Despite the lack of popularity for hybrids in Europe, Korea's second largest vehicle manufacturer has just unveiled the Kia Optima Hybrid for the European market at the Paris Motor Show.
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Unlike the Kia Optima Hybrid offered in North America, the European specification Optima Hybrid uses a 2.0-litre engine coupled to an electric motor instead of a 2.4-litre unit. This results in 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque combined with the Optima’s electric motor's 30kW and 205Nm.

With both powertrains in full force, the Optima Hybrid can sprint from 0-100km/h in 9.4 seconds while using just 5.4 litres per 100km. The figures may be good incentive for diesel-centric Europeans to revisit the hybrid offerings. Compared with the 1.7-litre Optima diesel automatic (not offered in Australia), the hybrid uses 10 per cent less fuel on the combined cycle, 28 per cent less on the urban cycle and produces 21 per cent less pollution.

One of the bigger changes to the hybrid-powered Optima is the new and improved LG made lithium polymer batteries that allow the Optima to travel at up to 100km/h on electric power only. Holding 25 per cent more charge than before and weighing 20 per cent less than nickel-metal-hydride batteries, Kia’s confidence in its new battery system has seen the company offer a seven-year 150,000km battery warranty.

Interestingly, Kia has opted to modify its well-known six-speed automatic transmission to suit the hybrid powertrain instead of using a continuously variable transmission (CVT) like many other manufacturers. Kia transmission engineers have replaced the traditional torque converter with the electric motor and a high-efficiency oil pump. The company says this allows for EV-only operation as well as better regeneration of kinetic energy during braking.

In Europe the Kia Optima Hybrid will be offered in three specification variants but given the limited marketshare of hybrid vehicles in Australia, the European-centric Optima Hybrid, which is left-hand drive only, is not on the agenda for a local release even if it was available in right-hand drive.