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Kia Optima Hybrid offers stylish ride

| Saturday, July 14, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Kia insists the 2012 Optima Hybrid is “not your ordinary hybrid midsize sedan.”

It's quite attractive, as well as fuel-efficient. EPA ratings are 35 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. I averaged 34 mpg during my weeklong test, driving mostly around the local community and some short highway trips.

Along with the gasoline-electric hybrid technology, there are other features designed to maximize fuel economy, such as an active grille shutter and smoother grille trim in high gloss with a chrome ring.

There also are more-aerodynamic headlight pockets, smoother rocker panels, lower front and rear fascia extensions, a rear deck spoiler and a lower ride height.

The result is a sportier, sexier hybrid.

Powering the Optima Hybrid is a 166 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 40-horsepower electric motor, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Driving this car was easy and operation was effortless, except for a little clumsiness in the lower gears. Steering was smooth, and the car was sure-footed on curves and corners. Sharp turns, especially U-turns, were easy with a 35.8-foot curb-to-curb turning radius.

There was a very slight hesitation on acceleration then the Optima responded with plenty of energy.

The leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob are standard. The front center armrest was “leatherette” and all upholstered areas were top-stitched.

Safety features included front-seat mounted side air bags and full-length side-curtain air bags. The car also has side-impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones and an impact-absorbing steering column.

All five seating positions have three-point seat belts, and there are tethers for child safety seats in the three rear positions. The Optima has been rated “Good” in all safety categories by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick for 2012. The passenger compartment of the Optima was stylish, with quality materials and workmanship.

Emma Jayne Williams' auto reviews appear in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.

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