[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll-new Kia Optima Hybrid (HEV) has been unveiled at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. The all-new fourth-generation Optima saloon, which enjoys the same full redesign – inside and out – as the conventional gas-powered model, comes with a new hybrid powertrain that targets a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing model.
The enhanced HEV blends modern styling and a premium driving experience with an even more intense focus on efficiency and is being introduced under the Kia Motors EcoDynamics environmentally friendly sub-brand.
Targeting a 10 percent increase in fuel economy, the Optima Hybrid replaces the previous generation’s 2.4-liter engine with an efficient and compact 2.0-liter GDI four cylinder – estimated at 154 horsepower – coupled with a hybrid starter generator and tied to an upgraded, smooth-shifting six-speed transmission. A 38 kW electric motor and clutch replaces the traditional torque converter to provide strong off-the-line acceleration and power assistance to the engine when necessary. Energy flow is fast and seamless between EV mode and hybrid mode. Total combined output for the Optima Hybrid is estimated at a robust 193 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Also adding to the equation is a new electric water pump and a new electric oil pump, which help improve overall fuel economy.
Giving life to the electric motor is a more compact, lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack with a 13-percent increase in capacity to 1.62 kWh. With improved packaging, this more potent energy source now fits neatly underneath the trunk floor without encroaching into cargo space. The revised battery configuration results in a larger, more practical load area and allows the integration of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
All-new Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) features Kia’s first application of Coasting Guide, a feature aimed at maximizing fuel economy by essentially coaching the driver on when to coast and brake via an icon in the Instrument Panel that blinks for four-seconds and sounds a one-time audible alert.
The Optima Hybrid features a uniquely engineered body that combines various high-tensile strength steel alloys, creating a stiffer, more durable chassis with more than 50 percent Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) construction. In addition, a significant increase in hot-stamped components and greater use of structural adhesive improves NVH and contributes to structural rigidity. This new body structure helps provide crash protection and better driving dynamics and is the foundation for a quieter ride.
Aerodynamic form and function
Although the new Hybrid boasts the same bold styling as the redesigned 2016 Optima, it offers distinctive design features and exterior elements that differentiate it from the gas-powered models in the Optima range, while also achieving a coefficient of drag that is among the lowest in the segment at 0.24 Cd. Featuring an active grille, which automatically opens and closes at high and low speeds, the Hybrid is able to improve aerodynamics while optimizing engine bay cooling. Numerous other styling differences include a model-specific front air curtain, a beveled rear bumper, a rear diffuser designed to streamline airflow by shrouding the exhaust tip, and an aerodynamic alloy-wheel design. These are complemented by modern LED lighting, satin finish accent trim and special ‘EcoHybrid’ badging.
The new Optima Hybrid makes intelligent use of technology to deliver a host of comprehensive driver assistance systems and convenience features. The HEV now offers Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which, under appropriate conditions, will bring the vehicle to a complete stop to potentially avoid a collision or reduce damage. Other key driver assistance systems include Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and Front Collision Warning System (FCWS)2.
To make life on the road easier and more enjoyable, the Optima Hybrid brings convenience offerings such as the Hands-free Trunk Open feature with Smart Key, a Wireless Phone Charger and Surround View Monitoring (SVM) to aid parking maneuvers.
Kia’s cutting-edge connectivity system with smartphone-projected navigation, UVO3, comes standard with UVO telematics, and is enhanced with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow drivers to access a suite of core functions from their smartphones. There’s also an upgraded AVN 4.0 Navigation system combined with the Harman/Kardon QuantumLogic Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which includes 10 speakers, Clari-Fi technology and a 630-watt digital amplifier. Clari-Fi is a patented music restoration technology that rebuilds audio signals that are lost in the digital compression process.
The Optima Hybrid’s passenger compartment is larger and more comfortable with an innovative and functional cabin that is well-appointed with class-up touches. Drawing inspiration from Kia’s premium saloons, the Optima Hybrid features its own model-specific instrument panel gauges and utilizes more soft-touch materials throughout. With an impressive attention to detail, the interior features real stitching along the dash and doors.
Overall, the driver-oriented cabin has been simplified with a cleaner, more unified design than the previous generation. A stronger horizontal plane and a wider center console help create a greater sense of space. By grouping and reducing the number of functional keys and buttons, Kia’s already-superior ergonomics are markedly improved.
The interior design team also paid particular attention to seat comfort with a stiffer seat frame that reduces vibration, as well as greater use of soft foam in the headrest and upper back, and denser, more supportive foam in thigh-support areas. For extra convenience, heated and ventilated front seats are available with power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. The 2017 Optima Hybrid also offers a height-adjustable front passenger seat, a feature normally found only in premium vehicles.
For now, while the foregoing features are meant for US model, it is not yet clear if models for other parts of the world would be any different.