Just seven months after revealing the all-new Optima family saloon at the New York motor show, Kia was back in America at the Los Angeles show with a hybrid version that will go on sale early next year.
It pairs the companys 165bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 40bhp electric motor to give 41% fuel savings compared with an all-petrol Optima. Kia claims and average of 48mpg and the possibility of all-electric running with zero tailpipe emissions up to 62mph.
The car sets off as a fully electric car, with the petrol engine cutting in and taking over at higher speeds. The motor and engine work together under full acceleration and when hill climbing to provide a power boost. Energy is recouped under deceleration and braking; recharging the lithium-polymer battery pack.
The hybrid system has been developed by Kia and is said not to need a high-capacity electric motor and generator, saving weight and cost. A six-speed automatic transmission without the usual torque converter also helps to save weight by reducing power losses during shifts.
The engine and electric motor deliver a combined 205bhp and 200lb ft of torque, with the motor alone providing 40bhp and 175lb ft (from standstill to 1400rpm) when setting off.
The car features a unique front end and alloy wheels that reduce aerodynamic drag in conjunction with a 5mm lower ride height, and there are smooth underbody panels, flaps that close at speed to direct air around the car and low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The Optima comes to the UK next July, but it has yet to be decided whether the hybrid will be part of the range because of the comparative cost compared with a diesel version.
Kia has yet to announce the full engine line-up for the UK, but has confirmed that its new 1.7-litre CRDi diesel, recently unveiled in the latest Sportage, will be the cornerstone of the range.