Kia Optima hybrid to enter production this year

Kia’s new saloon will replace the ageing Magentis in its line up at the end of 2011, but Kia aims to introduce a hybrid version in 2012. Production of the hybrid Optima will begin in November 2011.

Already available in the US, the hybrid Optima matches a 2.4-litre petrol engine to a 30Kw electric motor. This allows the car to deliver improved fuel economy over standard petrol models.

A 2.0-litre petrol engine is expected to be used with the Optima for the European market to sit alongside a 1.7-litre turbocharged diesel in the line-up, and Kia predicts a hybrid version would be the most economical car in the mid-size saloon segment.

Kia estimates a 40 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the current 2.4-litre petrol version despite a 0-62mph sprint time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 121mph.

Kia promises the expensive battery pack – often seen as one of the major hurdles for electric and hybrid cars – will not need replacing for ten years and 150,000 miles on the new Optima.

The Kia Optima is an all-new car using the same styling as previous Kia models, including the Kia Sportage and Kia Soul. This includes extra touches such as duel exhausts, solar glass and wing-mirror indicators on the exterior and a more luxurious interior than previously seen from Kia models.

The design has already won a prestigious red dot design award this year, another testament to the revitalisation of the brand under ex-Audi design chief Peter Schreyer.

Pricing and equipment levels for the petrol and diesel versions will be announced closer to the UK launch later in 2011.