A second go around with the Korean Hybrid Drivetrain should prove to be just as interesting as the first.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- July 19, 2011
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid - $26,500 to start and 37 mpgUS combined on the EPA make it a worthy competitor to whatever is currently sitting in your drive.
With any first drive of a given manufacturers product, it is probably best to set the table with some of the company’s history. After all, Kia is one of the most successful companies in the automobile business as of late and is it not about time we find out why?
Kia from a CleanMPG perspective was barely on the radar screen up until two years ago. The company's products have always provided a great value story of course but on the fuel efficiency front, we were left wondering why they left so much on the table. That was about to change.
At last year’s 2010 NYIAS, Kia introduced to the North American Auto Show going press and public a car. Not just any car but a car that was a true competitor to anything in the mid-sized class. It offered an all-new exciting interior/exterior design, that latest features and amenities, latest safety features, and what was being rumored was a new focus on fuel efficiency. In addition, they announced a hybrid version which made me really sit up and take notice!
From Bicycle parts manufacturer to world class automobile manufacturer in two generations.
The early years: In 1944, Kia is founded as a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts. 7-years later, the company began to produce Korea’s first native built bicycle. In 1957, Kia’s first Korean motor scooter, the C-100 begins production. 5-years after that, Kia officially began producing automobiles with the production of Korea’s first truck.
In 1991, Kia announced plans to enter U.S. marketplace with their Sephia compact sedan, followed by a sport-utility vehicle called the Sportage. The following year, Kia Motors America is incorporated as the sales, marketing and service arm for Kia Motors Corporation in the United States.
1994: Kia achieved annual US sales of just 12,163 vehicles. Within a year, Kia celebrated its first anniversary in the United States with its 100th dealer opening. Annual sales reach 24,740.
1996: Kia sells its 50,000th vehicle in the United States with annual sales now totaling 36,274 vehicles.
1997: Kia sells its 100,000th vehicle in the United States with annual sales of 55,325 vehicles.
1999: Annual sales: 82,893 vehicles.
2000: Kia sells its 500,000th vehicle in the United States .
2001: The Sedona minivan and Rio5 sub-compact hatch are launched in the U.S. while annual sales reach 223,727 vehicles.
2002: Kia sells its 750,000th vehicle in the United States with annual sales reaching 237,345 vehicles.
2003: Kia sells its 1,000,000th vehicle in the United States.
2004: Kia achieves its 10th consecutive year of record sales with annual sales of 270,055 vehicles.
2005: Kia launches its new global brand strategy “The Power to Surprise” and achieves a US annual sales total of 275,851 vehicles.
2006: Kia announces plans to open its first U.S. manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga. where production is planned to begin in 2009.
2008: Kia achieved its 14th consecutive year of record sales in 2007 with 305,473 vehicles sold. In May, Kia celebrated its best sales month ever with record April sales of 30,066 vehicles.
2009: Kia announced the 2011 Sorento CUV will be the first vehicle built at its brand new West Point, GA manufacturing facility. One month later, Kia achieves all-time record monthly sales of 40,198 in August.
2010: On February 26, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia celebrates its official Grand Opening. One month later, it celebrates its three millionth vehicle sold in the United States.
2011: In January, Kia reports all-time record sales with 356,268 vehicles sold.
And the sales continued to climb with 2011 monthly sales record after record being broken:Meet the Kia Optima Hybrid
Introduced at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show last fall, it was a hybrid with a desirable exterior, roomy interior, and a 40 mpg highway rating that piqued our interest.
Just like its Hyundai Sonata Hybrid cousin, the 2011 Optima Hybrid uses a full parallel hybrid system with full-electric drive mode at speeds far surpassing the stated 62 mpg spec. And like all hybrids, we expect it to perform with hybrid like fuel economy in all aspects of the drive which we will hope to discover over the next 6 days.
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Specifications
The 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is priced to start at $26,500 and is available in only one trim. A Hybrid Premium Technology Package loads up the Optima Hybrid with additional features including NAVI w/ backup camera and SiriusXM NavTraffic, premium sound, sunroof, HID’s, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats to name a few.
