2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid

2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid Review

An all-electric range of 29 miles makes the 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid an efficient commuter alternative.
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

We like the current Kia Optima for its stylish design, spacious interior, and user-friendly controls and infotainment system. It also comes with an extensive features list and the strongest standard warranty on the market. Starting with this sedan, Kia added a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain to make the Optima Hybrid, then added a larger, rechargeable battery pack for the Optima Plug-In Hybrid.

Twenty-nine miles of all-electric range may not seem like much, but buyers who can charge at home or at work will see a major reduction in their gas use. Of course, that larger battery pack makes for a lot less trunk space: just 9.9 cubic feet. The Plug-In Hybrid is also only available in one thoroughly equipped trim level, so it won't appeal to buyers looking for something basic but efficient.

There aren't a lot of mainstream plug-in hybrid options, but the market is growing. The Ford Fusion Energi is one of the few electrified sedans, but it's less feature-rich than the Optima. The Chevrolet Volt is a hatchback with more electric range but less passenger space and fewer features. There's the ultra-efficient Toyota Prius Prime, which sports idiosyncratic design elements that might turn off some buyers. Honda's Clarity Plug-In Hybrid also offers a lot of range and an upscale interior, but it has a much clunkier infotainment system.



What's new for 2018

The Plug-In Hybrid Optima carries over into its second year unchanged.

We recommend

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid is only available in one trim level, so the only question is whether you want to opt for the somewhat pricey Technology package. It adds active safety features and driver aids, along with a sunroof and ventilated front seats. In our opinion it's worth the money since the standard car lacks even blind-spot monitoring.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid is a five-passenger sedan available in a single EX trim level with an optional Technology package that adds extra comfort features and several collision avoidance technologies and driver aids. A hybrid powertrain with 29 miles of all-electric range is standard.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to produce a system total of 202 horsepower and 296 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are also standard.

Outside, you'll find 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and a hands-free trunk opening. Inside, the Plug-In comes with push-button ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver seat, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connections, Kia Uvo services, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with satellite radio.

The optional Technology package adds adaptive LED headlights, automatic high beams, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a power passenger seat and a host of collision avoidance technologies, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and rear parking sensors.



Trim tested

Edmunds has not yet driven any version of the 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid, but we have considerable experience with the regular Optima. Those findings, specifically on comfort and interior quality, remain broadly applicable to this model. We've also sampled the Optima's mechanical doppelgänger, the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In. Otherwise, the following is our first take on what's significant about the Optima Plug-In Hybrid and what you can expect.

Driving

We haven't yet driven the Optima Plug-In Hybrid, but the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In accelerates to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, average for a hybrid sedan. Expect a similar time. We prefer the six-speed automatic transmission's shift feel over the CVT automatics more common to hybrids from other automakers.

Comfort

Both the regular Optima sedan and the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid deliver a smooth ride on all manner of pavement, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds. We're not as thrilled with the seats, though.

Seat comfort

Heated front seats are standard; ventilated front seats (and heated rears) are options. The front seats are roomy but lack lateral side bolstering. The rear seats are also spacious, but the low-mounted cushion may lack support for average-size adults.

Ride comfort

The regular Optima sedan absorbs small, high-frequency bumps pretty well for an overall smooth ride. Larger undulations cause some jostling, but not significantly more compared to rivals in this class. The Plug-In Hybrid's ride quality should not be that different despite the different powertrain.

Interior

The Optima's interior, regardless of model or trim, isn't especially exciting visually. That said, it serves function well. The number of features make you feel as if you're getting a lot more for your money, although the overall quality of materials feels a bit mediocre.

Ease of use

We give the Optima high marks for its easy-to-use infotainment system and readable physical buttons that are logically placed. The primary controls are all within reach, and there's no guesswork with buttons that are a bit out of the way.

Getting in/getting out

The tall door openings free from obstructions allow passengers to access their seats with little difficulty. The doors are adequately short in length to provide access in tight parking spots.

Roominess

The front seats have plenty of space for larger passengers, and the range of adjustments will cover short and tall occupants. The rear outboard seats benefit from an abundance of legroom, but headroom is only adequate for adults of average height.

Visibility

The Optima's cabin feels big and airy thanks to large windows and narrow roof pillars, but the high rear decklid and rear-seat headrests obscure the rearward view. The standard rearview camera and optional parking sensors help reduce blind spots.

Quality

Plenty of plastic is used throughout the interior, but it's sturdy and the texture is visually appealing. The car feels as solid as any other sedan in the class.

Utility

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid's trunk is smaller than the regular hybrid's due to a larger battery pack. At just 9.9 cubic feet of cargo room, it's a bit limited. The Toyota Prius Prime's hatchback design, for example, offers far more versatility.

Technology

The 8-inch touchscreen has crisp graphics and an intuitive menu, although some drivers might find it a bit of a stretch to reach comfortably. A unique gauge cluster displaying various hybrid functions is one of the few indicators that you're driving a gas-electric car.

Audio & navigation

A navigation system comes standard, as does a premium Harman Kardon sound system.

Smartphone integration

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included with the infotainment system.

Driver aids

Most of the latest driver safety and collision avoidance aids come with the optional Technology package. A rearview camera is standard.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.