South Korean automaker Kia has announced some updates to its 2013 Optima Hybrid model; changes to the sedan should make it more fuel efficient and more powerful. Most of the updates are mechanical: The hybrid now has a 47-horsepower electric motor, a stronger stop-start generator and a more powerful lithium-polymer battery. This translates into slightly different numbers for the Optima Hybrid: Total system horsepower drops a bit to 199 from 206, but combined torque is increased significantly from 195 pounds-feet to 235. That should make for more responsive off-the-line acceleration.
The new Optima Hybrid is also now available in two trim levels, base and EX, with differences in equipment levels and even fuel economy. The base model is more efficient than its predecessor, earning an EPA rating of 36/40 mpg city/highway. The EX model -with additional equipment like a navigation system, backup camera, eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats and 17-inch aerodynamic wheels — gets 35/39 mpg. Both models now feature more trunk space as well, thanks to a repackaged battery pack that no longer intrudes as much into the cargo area.
Much of the car carries over, including the extensive use of specialized parts over the regular Optima, such as lighter-weight aluminum suspension components and special aerodynamic aids like a lower ride height and full belly pan, both of which reduce drag.
No pricing has yet been announced for the updated Hybrid, but we are not expecting any major changes from the current model's sticker. The 2012 model starts at $26,550, including a $750 destination fee. The 2013 Optima Hybrid goes on sale next month.