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Kia slaps a new coat of paint (and then some) on its Optima Hybrid

Kia updated its gas-powered Optima sedan for the 2016 model year, but as many automakers are wont to do, it didn't refresh every variant at the same time. At this year's Chicago Auto Show, Kia rolled out two greener variants of Optima -- the 2017 Optima Hybrid and the all-new 2017 Optima Plug-In Hybrid.

The Optima Hybrid is more than just a fresh coat of paint. The old 2.4-liter gas engine has been replaced with a 2.0-liter, direct-injected unit. In lieu of a torque converter for its automatic, the hybrid has a 38-kilowatt electric motor and a clutch. All in, the Optima Hybrid puts out 193 horsepower and Kia is hoping that its fuel economy will improve 10 percent over the previous model's 36-mpg city and 40-mpg highway rating.

If you want an even greener ride, Kia's now offering a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant. It's only available in the EX trim, and it wields the same gas powertrain as the normal Hybrid, but it's packing a more powerful electric motor and a 9.8-kWh, lithium-ion battery pack. With everything topped up, Kia estimates its PHEV's range at 600 miles. If short trips are your thing, the PHEV is capable of going 27 miles without the gas engine kicking in.

Kia likes its hybrids to blend in. And, to be frank, it's tough to spot many differences between this car and its non-hybrid brethren.

Kia


To help drivers maximize the ol' em-pee-gees, Kia has a new driver assistance system that offers up tips for maximizing fuel economy. An icon on the instrument panel blinks and makes noise to let you know when to coast and brake. Hopefully you'll be able to turn that off.

Unique equipment for the fuel-thrifty twins includes slight exterior changes, a fancy set of alloy wheels and a special instrument panel. Otherwise, you'd have a hard time telling them apart from the gas models.

There's also a new safety system available in the hybrid and PHEV variants. Autonomous emergency braking joins a suite of other active and passive systems including forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.

There's no word yet on pricing, but the PHEV will hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2016.

You can tell this one's a plug-in because of the port just behind the front wheel. Do not try to pump gas into the charging port.

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