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2011 Kia Optima Hybrid: What We Noticed

I took the new 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid for a spin Wednesday at a launch event in Washington, D.C. It has enough power for daily driving, but if you’re looking for a family sedan, you may dislike its tiny trunk.

The $26,500 Optima Hybrid is a sharp-looking car. I got several looks from other drivers as I drove the sleek, black sedan around D.C.

I spoke with Adam Perlow, director of retail sales operations for Kia, and he told me, “Kia is focused on young, sporty, value-oriented cars.”

It’s no surprise that a young person might consider the Optima Hybrid, but what about someone in their 50s or 60s?

Perlow says the Optima Hybrid would appeal to anyone considering a midsize car. “People of older generations want to feel young,” he says. “It has the safety, features and fuel economy they want at a good price.”

The car I drove had ample tech features, including standard Bluetooth and optional navigation.

During my drive, the Optima Hybrid hesitated when I hit the gas from a complete stop, taking a second to kick in. This is because the car’s engine shuts off when the car is stopped to conserve fuel. Once the engine started, the four-cylinder had ample pep to merge with traffic on the interstate and pass slow-moving cars. I had to hit the brakes a few times because I didn’t realize how fast I was going, especially since the engine is so quiet.

There’s plenty of passenger space, but as with many other hybrids, the trunk space was compromised because of the hybrid’s battery pack. If you have kids, I don’t see how the Optima Hybrid’s 9.89 cubic-foot trunk will cut it. At best, one large suitcase and two small carry-on bags will probably fit. Fitting a week’s worth of groceries might also be a challenge, and because the battery is back there, you can’t fold the back seats down. The gas-only Optima has significantly more trunk space at 15.43 cubic feet.

Overall, the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is ideal for younger people who prioritize green driving and don’t have kids, or empty-nesters who want to feel hip and cool. But if you need decent cargo space, this isn’t the car for you.

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