Kia Optima Hybrid Coming in 2011

Yesterday, Kia officially launched the all–new 2011 Optima midsize sedan—and revealed that a hybrid version will be offered next year. The Optima, a lower priced variant of the mid-size Hyundai Sonata, is earning rave reviews. Motor Trend said the Optima has “all the goods it needs to go toe-to-toe with segment leaders, and hot looks to boot.” A gas-electric version of the Optima will add high-mpg to the mix.

The Kia Optima Hybrid will join the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the company’s first gas-electric car which goes on sale in a few weeks. It only makes sense that Hyundai would utilize the Sonata hybrid system in the Optima. The approach is to combine a 2.4-liter engine with six-speed automatic transmission, and a 30kW electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to produce a full hybrid with impressive specs: 37 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway, and combined 209 horsepower. (Note that the mileage is better on the highway than the city, a strategy that Hyundai believes better suits American driving styles.)

The Hyundai hybrid numbers, for horsepower and mpg, beat those of the leading mid-size hybrid sedans, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid. Moreover, the Sonata is cheaper by a couple thousand dollars. The Optima, which is already being favorably compared to the Sonata in terms of styling and interior amenities, will probably take another thousand or so dollars off the price.

The Sonata and now the Optima still don’t come close to the Toyota Prius’s 50 mpg—but Hyundai is working on that as well. In April, we reported that Hyundai is planning a new unique hybrid nameplate to take on the Prius, just as the Sonata is competing against the Camry and Fusion Hybrids. The same strategy—better mileage, sharper styling, and a lower price tag—could send hybrid buyers to Hyundai and Kia dealerships for the first time. (We’ll get our first chance to drive the Hyundai Sonata next week.)

Time will tell if Hyundai can achieve its brave efficiency goals. The company plans to hit an average of 50 mpg for its lineup by 2025. At that time, it hopes to generate 20 percent of its annual sales from hybrids and 5 percent from electric drivetrain vehicles. (Yes, Hyundai electric cars and plug-in hybrids in the works.) The 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is one more sign that Hyundai is taking these goals seriously.

The 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

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  • Charles

    From the article: “The Hyundai hybrid numbers, for horsepower and mpg, beat those of the leading mid-size hybrid sedans, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.”

    I think the Fusion’s 41/36 beats 37/39 MPGs. It is not much of a difference, but for the Koren’s cars to win you would have to do a lot more highway driving.

    I do think that Ford and Toyota will have to step up their game. It may force Li batteries to be used in almost all hybrids. The weight savings and more power could be the difference.

  • Shines

    If that 6 speed automatic allows for towing capabilities – that would be another plus for Hyundai…

  • JamesDavis

    Right! Compared to Toyota Prius’s 50 mpg now…. How can they compare those two? Toyota is so far out in front of of Kia that Kia will never catch up. By the time Kia catches up to Toyota’s 50 mpg in 2025, Toyota will be getting 150 mpg.

    I think Kia is trying to cover up a flat cake with too little icing.

  • Shines

    Jame Davis – did you read the article? They are NOT comparing the Optima to the Prius. They are comparing the Optima with the Hybrid Camry and Ford Fusion hybrid. Kia (hyundai) is saying they will come out with a vehicle that is supposed to be competitive with the Prius – something completely different from the Optima. We should wait to see what they come up with to compete with the Prius before passing judgement. We all know that right now nobody has competition for the Prius. It will be more interesting when the Leaf and Volt become available. What will they be compared with?

  • redlineduck

    Your comparison of the Prius to the new Optima is amusing…like comparing apples to oranges. The Optima is a true mid-sized family sedan with 200hp and compliant handling, smooth ride and quiet cabin at all speeds. The Prius is a pleasant, small hatchback with a jittery ride, so-so handling and typical low-end Japanese car road noise. Try driving the Prius with five adults and see those MPG numbers drop below 40!

  • johnny

    The current Kia Optima commercial is sensational and presents the new Optima in a very favorable light, style-wise. It reminds me of the breakthrough commercials and ads for the original Honda Accord back in the day.

  • TJ

    I have a 2010 Prius IV… can’t wait to replace it with this one when it comes out. Come on baby… come to papa…