Complete specifications including standard and optional equipment can be found on the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid - Specifications
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Exterior
Unlike the Sonata Hybrid where the grille is of a completely different design than the Sonata and Sonata Turbo, the all-new Optima Hybrid integrates the techy themed and KIA signature bold tabbed grille surrounded by projector headlamps similar to that fitted to the 11 Optima, 11 Optima Turbo, 11 Sportage and upcoming 12 Rio. Sticking with a winner is not a bad thing, right
The hood is emphasized with very soft body following creases into the front headlights. Another very non-distinct character line runs from the top of the headlights back to the rear taillights.
Enticing lower body side detail.
Where the side profile gets exciting is the lower body’s deep and multiple angle horizontal cutouts and uniquely flat (read aerodynamic) but stylish 16” alloy wheels spicing up the Optima nicely.
The modern coupe like sedan silhouette will welcome its owner for years to come.
A small construction detail that seems a bit out of place is the roof to body side weld seam that is covered with old school rubber seals running the length of the roof on both sides.
To the rear, drooping LEDs taillights accentuate the rear with a nicely shaped trunk lid edge spoiler and low lift over height trunk opening making the everyday utility of the Optima useful for all members of the family driving it.
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Interior
The all-new Optima Hybrids interior instrument cluster provides a modern but cluttered appearance with too many “Hybrid” centric displays including an Eco Level leaves and flowers display. After a few days, even the energy flow displays are all but passé which when displayed, remove the far more important a and iFCDs.
Left side instrument cluster is a touch “Busy”
Two areas in which the Optima Hybrid shines is the 10-way electric adjustability (includes lumbar support) for a great fit and control stalks.
Driver Ergonomics - With the standard tilt and telescopic wheel and multi-electrically adjustable seats, you would be hard pressed not to find a comfortable seating position. With essentially no miles, longer drive seat comfort will have to be evaluated over the coming days.
The control stalks that are not only easy to understand and use upon first touch, they provide as good if not better tactile feedback than Toyota’s world class stalk controls. If the Domestics and European’s ever needed help with interior stalk control feel and action, they could learn a thing or two from Kia.
The Stereo system sounds good and with the ability to control your iPod/iPhone/Smartphone when USB connected to the car via Microsoft’s UVO system, it is more than acceptable. When setting presets for AM/FM and Sirius, I felt the standard 4” (I think its 4”) display to be a bit small for a car of this class and price point. We are evaluating the base hybrid without Hybrid Premium Technology Package and its 7” high resolution NAVI and radio control function screen.
I will hold off on further impressions until I place some miles behind the wheel.
The trunk? I have not even opened it yet but will provide more detail later today.
Besides the small 4” screen, the only other criticism is that the plastics appear somewhat incongruous. There is a smooth plastic surround butting up against coarse grained dash plastics and from the cloth door inserts, you move to hard plastics of two different colors. The A-Pillar interior cover is plastic vs. cloth that some higher end competitors are now using although this is a very minor point.
A busy but comfortable interior space has so far presented itself and I am very much looking forward to placing some miles on it over the next few days.
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Drivetrain
Li-Po Battery Tech
The lithium polymers (Li-PO) cells used in the Optima Hybrid were developed by LG Chem using a manganese spinel chemistry that has much lower expansion rates than standard Li-Ion chemistries used in other automobile applications and are thus able to go through tens of thousands of charge cycles without having to use a heavier, liquid cooling system.
The Li-Po chemistry also has less self-discharge and will hold a charge 25 percent longer than a NiMH battery common in today’s full hybrids from competing manufacturers.
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Drivetrain Layout
The Optima Hybrid drivetrain is configured with a Transmission-Mounted-Electric-Drive (TMED) layout where the 40 HP motor is separated from the transmission.
- The Kia Optima Hybrid uses a slightly modified "conventional" automatic transmission with the addition of an external, electrically driven oil pump to provide the hydraulic fluid pressure needed to keep the clutches engaged when the Optima Hybrid is in idle stop mode.
Traction Motor and Clutch
- The Optima Hybrid’s traction motor is hard-coupled to the input of the transmission and completely replaces the torque converter. A multi-disc clutch pack sits within the inner circumference of the traction motor and is used to de-couple the motor from the 2.4L I4 for idle stop and electric driving mode.
