Kia has added a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the stylish and spacious Optima Sportswagon to its growing fleet of alternative-powertrain models. It will be sold as a single, highly specified stand-alone model priced at £32,645 after the government's plug-in car grant of £2,500.
The Optima Sportswagon PHEV joins the Optima saloon PHEV, all-electric Soul EV, Niro dedicated hybrid crossover and Niro PHEV in helping to drive Kia towards its goal of a 25 per cent reduction in fleet average CO² emissions by 2020, based on 2014 figures.
Thanks to increased storage capacity in its lithium-ion polymer batteries, the Optima Sportswagon PHEV has a longer all-electric range, lower CO² emissions and better fuel economy than the plug-in hybrid saloon. The increased storage capacity of 11.26kWh (saloon 9.8kWh) takes into account that the Sportswagon is likely to carry heavier loads than the saloon.
The Sportswagon PHEV can travel up to 38 miles in all-electric mode (saloon 33 miles), so it is able to complete many regular urban commuter runs with no tailpipe emissions. Its CO² figure of just 33g/km (saloon 37g/km) means company car users pay just 9 per cent benefit-in-kind taxation in 2017-18, the same as with the saloon. The Sportswagon's combined fuel economy figure is 201.8mpg (saloon 176.6mpg).
Ingenious packaging of the batteries in the boot floor, plus a 15-litre reduction in fuel tank capacity, ensures the Sportswagon PHEV is as practical and versatile as it is efficient and clean. It can carry 440 litres of cargo with the 40:20:40 split rear seats upright, or 1,574 litres when they are folded, and it has a payload of 390kg.
A harmonious blend of petrol and electric power
As with the Optima saloon PHEV, the Sportswagon PHEV combines a 154bhp 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with a 50kW (67bhp) electric motor. The motor replaces the torque converter in the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. When working together, the combustion engine and electric motor generate 202bhp and 375Nm of torque.
A package of aerodynamic, styling and technology features contributes towards the Optima Sportswagon PHEV's low CO² emissions and fuel consumption. The most significant aerodynamic change is an active air flap grille which lowers the car's drag co-efficient (Cd) to 0.28 when closed. Every small improvement in drag can have a significant effect on fuel consumption, especially at higher speeds. There are also uniquely profiled front and rear bumpers for the PHEV to reduce air turbulence.
Distinguishing features of the PHEV are blue-tinted headlights and chrome enhancements with a metallic blue finish on the lower front air grille, the 'tiger-nose' main grille and the side sills. There are 'ECO plug-in' badges on the front wings, while the recharging port for the batteries is housed in the left front wing.
Naturally, such a technologically advanced addition to the Optima family is available with a comprehensive range of connectivity and advanced driver assistance features, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with European mapping.
The touchscreen features additional menus to help the driver achieve the maximum all-electric driving range. It provides valuable information on the status of the batteries, the location of nearby charging stations, energy use based on driving style and the mileage which can be expected from the energy remaining in the batteries.
Intelligent fuel-saving and energy-harvesting technologies
The Optima Sportswagon PHEV is equipped with a number of technological innovations to help it use the power in its battery pack in the most efficient way and top up its batteries on the move.
The car's sophisticated technologies include regenerative braking, a driving style guide, an ECO-DAS (ECOnomy Driver Assistance System) featuring a Drive Mode Select button so that drivers can personalise the powertrain's dynamics, and an HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Select switch. It also has an intelligent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to save battery power.
HEV Select gives access to two driving modes via a button in the centre console. In EV (charge depletion) mode the car runs as a purely electric vehicle when the energy stored in the batteries is adequate, and is able to regenerate electrical power on the move to recharge the batteries. HEV (sustaining) mode allows the powertrain to balance the use of motor and petrol engine for a seamless combination of electric and internal combustion power. In this mode, a greater proportion of propulsion comes from the petrol engine and the charge level of the batteries is constantly being topped up for later use.
The Drive Mode Select gives the driver the choice of Eco and Normal settings to obtain maximum energy efficiency or greater performance. This switch is also located in the centre console. A driving style guide delivers information through the instrument panel about how efficiently the car is being driven so that drivers can adapt their driving style as necessary.
Kia's regenerative braking system, now in third-generation guise, allows the car to harvest kinetic energy - energy created by motion - to top up the batteries when coasting or braking.
The advanced HVAC system has been adapted from that in the Soul EV, and permits only the driver's side of the car to be cooled when the other seats are unoccupied to minimise energy usage. It does this through a smart air intake, in contrast to rival systems which merely divert the airflow towards the driver when other vents are closed and consequently do not reduce overall energy consumption.
Retuned suspension and larger brakes
To compensate for the additional weight imposed by the battery pack, the all-independent suspension of the Optima Sportswagon PHEV has been specially tuned, while the brakes have been enlarged compared with those on the diesel-engined version.
The subframe-mounted suspension - featuring MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, with coil springs and gas-filled shock absorbers all round - remains unchanged, but the springs, dampers and alignment have been retuned. The result is agile handling with a cosseting ride. For packaging reasons the Optima Sportswagon PHEV features Kia's column-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering (C-MDPS) rather than the rack-mounted (R-MDPS) system fitted to diesel versions.
To ensure braking performance is at least on par with that of the diesel Sportswagon, the rear brake discs of the plug-in hybrid have been enlarged from 262mm to 300mm.
Fully connected with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
The Optima Sportswagon PHEV is available with a comprehensive suite of connectivity features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. At the heart of it is the latest Kia audio-visual navigation (AVN) system, operated via the 8.0-inch touchscreen and featuring Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity with audio streaming. The navigation screen is linked to a rear parking camera.
Android Auto connects the car to the user's smartphone and, via pre-downloaded apps, gives access to Google Maps navigation, Google Play music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition. Apple CarPlay enables full Siri voice control of the phone's apps and functions while linking the car to Apple Maps, calls and text dictation, music streaming and audiobooks.
The Sportswagon PHEV is fitted with the full Kia Connected Services package powered by TomTom. This provides live traffic updates, speed camera alerts and local point-of-interest and weather reports. It is provided free for seven years.
The AVN system is linked to a DAB digital radio as part of a 490-watt harman/kardon eight-speaker Premium Sound system, which includes an external amplifier and sub-woofer plus Clari-Fi technology, which restores the sound usually lost when digital music files are heavily compressed.
There are USB sockets in the front and rear, and a wireless smartphone charger is standard.
The Optima Sportswagon PHEV in the UK
The comprehensive standard specification of the Optima Sportswagon PHEV also includes 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/55 R17 tyres, LED daytime running lights and headlights - the latter with automatic levelling, welcome and follow-me-home lighting, black cloth and faux leather seats with eight-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar adjustment on the driver's side, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera integrated into the navigation screen, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, steering wheel mounted controls, all-round electric windows, cruise control with a speed limiter, remote central locking, an electronic parking brake and a 4.3-inch full-colour TFT (Thin Film Transistor) instrument cluster.
Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management are standard. These automatically counter any loss of traction when cornering or setting off on surfaces with differing levels of grip from left to right. Hill-start Assist Control, which holds the car when setting off on inclines, is also standard.
The PHEV is built around the same, highly protective crash structure as diesel versions of the Optima saloon and Sportswagon, which earned a five-star rating in Euro NCAP impact tests. It provides exemplary passive and active safety thanks to its occupant restraint systems and advanced active driver assistance features.
More than half of the body is made of advanced high-strength steels, particularly to reinforce the A- and B-pillars, side sills, floor and front wheel arches. Six airbags are fitted as standard.
A new phase in Kia's hybrid development
Hybrids are not new to Kia and indeed the Optima range, but until 2016 they were not brought to the UK because diesels offered greater tax advantages in the all-important company car market. The Optima PHEV saloon and new PHEV Sportswagon, with their extensive all-electric driving range, low CO2 emissions and ultra-low company car tax rating, change this and are important additions to Kia's fleet line-up in the UK.
Hybrid sales in the UK and mainland Europe have doubled over the past five years and are expected to reach 700,000 a year by the end of the decade. The Optima Sportswagon PHEV, alongside its saloon counterpart, ensures Kia is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growth.
Market, warranty and after-care
In keeping with every Kia, the Optima Sportswagon PHEV comes with the company's unique-in-the-UK seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, subject to certain wear and tear conditions. The warranty is fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached.
It is available with Kia's Care-3 and Care-3 Plus servicing packages, offering retail customers fixed-cost, inflation-proof servicing for three or five years. All work is carried out by trained technicians using Kia replacement parts and specified oils. These packages cover the car, so are transferable should the vehicle be sold.
Colour changes for the entire Optima line-up
To coincide with the arrival of the Sportswagon PHEV Kia has adjusted its colour options for the entire Optima range. The standard colour for both the saloon and Sportswagon PHEVs is now Aluminium Silver, replacing Midnight Black, which becomes a £545 option. Both PHEVs are also available in White Pearl and Gravity Blue, while an additional colour - Temptation Red - is offered on the Sportswagon PHEV.
The new standard colour for diesel versions of the Optima and Optima Sportswagon is Pluto Brown, while options, depending on model, are Midnight Black, Satin Silver, White Pearl, Gravity Blue and Temptation Red. All optional paints are charged at £545.
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