Seeking a 25-percent increase its overall fuel economy by 2020, Kia introduced the 2017 Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid models in Chicago as part of its new environmentally friendly Kia

Motors EcoDynamics sub-brand. These two green-biased variations on its midsize Optima sedan that was fully redesigned for 2016 complement all of the style, space and  features of the conventional model with significantly better -- although still unpublished  -- overall mpg numbers as well as performance that handily surpasses the previous Optima Hybrid.

All-new powertrains add efficiency

As noted in our recent preview drive of its Korean-spec K5 cousin, the 2017 Optima Hybrid is fitted with a modified version of Kia’s 2.0-liter GDI 4-cylinder engine in place of the 2.4-liter multi-point-injected four in the previous generation. Estimated at a class-leading 154 horsepower, it’s teamed with an upgraded 6-speed automatic transmission that replaces the conventional torque converter with an integrated "Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device" (TMED). This compact, lightweight 51-horsepower motor supplants the previous 47-horse unit and gives the new Optima Hybrid a total system output 193 horses. Its integration allows both hybrid and pure EV operation netting an anticipated 10 percent gain in fuel economy. The motor is energized by a new lightweight, high-density 1.62 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack with 13-percent more capacity but scaled to tuck neatly under the trunk floor to preserving space and permitting a 60/40 fold-down rear seat.

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For those seeking more zero-emissions capability, the Optima Plug-in Hybrid matches its 2.0-liter engine with a 67-horse TMED fed by a 9.8kWh battery which has 60- percent greater capacity. This larger unit packages well enough to ensure both decent cargo capacity and a folding rear seat. Kia says the Optima PHEV can operate in EV, Hybrid or Charging Mode and will offer a 27-mile pure electric range on a full battery. While the new regenerative braking system is 10 percent more efficient, replenishment of the Plug-in takes less than nine hours using a standard 120V wall outlet or under three on a dedicated 240V charger. Total range for the Optima PHEV is projected at 600 miles and both of these new Optima variants also feature Kia’s new Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) with Coasting Guide that actively coaches the driver through audio and visual cues on how to most effectively coast or brake to better mileage.

Sleeker look, better features

While sharing the basic exterior styling of the conventional Optima, the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid do feature unique tweaks from automatic grille shutters and front air curtains to a bespoke rear bumper and diffuser plus aero-optimized alloy wheels all of which help cut the coefficient of drag to 0.24 Cd. Both come with energy-efficient full LED lighting. While cabin treatments parallel the baseline Optima, they do gain extra soft-touch surfaces and unique Hybrid/Plug-in instrumentation. New UVO3 telematics offering smartphone-based navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capability are standard in the Hybrid. The PHEV goes a step beyond offering “the richest set of UVO telematics in any vehicle Kia has ever produced” with EV Services that include LTE wireless connectivity and a full range of auxiliary apps to help with everything from preconditioning the passenger compartment to finding the closest charging stations.

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Finally, these new Optima models supplement their long list of safety equipment with driver assists including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Front Collision Warning System, Blind Spot Detection, Advanced Smart Cruise Control and a Lane Departure Warning System. The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid will arrive at dealers this fall. Pricing and EPA figures will be announced closer to the on-sale date.

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