established players in this segment.


From a styling point of view, it’s already a winner. The Optima recently won a design award for its stunning shape by the German Design Council, and the hybrid version of this car looks just as good. In fact, it’s styled just like any other Optima model. If not for the slightly different front bumper and a hybrid badge on its trunk-lid, you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from any other Optima model.

That was probably done intentionally, so the car blends in rather than shout about its hybrid credentials. It is the same story inside. It looks and feels just like any other Optima model, and that is no bad thing because this is one of the most smartly styled and spacious sedans in its category.

Kia didn’t skim on features either, as the list of standard stuff is quite lengthy. You get push button start and automatic climate control as standard. Spend the extra coin on the “Premium” model and you’ll get heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, upgraded Infinity sound system, satellite navigation, and a panoramic roof that covers both the front and rear seat occupants.

So as a stylish and comfortable family car, it scores well, but what about its mechanicals, are they any good?


Well the Optima hybrid gets a 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine, plus a 30 kW electric motor. It produces a combined power output of 206-hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. This last detail sets it apart from most other hybrids on the market, because most other manufacturers use CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearboxes with their hybrid drivetrains. Kia and Hyundai opted to use the six-speed automatic because they feel drivers prefer the feel of a normal automatic transmission over a CVT, and we agree with them on that.

This six-speed auto is a smooth and responsive gearbox, and even offers a manumatic mode for some spirited driving. However, if you are buying a hybrid, you’re probably more interested in mileage numbers than driving fun, and it does well in that category also. Kia claims 36-mpg in the city and 40-mpg on the highway. We managed 35.6-mpg on our test, however the roads we used had plenty of elevation changes, which isn’t ideal for economy numbers. Unlike some hybrids, which give a better economy number in city driving over highway driving, the Optima Hybrid is the other way around, partially because at speeds over 60 mph, a flap in the grille closes to make the car more aerodynamic. For comparison’s sake, the 4-cylinder Optima gets a 24/34-mpg rating.

Added weight on the other hand is not ideal for a car’s handling, and at 3490 lbs. the Optima Hybrid is roughly 270 lbs. heavier than its non-hybrid sibling. However, the Optima Hybrid handles its bulk with ease. We pushed it around some off-ramps and also on the twisty Pacific Rim Highway and found it has a lot more grip and poise around corners than we were expecting. Despite the low rolling resistance tires, the car hangs in well and on the road never feels inadequate around bends. That just goes to show that Kia has done a great job with this car’s chassis and suspension set-up from the get go.

Any drawbacks? Well it’s not what you’d call a fast car. The 0-60 mph run takes 9.2 seconds (which isn’t exactly bad), but given its acceleration at speed, you have to plan your overtaking moves with a bit more care.

Another complaint is the trunk. It is not as huge as in other Optima models, and you lose the folding rear seats. There is, however, a ski pass opening, which was possible because of the size of its lithium polymer battery, which is lighter and smaller than the more conventional nickel metal hydride battery used in other hybrids.

You do have to pay extra to get into the hybrid though. A base Optima with the gas engine and an auto-box starts at $20,700. The base Optima Hybrid starts at $26,500. That does sound like a big leap in price, however, you are getting more standard equipment and also a little bit extra power.


Costing a premium, when you factor in how much of a value the regular Optima is, then compared to some other mid-size sedans on the market the Hybrid doesn’t seem like such a stretch. Apart from the lack of a true 60/40 folding rear seat it’s in every way a practical family sedan, with both fuel economy and style far beyond what you expect in this segment.


2011 Kia Optima Review – First Drive 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review – First Drive 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review

  • Tony

    My 2013 number one plug rod broke off the dealer is saying its do to lack of maintenance, I disagree of course they are sticking to their story I have 44000 highway miles it just started missing one day and took it in the same day. The service agrees with meh and says he didn’t make the decision so now. They are saying it needs to be rebuilt on my part. To be honest I may have not serviced exactly on the 5000 marks but a oil change would not have done much difference I believe KIA needs to stand by the plugs the buy any words of advise

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked