Historically speaking, hybrids are not attractive vehicles. In the pursuit of maximum aerodynamic efficiency, hybrid design typically satisfies the wind tunnel first, and potential customers’ eyes second. The Toyota Prius springs to mind as one example. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is another.
The 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid, however, does not bow at the altar of the drag coefficient. Instead, it gets a set of flush-design lightweight aluminum wheels that manage not to resemble Frisbees, a subtle rear lip spoiler, and a few “Hybrid” badges. That’s it, in terms of visual cues, anyway. In all other aspects, the Optima Hybrid retains the handsome good looks that have made the current generation of the Optima a midsize sedan sales sensation. Under the sheetmetal, however, additional modifications include a lower ride height, a full aerodynamic belly pan, and aluminum suspension components to help offset the weight of the battery pack.
For 2013, in order to help the Optima Hybrid remain appealing against new entrants like the Ford Fusion Hybrid and to help the car remain a viable alternative to clean diesel models from Volkswagen, Kia has made a few changes to its attractive midsize hybrid sedan. In addition to a more responsive and fuel-efficient gas-electric powertrain, the 2013 Optima Hybrid is offered in new base LX and uplevel EX trim levels, each equipped with a larger trunk than last year.
Given the updates, and in part because Kia launched an owner reimbursement program after it was recently asked to re-state fuel economy estimates across its model range when it became obvious that the numbers on the window stickers didn’t match the reality experienced by owners, I decided to spend some quality time with the updated 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid. My goal? To see if what looks terrific on paper and in photos is just as appealing after a hands-on test drive.
In most respects, I was not disappointed.