CHICAGO — Unveiled today at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, the 2017 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid joins Kia's other hybrids to make up the company's new EcoDynamics sub-brand.
The Optima Plug-In Hybrid is essentially a conventional 2016 Optima sedan with aerodynamic body modifications and the same gasoline-electric powertrain as the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid, a new Optima variant that also debuted at the Chicago auto show.
Like its 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid corporate cousin, the Optima plug-in starts with the Optima Hybrid's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automated manual transmission, but bolsters it with a more powerful 50 kW motor (versus 38 kW).
Also unique is the plug-in's 9.8-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, which is considerably bigger than the 1.3-kWh one found in the non-plug-in model. This allows for an estimated 27 miles of all-EV travel and an estimated total electric-plus-gasoline driving range of 600 miles.
A full charge can be had in less than three hours using a 240-volt charger, or in less than nine hours using a 120-volt house-style plug.
Shared with the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid are three driving modes. All-electric EV mode blocks out the gasoline engine for short-range city driving, while Hybrid HEV mode is intended to maximize fuel economy and range on the highway. Charging Mode increases energy generation during higher-speed driving for use later when in EV mode. This is useful should you have a commute that consists of a highway drive, followed by a slog through a more congested city.
Visually, the Plug-In Hybrid is similar to the regular Optima Hybrid, with prominent grille shutters that open and close for optimum engine cooling and aerodynamics. Changes to the front and rear bumpers as well as aerodynamically designed wheels further contribute to a slippery drag coefficient of 0.24 Cd.
The interior is identical to the gasoline-only Optima, apart from special gauges and a hybrid-system display in the center touchscreen.
The 2017 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid will be available only in one trim level when it starts rolling off the assembly line in Korea, with sales starting in the fall of this year.
Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date, but expect it to be in the same mid-to-upper $30,000 range as the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid.
Edmunds says: Few surprises with the Optima Plug-In Hybrid, but it nevertheless promises an intriguing blend of fuel economy, range and value.