- The Hybrid-Starter-Generator (HSG) is a 8.5 kW starter motor-generator that is belt-driven off the engine operating at the same 270 volts as the electric traction motor and the Li-Po battery. Its purpose is only to start the engine and charge the hybrid battery when SoC is below a given threshold. Maintenance note: HSG belt changes are scheduled at 60,000 mile intervals.
- A low-voltage DC to DC converter steps down the 270 volt output of the Li-Po battery down to 12 volts needed to charge the standard Pb-Acid battery and power all of the vehicle accessory systems.
- “When braking is necessary
”, energy recovery and storage in the included Li-Po traction battery for later use is a plus.
Electric Power Assisted Steering and A/C
- The 2011 Optima Hybrid like all 2011 Optima’s uses an Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system that provides boost only when it is needed. This reduces the overall parasitic load compared to an engine driven hydraulic assist. Because the EPAS is independent of the engine it also provides assistance when the engine is not running such as during idle stop or electric drive mode.
The Optima hybrid also features an electrically driven A/C compressor so that climate control can be maintained during engine off driving. The electrically driven A/C compressor allows for more precise on-demand control reducing the overall load on the powertrain which lowers fuel consumption.
Atkinsonized 2.4L Engine
- Like most full hybrids to date, an Atkinson cycle was incorporated into the 2.4L engine. The Atkinson cycle’s reduces pumping losses and improves overall thermodynamic efficiency.
- The Optima Hybrid features two independent liquid cooling circuits with a standard high temperature circuit used to manage engine temperatures at up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit and provide passenger compartment heating needs.
A second low temperature cooling circuit is incorporated to manage the temperature of the hybrid starter-generator and the power electronics. The low temperature circuit utilizes an electric pump to circulate the coolant along with a separate heat exchanger to keep the electronics between 86-95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ride and handling impressions and Fuel Economy details will be coming shortly
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Safety
The 2011 Kia Optima arrives with the following active and passive safety HW as standard equipment including front, side and side curtain airbags, front active headrests, side-impact door beams, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction Control System (TCS), a Brake Assist System (BAS) and Hill Assist Control (HAC).
The KIA Optima has been rated as a NHTSA 5-Star performer
, the highest score achievable on the toughest crash tests in the world. For 2012, the Kia Optima Hybrid was just awarded the same distinction with a perfect across the board 5-star crash test ratings for frontal, side, rollover and overall crash test scores. Similar, the IIHS has awarded the 2011 Kia Optima a “Top Safety Pick” with a perfect score of Good across the board including Head Restraint geometry.
2011 Kia Optima – IIHS Top Safety Pick
2012 Kia Optima Hybrid – NHTSA 5-Star Crash Test Rating
Great structural design leads to great scores and in the case of an accident, would you want to be in anything less?
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid - Fuel Economy Results
[center]2011 Kia Optima Hybrid – aFCD calibration drive
With no wind to a 5-mph side/rear quarter tail wind and temps from 74 to 80 degrees, it was a perfect night/early morning to do a calibration drive. It was raining lightly for about 1/3 of the distance.
The 76.9 miles displayed is actually 79.284 miles per our 3.1% under report calibration drive the other night. Google showed the distance at 78.7 miles but does not have the temporary Interstate construction mapped through Milwaukee yet.
With 71.3 mpg displayed after 76.9 miles displayed, we come up with actuals of 79.284 miles/1.187 gallons = 66.794 mpgUS or an ~ 6.32% over report vs. actual. That is a little much.
Below are the Steady State CC mpg averages with the determined offset:
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Calibrated Steady State FE Results
2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Preliminary Conclusions
|mph||mpgUS displayed average ((NB+SB)/2)||mpgUS Acutal|
|50 mph||59.9 mpgUS||56.2|
|55 mph||55.2 mpgUS||51.7|
|60 mph||48.9 mpgUS||45.8|
|65 mph||41.8 mpgUS||39.0|
We will be providing more of that detail as the next few days wear on but as of now, it looks good and feels very comfortable…
The Kia Optima Hybrid taking in the final glow of a warm IL summer evening.