Has Kia really brought an affordable hybrid sedan

Has Kia really brought an affordable hybrid sedan with first class tech to America? A professional road test reviewer takes this year’s Kia Optima Hybrid on the road test.

Has Kia really brought an inexpensive hybrid sedan with first class tech to America using its 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid?

Yes! This automotive journalist, green expert and professional road test reviewer says the 2011 Kia Optima has potential to be perhaps America’s most perfect hybrid sedan.

Why? The 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid has everything: an affordable price, great gas mileage, good looks inside and out, fast gas-electric performance, top safety marks and the industry’s best infotainment technology platform (thanks to Microsoft and Nuance/Dragon).

But is much-talked-about hybrid well worth the cost? Again: Yes!

Remember, we are referring to Kia here and words like: stunning, stylish, comfort, luxury and gratifaction. Plus, we’re referring to value for the money with regards to low base price for the luxury features and higher-than-average fuel efficiency even for a hybrid.

Sure, this year’s Kia Optima Hybrid has truly stiff competition from Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. After my try out, I would even pit this sexy sports car against luxury hybrids such as Lexus HS 250h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which cost 1000s of dollars more.

Pros

· A high cost of $31,500 for any fully-loaded hybrid luxury/near luxury sedan.

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    · Exterior is a brilliant fusion of Euro sedans from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, giving Optima a sexy, sporty and sophisticated design.

    · Interior is roomy, comfortable and it has lots of standard luxury features and details such as saddle stitching on the leather seats.

    · Gas-electric engine is mainly fast and real-world mileage tests (40 mpg hwy!) confirm EPA estimates.

    · First-ever Kia in the future designed with UVO infotainment, the most effective hands-free in-car system to date for digital music, navigation, traffic and weather.

    · 2011 Optima (not hybrid specific) achieved the hard-to-get “Top Safety Pick” award.

    Cons

    · As Kia’s first-ever hybrid, the 2011 Optima Hybrid isn’t as tested as most of another above competitors.

    · Well suited for people who want luxury at a bargain price, but may not satisfy true status seekers.

    · Kia needs to upgrade interior dash and central console materials by steering away from cheap-looking plastics and using a far more upscale wood or metal finishes.

    · Cargo space was surprisingly small.

    Ready to hear more about the Kia Optima Hybrid’s exterior, interior, performance, trim levels and pricing? Read on here.

    2011 Kia Optima Hybrid: Exterior

    Like many people, it’s hard to believe the 2011 Kia Optima looks so damned good. This sophisticated, yet highly modern exterior is among the reasons the Kia Optima Hybrid is more distinctive than a number of its competition for example Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid.

    Yes, this year’s Kia Optima Hybrid is both sexy and sporty. So, how can it be a Kia?

    Kia design engineers worked hard to make the 2011 Optima look distinctive. They did an excellent job making you question: “Is this a new Mercedes or BMW?”(Of course, both luxury car brands don’t make a production-level hybrid not to mention a cheap one.)

    Plus, the Optima Hybrid model has a few more improvements, including its front grille, 16-inch alloy wheels, head lamps, fog lamps, tail lamps, heated outside mirrors, front and back lower bumpers and Hybrid side sills. An environmentally friendly hybrid badge also sits near the Optima badge.

    What makes Kia not the same as similar sedans from luxury car brands may be the face. The open-mouthed matte black and shiny chrome grille around the 2011 Kia Optima series is certainly stunning and brings sporty performance in your thoughts.

    The remaining “face” pleases as well with its wide and sturdy stance, low front fender with fog lamps (in premium version only), sculpted hood, wide front fenders. The side view is equally as pleasant and racy using its sleek windows, sculpted side lines and chrome accents. If designed with the panoramic sun roof (only includes “technology package” option), the all-glass roof around the 2011 Optima makes this ride look much more modern from the outside. The behind is all BMW with its cat-eye tail lamps, big trunk lid booty and beefy lower bumper and, of course, lots of chrome accents.

    On a current road test of the 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo, I dubbed the overall exterior design: sporty elegance.

    One exterior design to say in the 2011 Kia Optima is the wheels. Using a flat five-spoke design, these wheels appear to appeal more to car enthusiasts rather people who usually buy new cars from classic luxury brands.

    At first, I didn’t like the design, but then it grew on me more and more. Why don’t you have performance wheels on my small eco-friendly family sedan? As a travel editor and automotive journalist, I’d be more than proud they are driving this sexy sedan into any five-star resort’s valet.

    So, the exterior from the 2011 Kia Optima is hot, but how about the interior? And how about performance, safety, trim levels and pricing?

    2011 Kia Optima Hybrid: Interior

    Inside, the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid (particularly if equipped with the not compulsory “technology package”) looks and feels just like a mid-sized sedan from a luxury car maker. The interior is really roomy (even for this middle-aged road test reviewer’s too-big thighs), supremely confident with lots of luxury features and has an overall excellent Euro-inspired design.

    Yes, within this year’s Kia Optima does seem like a BMW sedan rip off. And that’s the best thing.

    I believe Optima interior engineers must have explored the way in which Bimmers have a flat and tilted-towards-the-driver dash and central console. Deceptively simple, this minimalist dash design is highly ergonomic and merely makes sense, especially when coupled with the hands-free UVO infotainment option.

    Unfortunately, Kia didn’t add enough texture and bling to its 2011 Optima interior design. That one design flaw may unfortunately sway otherwise luxury buyers to avoid wasting cash on Kia’s near luxury brand. Still, the interior is plush and definitely upscale even if the dash can use a heavier hand on metal or wood accents.

    In the Driver’s Cockpit

    The driver’s cockpit from the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is cozy and that i do mean luxurious. I was impressed using the very comfortable saddle-stitched leather seats, that are roomy enough even for us big Americans.

    The controls with nicely-placed controls could also make use of a little more luxury, but it seamless comfort in the possession of and even better with manual tilt and telescoping column.

    I seemed to be impressed using the all-digital instrument panel. I have driven countless vehicles which eco-minded digital instrument-and-information center is top notch. The straight dash is pleasant enough, especially as it widens to the simple, yet super sophisticated central console.

    Between the steering wheel and the looking-right-at-you infotainment screen, the driver controls her world with her fingers and her voice (or his, obviously). Although I’m not often a fan of a lot of central console buttons, I had been surprised this technique was easily accessed through the driver without leaning forward at all.

    Below the console is a nice storing and charging station for mobile devices. Two cup holders and a large leather arm rest and clever storage space completes the driver’s cockpit.

    The front passenger seat can also be very comfortable and it has enough leg room for very tall adults. The second row seating is fairly plush too with in-door bottle and mobile device holders, leather magazine holders, saddle-stitched leather seats and a pull-down leather arm rest with two cup holders.

    Cargo space wasn’t as big or as deep not surprisingly although large enough for weekly trips to the supermarket and weekend car journeys.

    Ready to listen to about Kia’s UVO infotainment technology? Get more information at part two to understand more about UVO, hybrid performance, Optima’s safety record and a trim level summary.

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