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2015 Kia Optima Hybrid REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Lower fuel economy than rivals; tight rear-seat headroom; odd brake response.

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Interior: First impressions of the 2015 Kia Optima's interior are usually favorable. There's a distinctly modern look to the design, and the sense of quality is boosted by an abundance of soft-touch materials. The EX trim level pours on the charm with its additional equipment and leather upholstery. If you're looking for a touch of luxury in your hybrid sedan, the Optima Hybrid is a top choice.

Kia's Uvo (pronounced "yoo-voh") electronics interface system is similar to Ford's Sync system (both are powered by Microsoft). Uvo provides voice controls for connected phones and other devices, as well as services such as points of interest and turn-by-turn navigation. In our testing of Uvo, we've found that it works quite well. The touchscreen interface in navigation-equipped Optima Hybrids features high-resolution graphics that are among the segment's best, and it's easy to use, too.

The Optima Hybrid has a fairly spacious cabin, with comfortable seats and adequate legroom front and rear. However, headroom in back is a bit tight due to the car's rakish, coupelike roof line. Opting for the panoramic sunroof further decreases headroom. The Optima Hybrid's trunk offers 10.8 cubic feet of cargo space, considerably less than the non-hybrid Optima due to intrusion from the hybrid battery pack, and 1-2 cubes less than the competition.

Body: The 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid is a midsize hybrid sedan that comes in two trim levels: base and EX.

The base Optima Hybrid comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, a refrigerated glovebox, a height-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The optional Hybrid Convenience package adds LED running lights, a laminated windshield and front windows (for a quieter cabin), an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), a rearview camera and Kia's Uvo voice-command telematics system.

With the EX, all the above comes standard, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, LED foglights, power-folding exterior mirrors, an electronic parking brake, a navigation system (with an 8-inch touchscreen display), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear climate vents, leather upholstery, a four-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, driver memory settings and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio.

Optional on the EX is the Technology package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. Also available on the EX is the White Interior package, which requires the Technology package and adds white leather upholstery with contrasting piping and gloss black cabin accents.

Driving: The 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid rides smoothly on a variety of surfaces, and its cabin remains admirably hushed at highway speeds. The car's steering is less praiseworthy, though, thanks to a numb feel and artificially high effort. Nonetheless, the driving experience is pleasant overall, with a good balance between handling agility and ride comfort.

Most drivers should be satisfied with the Optima Hybrid's performance. You'll scarcely notice the transitions between gas and electric propulsion in traffic, and there's more power for passing maneuvers than the mediocre 0-60-mph sprint suggests. The only real issue on the road is the odd braking response, which stems from the car's hybrid regenerative braking system. There's a small but noticeable delay between pressing the brake pedal and actually getting the desired braking force. Make no mistake, the 2015 Optima Hybrid provides plenty of braking power when you need it, but it's a peculiarity that will likely require acclimation.

What’s New: For 2015, the Kia Optima Hybrid is unchanged apart from the removal of the "LX" from the base trim's name.

Powering the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor and a six-speed automatic transmission. Combined power output is 199 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque.

EPA fuel economy estimates differ slightly between the two trim levels, with the base earning a combined estimate of 38 mpg (36 city/40 highway) and the EX rating 37 mpg combined (35/39). Although those numbers are generally impressive, the Optima Hybrid's rivals are even more frugal.

In Edmunds performance testing, a Kia Optima Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which is a bit below average for the segment.

Safety: Standard safety features on the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is available, as are rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot monitoring system. The available Uvo telematics system includes roadside assistance and automatic collision notification.

In Edmunds brake testing, an Optima Hybrid EX came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet, a few feet longer than average but still acceptable for this class.

In government crash tests, the Optima Hybrid earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars awarded for both total frontal-impact safety and total side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the non-hybrid but otherwise identical Optima a top score of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength impact tests. The Optima earned an "Acceptable" rating (second highest) in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, while its seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: Lots of features for the money; handsome cabin with easy-to-use controls and comfortable front seats; top crash scores; lengthy warranty.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid doesn't have the eye-popping fuel economy of its primary rivals, but it's still a sleek, refined hybrid sedan that's worth considering if you don't mind sacrificing a few mpg on the altar of style.

Introduction: The Kia Optima is a popular choice for a midsize sedan, offering stylish looks, a well-trimmed cabin and a generous array of features. It would then stand to reason that the 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid, which gains the enhanced fuel economy of a hybrid powertrain, is a win-win proposition, right? For the most part, yes, but the Optima Hybrid loses points in a few key areas.

With an EPA combined estimate of 37 or 38 mpg (depending on trim level), this Kia looks great until you compare it to its main rivals, which yield an additional 3-10 mpg. The Optima also lags a little in terms of refinement, as its regenerative braking system doesn't feel as natural or progressive as others. Furthermore, taller passengers may find rear-seat headroom a bit tight.

If you're shopping for a midsize hybrid sedan, know that the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid achieves 40-41 mpg and offers overhauled styling inside and out along with improved handling. The 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid has style on its side just like the Kia, and it delivers 42 mpg along with many available technology features. Finally, there's the segment's top fuel-sipper, the 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid, which boasts a 47 mpg rating. Checking out these competitors would be wise, but there's enough to like here that the Optima Hybrid earns an and remains a strong entry in its class.

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