Kia Optima Hybrid

The 2013 Kia Optima now comes in a simplified lineup of four different models: LX, EX, EX Hybrid and SX. LX and EX models come with a 200-horsepower, 2.4L direct-injection 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. EX Hybrid models include the combination of an Atkinson-cycle, 168-hp version of the four, combined with an electric-motor/generator system that altogether makes 206 hp. The Hybrid also gets a 6-speed automatic and the power split between sources is handled by clutch packs rather than a planetary gearset, as is the setup in other popular full hybrid models. And at the top of the lineup, the Optima SX is the choice for those who want the best performance; it makes 274 hp from a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, also with a 6-speed automatic but including steering-wheel shift paddles (all models have a manual mode though). All Optima models are front-wheel driven.

No matter the Optima trim, it comes with the same body style and essentially the same interior appointments, within a very contemporary exterior. At nearly 191 inches long, with a wheelbase of about 110 inches, the Optima is at the larger end of mid-size, and its cabin layout feels very spacious. The 5-passenger layout includes 60/40-split rear seatbacks in all models, and there's enough width for three adults to fit across in the back seat. Ride quality is compliant, yet handling is quite responsive for a 4-door sedan, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup in back, with coil springs and front anti-roll bars.

The 2013 Optima is very fuel-efficient, and that holds true no matter which model you choose. Base 2.4L models get an EPA-rated 24 mpg city, 35 highway, while SX Turbo models get 22/34 mpg and the EX Hybrid gets 34/39 mpg. An Active Eco system, which helps improve fuel efficiency by promoting better driving habits and smartly managing accessories, is standard on all the models as well.

Base-level LX models a height-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, power locks, windows and mirrors, a cooled glovebox and cruise control and the base sound system includes satellite-radio capability, Bluetooth hands-free calling features, and steering-wheel audio controls. At the mid-range EX level, the Optima includes upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, wood door trim, and metal bezels for the center console, plus leather upholstery, push-button start, a Smart Key system, dual-zone climate control, rear vents, a universal garage-door opener, a power driver's seat, additional interior lighting, and floor mats. And at the top of the lineup, the SX gets a noticeably sportier appearance--inside, especially, with special black-leather upholstery with woven trim, carbon-fiber door and console inserts, a Supervision instrument cluster, French seams and illuminated door scuff plates.

Major options on the Optima include a Technology Package on the base LX, which includes navigation, Sirius Traffic, dual-zone climate control and rear vents, and an upgraded Infinity audio system. EX models can be optioned with a Premium Package that brings various upgrades including heated-and-cooled front seats, a power passenger seat, Infinity audio, power-folding mirrors, and Kia's more sophisticated UVO connectivity system. A new Limited package for the SX adds Nappa leather seating, special 18-inch chrome wheels, LED daytime running lamps, red brake calipers, chrome exterior accents and wood interior accents.

Safety features are well represented as well, with seat-mounted side airbags in front, side-curtain bags that cover first and second rows, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Hill Assist Control for smooth starts when facing uphill.

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Editors' First Take

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.

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