What is it?
Kia’s first plug-in hybrid, complete with the credibility-stretching fuel economy and emissions figures we’ve come to expect from cars of this type. The Optima PHEV combines the efforts of a normally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 50kW electric motor to deliver a peak system output of 202bhp.
There will be more interest among company car drivers in the Optima’s price and CO2 figure. At £31,495 after the UK government’s £2500 plug-in incentive, it undercuts both the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Volkswagen Passat GTE, the VW by nearly £5000. The 9.8kW/h lithium ion polymer battery, which is located underneath the rear of the car, is powerful enough to deliver a claimed 33 miles of electric-only range, and because the official EUDC consumption test allows plug-ins to start with a full battery and finish with a depleted one, the Optima scores a 176.6mpg rating and 37g/km of CO2.
Getting anywhere close to those figures in the real world will mean lots of short journeys between charging stations, of course, and a little patience. Kia says the battery pack can be replenished from flat in three hours by a 240V domestic supply.
Although it is Kia’s first plug-in, the Optima PHEV is mechanically pretty much identical to the Hyundai Sonata PHEV already on sale in some markets. Like its sister, it uses a six-speed automatic gearbox rather than a CVT, with the electric motor effectively replacing the torque converter at low speeds. Thereafter it can either supplement the petrol engine or, in EV mode, power the car by itself at up to 75mph.
Other changes from a standard Optima are limited. The most obvious is the PHEV’s active radiator grille, which closes when not needed to reduce air resistance. There’s also a subtle blue tint to the headlights and chrome trim. Equipment is generous and includes a powered driver’s seat, wireless charging pad, 8.0in touchscreen and 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Although it is the most powerful Optima until the forthcoming GT variant arrives, the PHEV’s performance figures are barely better than those of the 139bhp CRDi model. For an explanation, look no further than the plug-in’s 1780kg kerb weight, 200kg more than its diesel sister.