Kia Announces 2017 Optima as Second Plug-in for the Brand

By · March 04, 2016

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid

Kia unveiled the 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid at last month’s Chicago Auto Show. The plug-in Optima borrows the same system used in the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in hybrid—which grants about 27 miles of all-electric range. The Sonata plug-in has not been a big seller since its release a few months ago—and neither has the Kia Soul EV. Nonetheless, the plan to roll out the Optima Plug-in Hybrid late this year reveals a commitment from Hyundai-Kia to expand its electric offerings.

Pricing for the Optima Plug-in Hybrid, available only in the EX trim, has not yet been announced. It will utilize a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Kia claims that it packaged the batteries behind the rear seat and tire well to give the Optima Plug-in Hybrid “one of the largest cargo areas among all midsize PHEVs.”

The Optima Plug-in Hybrid’s 50-kilowatt electric motor and 2.0-liter four-cylinder GDI engine combine to produce a healthy 154 horsepower. The plug-in Optima will have multiple modes: All-Electric for short-range city driving; Hybrid for highway driving, and Charging to route energy to the battery while driving at high speeds. Its estimated total driving range is 600 miles.

The new 2017 Optima will be offered as a conventional internal combustion model, as a gas-based hybrid, and as a plug-in hybrid. Regardless, the car’s body claims the mid-size segment’s lowest coefficient of drag, tied with the Tesla Model S at 0.24 Cd.

Kia’s all-electric model, the Soul EV, managed fewer than 100 sales per month average in 2015 in the United States. Globally, since going on sale in April 2014, Kia has sold about 10,000 units—with nearly 7,000 of those going to European markets. Sales of the Soul EV in Kia’s home South Korean market have been roughly equivalent to U.S. sales. According to a recent report from UK’s Autocar, when the Soul gets a facelift in 2017, the next EV version will have longer range. More details were not provided.

In the meantime, EV fans are waiting for more details to emerge about Hyundai's plans for a new dedicated plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle. The so-called Ioniq was announced late last year as the first nameplate to offer a choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric powertrains. The conventional hybrid variant is slated for release this fall, with the remaining electric options expected to arrive as early as the end of 2016. Hyundai estimates the Ioniq EV will offer a driving range of about 155 miles, while the Ioniq plug-in hybrid is expected to have an all-electric range of 32 miles.

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