2011 Kia Optima Hybrid — Flash Drive
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2012.
By Staff of MSN Autos
The Kia Optima is already one of my top picks for sedans under $35,000. It's beautiful, spacious, sturdy and fun. The Optima is slightly larger than a Toyota Camry and a lot more fun to drive. It feels as well built as any Honda, Toyota or Ford. With the Optima in hybrid guise I managed 36 mpg combined city/highway, and it happily drinks regular unleaded gasoline. My complaints are minor. The radio can't be adjusted when the car's in reverse gear, probably because the back-up camera and radio occupy the same dashboard space, and the ride is not quite Lexus-smooth, probably due to the choice of standard tires. Everything else is practically ideal. As a hybrid, the Optima is now my overall No. 1 pick under $35,000. The only car that comes close is the Ford Fusion Hybrid. – Paul Hagger
Kia already has a winner on its hands with the Optima midsize sedan, and now they are piling on with the addition of the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid. The hybrid version has the same bold styling, interior spaciousness and impressive feature list as the standard Optima, and it adds a gas-electric powertrain that boosts the EPA fuel economy rating to 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway. In real-world conditions, including Seattle hills, I saw fuel consumption in the high 30s with no compromise in driving experience. Unlike most other hybrids on the market, the Optima Hybrid shuts down the gasoline engine at cruising speeds up to 60 mph when the batteries are charged and the electric motor alone can maintain the desired speed. The gasoline engine kicks in to get the car up to cruising speed, but once it's not needed to maintain speed, gasoline consumption stops. The engine turns back on instantly if needed for additional acceleration. Kia continues to impress with its newest models and the Optima Hybrid is another example of what they're doing right. – Mike Meredith
Every Optima I drive leaves me impressed, and the new Optima Hybrid is no exception. The Optima Hybrid drives very much like a regular sedan, which is high praise for a hybrid in my book. I took the new hybrid on a 1,000-mile road trip over mountain passes, and not only did I average around 40 mpg, there was no shortage of power to climb the steep grades; I easily passed slow-moving trucks. The Kia is able to get such great fuel economy on the highway because the gas engine shuts off at highway speed. In fact, when I was on level or downhill roads with the cruise control set at 80 mph, the Kia ran on electric only. Occasionally there would be a bit of a jerk when the gas engine re-engaged at highway speeds, but in most cases the transition was seamless. With a roomy interior, comfortable seats and good looks, the Optima Hybrid makes a great road trip car or daily driver. – Perry Stern