The current generation of Kia Optima has highly favored thanks to its spacious interior, stylish design, and easy-to-use controls and infotainment systems. It also comes with abundant standard features and the strongest warranty on the market. Starting with this sedan, Kia added a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain to create the Optima Hybrid, later added a larger, rechargeable battery pack called the Optima Plug-In Hybrid.
The 29 miles of electric range may not seem like much, but buyers who can charge at home or at work will see a large reduction in their gas usage. Sure, the larger battery pack significantly takes up more trunks space: only 9.9 cubic feet remain. The 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid is also only available in single, fully-equipped trim level, so it will not attract buyers who are looking for something basic but efficient.
There are not many options in the plug-in hybrid segment, but the market is growing. The Ford Fusion Energy is one example, but it’s less feature than Optima. The Chevrolet Volt hatchback offers more electric range but with less passenger space and fewer features. There is an ultra-efficient Toyota Prius Prime, which carries idiosyncratic design elements that may turn off some buyers. The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid also offers a lot of range and upscale interior, but it has an outdated infotainment system.
For 2018, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid carry over from the previous year.
Trim levels and features
Standard equipment for the EX Plug-In Hybrid includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights, LED taillights, keyless entry, heated side mirrors, a hands-free trunk opening, push-button ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver seat, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, a navigation system, Bluetooth, Kia Uvo services, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with satellite radio.
The optional Technology package adds a panoramic sunroof, automatic high beams, adaptive LED headlights, ventilated front seats, a power passenger seat and heated rear seats. Also includes is a suite of collision avoidance technologies such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.
Under the hood, the 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and 67 hp electric motor. Base power from the engine alone is 154 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Combined, the hybrid systems produces 202 hp and 296 lb-ft of torque. Power sent to the front wheel through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode.
In performance testing, the 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 8.0-second, which is an average time for a hybrid sedan. In full EV mode, the Optima 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery pack can travel 29 miles. The EPA figure for combined gas and electric driving is 99 MPGe and once the battery pack is depleted it switches to a conventional hybrid operation and earns an EPA rating of 40 mpg combined (38 city/43 highway).
There are two basic drive modes: All-Electric, Hybrid, and Charging. Once all 29 miles of electric-only are exhausted, drivers can switch to running on hybrid operation or gasoline-only with an electric motor used to recharge the battery. With standard 120-volt household outlet fully charges the battery pack takes less than nine hours, hooking up to a 240-volt (Level 2) source cuts that time to 2.7 hours.
Inside, the 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid cabin is clean and open. Soft touch material and textured plastic visible throughout. Buttons, knobs and other controls dominate the center stack. Overall, the display is formal, even inviting. Even though it’s not the best interior in its class, it meets or exceeds expectations for mainstream midsize sedans.
Front seats offer plenty of room for larger passengers, and the adjustment range will accommodate short and high passengers. The rear outboard seat benefits from an abundance of legroom, but the headroom is only adequate for adults of average height. The trunks space is measured at 9.9 cubic feet, which is 6 cubic feet less than the standard model. The difference is attributed to the larger battery pack, since it sits behind the rear seat and only partially under the floor.
The 8-inch touchscreen has large, easy-to-press virtual buttons and sharp, readable graphics. The Kia Optima Plug-In hybrid also uses physical buttons to navigate top-level functions, since they require less concentration to operate accurately and safely on the road. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are appreciated.
Release Date and Price
The 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid is on sale and arriving now at dealers nationwide. Direct competition includes the Honda Clarity, Toyota Prius Prime, and Ford Fusion Energi.
The 2018 Optima PHEV have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $36,105 (include $895 destination charge) makes it the most expensive Optima models.