Kia Hybrids: Ready for Higher Gas Prices.
by The Car Family
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This is the best time to look into hybrids with new fuel taxes on the horizon and no better place to start are with the new Kia Niro SUV and Kia Optima starting at $22,890 and $25,995 while pushing past 40 mpg. No doubt these Kias with their exceptional reliability rating and stellar warranty are worth considering especiallyconsidering the average new car is going for $32,000.

With most readers having an average one-way commute time of over 30 minutes and 15 percent spending an hour in traffic these hybrids are ideal, essentially offering savings up to 50 percent in fuel savings over typical competitors.

Kia Niro Hybrid Overview: This is a subcompact SUV and is priced under most of the hybrid competition. You can average nearly 50 mpg overall which is outstanding for a car this versatile. It has a slightly higher stance and comfortable seats, but the real star is the way six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts.

2017 Niro – Red

Kia Optima Hybrid overview: The 2017 is new and appealing offering a calm driving experience, plenty of cargo room and 40 mpg average. Loaded with technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and safety features that include autonomous emergency braking. The ride is quiet and you get 13.4 cubic feet of storage with a lot of inside bins for personal items. Although the exterior is not as exciting as some competitors, it nevertheless looks sleek and should age well. You can also get an Optima plug-in.

2017 Optima Hybrid

Mom’s view: The Niro is fun, but get the EX model as it offers so much more with heated seats, blind spot monitoring and an abundance of other safety and convenience features. The less expensive FE is the mileage champ, but a warm bottom is well worth the extra for the upgraded model. You can get the more loaded Touring and Touring Launch as well, but their isn’t any all wheel drive option on any model. The back seats of the EX fold down giving you ample room for packages. The Optima hybrid allows you to select Eco or Sport mode outside of the standard setting. Eco takes the edge off driving and gives you superior mileage, but the cost is more relaxed acceleration. Sport brings the Optima on boil and is excellent for passing or lane merging.

2017 Optima Hybrid interior

Dad’s view: The Niro is a 1.6 liter four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid with 6-speed dual-clutch automatic drive train. It is fun to drive, but it isn’t going to set any speed records. The brakes on both vehicles take a while to get used to as they regenerate the batteries. This is good as it save on brake wear, but can be abrupt at times until a gentle touch is mastered. Steering is quite good and makes the Niro nimble and corners well. The electric motor works with the transmission and makes driving in heavy traffic easy. The Optima has an electric motor and 2.0-liter engine that combine to produce 192 hp. While most hybrids have a continuously variable transmission, but the Optima Hybrid sticks with a six-speed automatic transmission for a more traditional shifting feel.

Young working woman’s view: The Niro isn’t as comfortable to drive as the larger Optima with the latter being quieter as well. The Optima seats are fairly flat and so heavier drivers will find them a good fit. Entering and exiting both cars is easy, but the larger doors on the Optima make it a long reach to close at times. Both cars are good for those with mobility problems with just a little step over to get into a seat. The slopping roof of the Optima restricts rear vision, but the excellent rear view camera takes care of that problem. Interestingly, the vehicles are loaded with pockets for caring everything from large water bottles to small handwipes. As similar as these two Kia products are they appeal to a very different buyer. The Niro is handy and versatile. Perfect for the active family. The Optima is larger and more gentrified, perfect for those who like a quieter ride and more space. I like larger cars, but worry about mall parking lots. The special rear and skyward views on the monitor relieves that stress.

2017 Niro interior

Back to school male’s view: Working on my computer security certificate, but in the meantime the Kia’s offered some excellent technology, although the GPS was a bit slow. We had the Harman Kardon system, which was fine, and the optional wireless smartphone charging worked well. There is an adaptive cruise control and voice control, including Siri. My choice would be the handy Niro. Looks good, handy, and fuel frugal.
Family conference: The front-wheel-drive Optima hybrid has been restyled this year and improved in many areas and the Niro is all new. Kia’s warranty is special with a basic five year/60,000 coverage and roadside assistance and 10 years and 100,000 miles on the powertrain. Kia ranks highest among all automotive industry nameplates in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study and this is the first time a non-luxury brand has led the industry. Others to consider are the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue.

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