Korean automaker Kia is getting ready to join the hybrid crowd, with the planned U.S. release of their Kia Optima Hybrid early next year. The new Optima will borrow the hybrid technology, the platform and the powertrain from Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid, so the Optima’s specs will be very close to that of the Sonata Hybrid – about 40 mpg on the highway and upper 30’s for city driving. Like the Sonata, it will use a 34 kW lithium polymer battery. Lithium polymer batteries weigh less, occupy less volume, are more efficient and can hold a charge longer than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in most other hybrids today.
Pricing has been set at $17,250 for the base model, which is actually higher than the base price for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, but Kia includes as standard some features that are options on the Hyundai.
While the non-hybrid version of the 2011 Kia Optima is getting all sorts of accolades ( Best Buy from Consumer Guide Automotive, Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), Car and Driver just posted their First Drive Review of the hybrid version, where they did note some issues with the powertrain.