Kia Optima PHEV

In case you’ve not been following our weekly updates on our long term test -1 recommend heading to our website (see link on next page) to play catch up. In short, the Optima PHEV, or Optima Prime as we call it, has proved an excellent and capable machine to live with.

It has surprised us on many levels. Its equipment list is second to none, its electric drive is rewarding and it’s consistently returned more than 99.9mpg throughout our time with it.

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Weeks 11 & 12 A fond farewell

Well, I knew it would happen. It’s time to wave goodbye to the superb Kia Optima PHEV, affectionately known as Optima Prime. The day had to come to an end, but not before a final send off and an approriately long journey. Where to? Wales.

Setting off with a full charge  the ever consistent 31-miles emblazoned on the dashboard – and a healthy 97.5mpg indicated after the car’s first 1,500 miles, confidence was high in the car. The trip to Wales would cover mostly motorways from St Albans to Shrewsbury and then smaller roads into Wales toward the final desintation, Machynlleth. Apparently, the Welsh pronounce the town with a strong swear-word- esque intonation.

Anyway, the town lies almost exactly 200-miles from St Albans and while there, no charging possiblity would be made available since we’d be staying at a building site near to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). For the record, CAT does have a charge point, which we did visit but a Nissan Leaf was happily plugged in and with no means of communicating with the owner, it was felt best not to bother.

That’s the beauty of a plug-in hybrid like the Optima, the petrol engine means you can lazily rely on an archaic but hugely convenient fuel system when necessary.

A trip to Wales is a perfect example of this, as no planning was necessary before leaving, unlike in a battery-electric car. Of course, you end up paying the price for carrying around those hefty 9.8kWh of Li-ion cells, as of course that makes the petrol-driven car less efficient than it would otherwise have been without them – or would it? The car was keen to use EV power to travel at motorway speeds when it could, sensibly using it in stop-start traffic on the M6 around Birmingham and recovered otherwise lost energy downhill via its regenerative braking system.

To cut a long story short, the car’s overall average dipped to 88.6mpg after travelling more than 500 miles, including the to, fro and around Wales trips. Overall then, that’s not bad at all – and it’s overall that the car begins to make a lot of sense. Like any car, if it’s bought as a work horse then it should be bought to fit your criteria. Do you travel more than 31-miles per day? If yes, then the Optima will be out of electric range and in all likelihood, you’ll be better served by something less expensive and more frugal overall – whether that’s an electric car, a hybrid or even a diesel. For me, nearly all my local journeys fall within the 31-mile range and consequently, I was able to maintain an extremely respectable average fuel economy figure.

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After Wales, a trip to Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Bedfordshire (several times) and more were all achieved using the petrol range, while my daily travel was covered by the electric range. The crux of it is that I covered just under 3,000 miles over the three-month loan of the car, which is about average miles. Considering that, I was able to manage a final economy figure of 88.2mpg and that, so far as I’m concerned is impressive.

Of course, a note must be made that this isn’t even close to the official NEDC 176.6mpg dream-land figure, but it does prove a point, that plug-in hybrids really can be economical to run and save big money. I only ended up putting petrol in the tank four times over that distance, and of course it’s also worth noting that had I not ventured on long expeditions to places like Wales, the economy figure would have been much better. Likewise, had I plugged in more frequently, become less reliant on the petrol convenience and made use of public charge points, the costs may have been even lower. However, on that last point, public charge points in my local area underwent a transition from free to paid-for in St Albans, as the Source East ! network dissolved into various different charge point operators and they, sadly, meant that for a plug-in hybrid such as this, charging at them would not have been cost effective.

The million dollar question is, would I buy a Kia Optima PHEV? The answer is yes, but cars like the BMW 3-Series iPerformance that somewhow manages to out-perform it in all but electric range, make the Optima a tough one to justify. Were it not for that particular German rival, it’d be easy, as the Optima truly is an excellent electric car, a decent petrol cruiser and is rewarding to live with.

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