Today’s guest post is written by my husband, Aaron Bernstein. He is a contributing writer at A Biblical Marriage; read his recent Biblical Marriage post, “Finding the Secret to Living and Loving More,” here.
When asked to review the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid, my first thought was that it would be good to check out the advantages of having a hybrid – if there were any.
Would it be possible to have all of the comfort and convenience of a full-size car while getting better than expected gas mileage? Could we have our cake and eat it too?
Before you read any further, you need to know something about me – I am a car guy. I love them. I have not met a long drive that I have not liked. As my wife can attest, the annual car show ranks right up there with opening Christmas gifts.
A week with an Optima
Our Pearl Optima arrived with a sticker price of just below $33,000 (before tax/title/delivery) and the promise of 34 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. For $33K, the car came loaded with every bell and whistle that a person could ever want: dual stage heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, leather, back-up camera, satellite radio, in-dash navigation, a killer stereo, keyless entry, push button start, and a list of other creature comforts that belong on cars more than twice the price. Best of all, the car looked great. Bruce Wayne might pick this car if he were on a budget and had a family to tote around Gotham City.
The Kia’s engine matched the car’s good looks. Goose the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine and you would guess that there was a V-6 under the hood. Passing on the freeway was no problem.
However, the engine shut-off feature, designed to save fuel, made the Kia hesitate when prompted to start in a hurry. During my daily commute, I have to cross a busy intersection that requires me to go when there is a break in traffic. The Kia’s split second hesitation made this task scarier than it needed to be. Otherwise, the Optima was a competent highway cruiser that made long trips pass with ease.
As for gas mileage, we averaged 31.5 mpg during mixed driving (70 percent freeway travel). This was well below the manufacturer’s claims. For the majority of the test I tried to milk as much mileage from the car as possible. The dash offered displays to prompt the driver to be more “green” – one with digitized flowers that will open the gentler one drives, and another screen that gives uses a rating system to measure how efficient the driver has been. Even when the display said that I was doing a good job, the gas mileage would not move much closer to the 34/39 mpg mark.
The car also had a few gremlins. My wife Hilary had difficulty getting the car started with the keyless ignition even when the key-fob was in the car, and once the car lost power when shifting from reverse to drive. (I did not have these problems.) Also, the heated steering wheel got hot enough to fry an egg if you grabbed the wheel at 3 and 9. Finally, some of the surfaces where you would normally rest an elbow while driving looked softer than they actually were.
Where the rubber meets the road
Here’s the bottom line: If you are shopping only for gas mileage, this may not be the best car for you. I’ve spoken with other hybrid owners who claim to get better gas mileage.
Also, for just about $33,000, you have a lot of options for your car buying dollars (well-optioned family sedans up to a base model BMW 3-series). Most non-hybrid sedans these days claim gas mileage in the low to mid 30-mpg range.
However, if you have the budget and want a car with all of the options, you should give the Kia Optima a test drive. It has good looks, a strong engine, Kia’s 10-year/100,000 mile limited warranty, and every creature comfort you could want.
If you own a hybrid vehicle, how pleased have you been with the fuel efficiency? If you’re in the market to buy a new car, what features are you looking for?
Disclosure: The Kia Optima was a press fleet vehicle. Accidentally Green was not asked to write a favorable review and did not receive any compensation for this review. All opinions are Aaron Bernstein’s.