Once the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid finally broke cover at the end of last month, it was only a matter of time before the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid did the same, and that time is apparently now: The fuel-friendly Optima is on its way to dealerships with many of the same upgrades offered by its corporate cousin, as well as a more explicitly performance-oriented and premium positioning.
Now, some of that is just Kia making the best of a tough situation. Although the lithium-polymer battery technology in the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid provides plenty of benefits as compared to the lithium-ion setups used by its rivals, the car nonetheless trails segment leaders like the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Toyota Camry in the EPA rankings. The Blue Oval product gets 47 mpg across the board, the Camry comes in at 43/39/41, and the Optima is projected to reach 36 mpg city/40 mpg highway/38 mpg combined.
That’s a pretty hefty advantage for the Fusion—although some issues over the car’s real-world performance have been noted—and a not-insignificant 8 percent advantage for the Toyota in combined travel. On the other hand, the 2012 Optima Hybrid is priced $1,500 below the starting point of its Fusion competitor and $340 under the MSRP of the Camry, and could be in line for a further cash benefit. Consider: The 2013 Sonata Hybrid enjoyed a $200 price cut from the previous model year, and what’s good for the goose, etc., etc.
Other improvements to the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid include …
2013 Kia Optima Hybrid: Quick Recap
Key enhancements for the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid centered on its powertrain, which welcomes a more powerful electric motor, a stronger hybrid starter/generator, and a more capable lithium-polymer battery. The result is a bit less horsepower—199 vs. 206—but a nice jump in torque. In fact, drivers will see 40 more lb.-ft. of twisting power and a new max torque rating of 235 lb.-ft. Engineers also deployed a number of incremental changes for additional refinement and the previously mentioned EPA increases of 2 mpg city/1 mpg highway/2 mpg combined. Then, while Kia was growing the capabilities of its hybrid powertrain, it was shrinking the actual components to help deliver a larger, more usable trunk.
There were quite a few additions at the top of the range, too. The 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid EX—already packed with standard lux amenities—now adds to the list with a nav system with backup camera, eight-speakers worth of premium audio from Infinity, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The prognosis here? Well, just like its traditionally powered sibling, the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid is riding some serious marketplace momentum. In February, for example, the car was among the country’s top 10 best-selling hybrids, with 1,215 deliveries that marked a 31.4 percent increase over the same month last year. To put those figures into context, the Optima Hybrid’s total sales last month were more than those from the Honda Insight, Honda CR-Z and Honda Civic Hybrid combined, and its growth rate was nearly triple that of the hybrid segment as a whole.
With its other numbers going in the right direction—fuel economy and content up, pricing down—sales should continue headed northward, too.
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