November 11th, 2012 by Charis Michelsen
Hi, I’m Charis Michelsen. I write about cars (among other important things). I’ve got a Kia Optima hybrid (there’s a giant robot joke in here somewhere, I’m sure) lurking in my parking spot this week. I will be playing with it to see what it does and does not do.
Some technicalities about the car – MSRP is $27,500 and the EPA rated its combined mileage at 36mpg (34 city, 39 highway). It’s got a 2.4 liter ICE plus a 30kW electric motor (and complementary lithium polymer batteries). Its 206HP take it from 0-60 in 8.4 seconds.
Day One, 3:02pm
So the very very first thing I notice about the Optima is that it has a keyless entry and that there isn’t actually a key for the ignition. Aha, the keys have to be inside the car, and then you just push a button. Not quite – hold down the brake and push the button (I was told this, but I managed to forget), because otherwise the display lights up and the car laughs at you instead of moving if you try to put it into gear. (Okay, it doesn’t literally laugh at you, it just doesn’t go anywhere.)
There’s also voice control for things, which I have yet to test.
The second thing I notice is the rims. These have nothing to do with performance or greenness, so moving on. The third thing that I notice is that it seems huge.
At nearly 199 inches long, the difference between it and my usual car – 15 whole inches – is definitely noticeable. It’s only 5 inches wider, but somehow I feel swallowed up by it. At this point I realize that the little electronic switches to change seat position can also raise and lower said seat, and I can move it up high enough to where I can actually see the road in front of the car (well, technically parking lot, at this point). I feel much better about the general size of the car now.
Yes, I’m short. I’m 5’2″. I conclude that the interior of the Kia Optima hybrid can be rearranged to fit people of many different builds. (You could also, in theory, put the seat way up high and lean the back of it down and mimic a race car driver. I have not tried this, but I’m willing to bet someone else has.)
Day One, 6:53pm
My internal monologue, as I head out to actually drive the Kia 2o miles south to collect my stepsister: “It’s a little chilly, I should get a coat. No, wait, I don’t need a coat. The car has heated seats. Wait, it’s possible that I might crash the car. I’ll go get a coat.” (Spoiler alert: I did not crash the car.)
I did, however, notice that there was a glowing Kia logo in the bottom of the door frame:
Wait, you can’t really see it there. It glows red.
Glowing. I do not know why I am so amused by this (and this makes me a terrible reviewer, I’m sure), but I think this is my favorite thing about the car so far. It’s kind of awesome.
Side note – you can, in fact, turn on the car without actually sitting in the driver’s seat, if you’re willing to contort yourself in a somewhat ridiculous manner to reach both the brake pedal and the on button.
Day One, 7:00pm
One, I think I can accelerate faster than the line of cars that just now got a green light as I try to turn right from a red light (I totally could). Two, the Optima does a fairly decent job of going around tight corners smoothly.
I would also have tested going around tight corners quickly, but first there was another red light, and then every time I tried to avoid deceleration on the highway on and off ramps, the cars in front of me would hit their brakes and force me to slow down.
So I’m fairly sure the Optima will do a decent job cornering, but I haven’t been able to really test it at this point.
Day One, 7:22pm
Did I mention the Kia also has a screen telling me to obey the rules of the road before it will let me use the dashboard touch screen?
Also, if you hit one of the other languages, it will switch over the entire OS and I could not figure out how to change it back. (I don’t speak Spanish, okay, not a word. I just waited until the next time I turned the car on and put it back to English.)
Day One, 7:27pm
So the rearview mirror has a digital compass in it, which is pretty neat. Visibility out the rear windshield is less neat; it’s kind of limited.
Day One, 7:38pm
So my stepsister’s boyfriend, who is much more enthusiastic about the car than she is, says that a number of people complain that the hybrid version is jerky at lower speeds and when starting and stopping. I didn’t notice that, but now I will be paying more attention.
Day One, 7:50pm
My stepsister’s squeak as I abruptly slam on the brakes does seem to indicate a bit of jerkiness as the car stops. That could also technically be termed my fault – on the up side, the brakes are great! The car came to a halt pretty quickly and I was pleased.
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