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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is a sporty gas saver

Kia's redesigned Optima midsize sedan is an eye-catcher with its sporty and aggressive look, and the hybrid version is no different. With its full hybrid technology, this Optima can get up to 40 mpg with various eco-friendly reminders for driving efficiently. But, as with most hybrids, is the moderately increased mileage worth the extra money?

Appearance: The midsize sedan is sleek and sporty with a few hybrid-specific details, including a more aerodynamic bumper and grille. We liked that it didn't scream "HYBRID." In fact, you can't tell except for discreet badges set low on the side body panels and on the trunk.

Performance: The ride and handling were smooth and comfortable, and the steering was light and quick. The combined gas engine-electric motor output is 206 horsepower and 195.4 pound-feet of torque. The regenerative brakes, much like other hybrids, take getting used to, but they weren't sluggish. Driving almost becomes a game. Lyra liked the ECO Level monitor in which more conservative driving can let you "grow" leaves and flowers on the display. Peter liked the Eco Guide gauge on the left side of the instrument panel and tried to keep the needle in the green. But please make sure you're not distracted by these tools when you're driving!

Interior: The cabin is roomy enough for five adults. Our tester came with the only option available: Premium Technology Package ($5,000), which includes leather seats, navigation, panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats, and 17-inch wheels. The interior is comfortable with a clean finish. There's lots of plastic, but it was solidly built. The 7-inch high-resolution screen was vivid with more visually oriented "eco" features. The only drawback compared to the regular sedan is the reduced trunk space (9.89 cubic feet instead of 15.43) because of the hybrid battery.

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid

Price: $26,500, $32,250 as tested

Powertrain: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder hybrid engine, 270-volt lithium polymer battery, 6-speed automatic, FWD

Horsepower: 206 at 1,400-6,000 rpm combined

Torque: 195.4 pound-feet

Curb weight: 3,490 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 110.1

Length, 190.7

Width, 72.05

Fuel economy:

35 miles per gallon city, 40 mpg highway

Website: kia.com/#/optima-hybrid/explore

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is a sporty gas saver 09/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 5:30am]

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