Kia plugs in with

hybrid Optima

Kia Optima PHEV, front, action
Kia Optima PHEV, side, action
Kia Optima PHEV, rear, action
Kia Optima PHEV, interior
Kia Optima PHEV, power gauge
Kia Optima PHEV, plug in point
Kia Optima PHEV, charging
Kia Optima PHEV, boot
Kia Optima PHEV, badge
Kia Optima PHEV, engine
Kia Optima PHEV, display screen
Kia Optima PHEV, controls

KIA sets very high targets and its challenge to lower the average carbon emissions of its range by 25 per cent before the end of the decade has been given a massive boost with the arrival of the South Korean company's first plug-in hybrid model.

We have become accustomed to the style and refinement of the luxurious Optima saloon and more recently the Optima Sportswagon estate, but now Kia has introduced the Optima PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle).

Priced from £31,495 which includes the Government's £2,500 plug-in car grant, the latest model can achieve up to 33 miles of all-electric driving, boasts fuel economy up to 176.6mpg and has carbon emissions of just 37g/km.

And for business drivers those figures equate to just seven per cent benefit-in-kind tax in 2016-17.

The Optima PHEV cleverly combines a 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 50kW (67bhp) electric motor and when they work in tandem they can generate 202bhp and 375Nm of grunt.

The batteries are neatly integrated behind the rear seat and in the spare wheel well which, along with a 15-litre reduction in the car's fuel tank capacity, means the Optima PHEV still boasts a generous boot size of 307 litres - the standard Optima can accommodate 510 litres.

The car looks elegant and dynamic from any angle thanks to 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and headlights, plus a package of aerodynamic and styling changes that help distinguish it from the standard saloon. These include an all-new active air flap grille which automatically closes when the engine cooling requirements are at their lowest so allowing air to pass more efficiently around the car.

Other distinguishing features are blue-tinted headlights and chrome enhancements with a metallic blue finish on the lower front air grille, the tiger-nose main grille and the side sills.

There is ‘ECO plug-in' badging on the front wings and the recharging port is positioned in the left front wing.

Move into the smartly-styled cabin and it's impossible not to be impressed with the level of technology that greets you.

Creature comforts include the likes of faux leather seats with powered adjustment, an eightinch colour touchscreen navigation system with reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, dual zone air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, a Harman Kardon 10-speaker sound system, a wireless smartphone charger and plenty more besides, including all the connectivity facilities you could ever wish for.

Exclusive to this particular Optima PHEV is a series of menus that display data regarding the car's EV range, nearby charging stations and energy usage based on driving style.

There are some innovative hybrid technologies featuring in the car to help the driver get the best possible mileage from the resources and a choice of Eco and Normal driving modes help achieve maximum efficiency or higher performance.

The Optima PHEV can be charged from empty in about three hours, but there are many ways of increasing battery charge levels on the move such as through regenerative braking.

The car also boasts a remarkable Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning system which was first seen in the Kia Soul EV and allows only the driver's side of the car to be cooled when the other seats are unoccupied.

We drove the Optima PHEV on a combination of winding country lanes and faster German motorways and it was up to any challenge put in its path.

It can sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 9.1 seconds, tops out at 121mph and features the economy figures mentioned above. It can achieve up to 33 miles of pure electric driving and that's at speeds up to 75mph.

The start-up is beautifully silent and the car accelerates away in a smooth and efficient manner. In fact, one of the most impressive features of this model is how seamless the switch between electric and hybrid driving is. There is no jolting, loud engine acoustics or sudden surges in power - it's all wonderfully refined.

The road-holding is assured and the steering nice and precise. It would be fair to say that most of the time, the car handles like a normal car and you wouldn't even remember its PHEV characteristics.

Passenger comfort is very high and the car has a very premium feel to it with soft-touch materials and a wealth of first rate techno treats to be explored.

Add in the comprehensive list of safety specifications and the latest arrival to the ever-growing Optima line-up is a very welcome addition that will certainly tick all the right boxes when it comes to business cars.

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