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2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Optima Hybrid a looker with spunk, yes a hybrid with spunk!

Let’s put this right out there, I like Kia’s Optima.IMG_0981

Optima is one of the best looking mid-size cars on the market, looks like a luxury sedan and rides and feels like an entry-level luxury sedan. It also is well equipped for its price, making it a high value front drive car that will carry five comfortably.

What pushed me well toward the “love it” end of my rating spectrum is the tested blue-gray’s hybrid system. Many hybrids are still lackluster when it comes to acceleration and refinement. Kia’s Optima Hybrid EX not only looks great it performs well.

I tested this for a week that included about a 500-mile round trip to Miami County, Ind., and several days of the usual area city driving. I could have gotten by with just one gas fill-up in that period as I averaged 39.5 mpg, basically confirming the EPA estimates. On the highway the trip computer boasted 41 mpg and range was listed at more than 600 miles.

That alone makes Optima a fine highway cruiser, but riding on a 110-inch wheelbase (2 inches shorter than last week’s Ford Fusion) Optima offers a pleasant ride with just a bit of rump bumping on severe bumps. You feel well insulated in the Kia, which features a luxury-quality quiet interior.

IMG_0983But performance is equally smooth and comfortable. Acceleration is decent in full Eco mode where the electric motor portion of the hybrid powerplant does most of the work. However, you can flick off the Eco mode with a touch of your right thumb and the gas engine does more work to give you better than average acceleration. This may be preferred when you’re in serious city traffic where acceleration may be needed to avoid a jam.

While a gas-powered Optima features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a stout 192 horsepower, the hybrid system with the same sized gas engine plus electric assist ups that to 206 horses and 154 lb.-ft. of torque, a bit less than the gas-driven version, but still reasonable. Continue reading 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

2013 Chrysler 200

Chrysler 200 Touring feels like a rental car, but scores with good MPG

I wasn’t expecting much when the silver Chrysler 200 Touring arrived. It’s not a styling leader and isn’t far removed from its Sebring predecessor. It looks like a rental car and feels like one too.Chrysler

This one tried to spiff up a bit with a $495 package that ups the tires from 17-inchers to 18 and adds the S appearance package that blacks out the grille and light bezels and puts an S initial on the trunk. For the price, it helps gussy it up a bit.

But I don’t want to demean the 200, its build quality seems light years ahead of the Sebring, and actually seemed better than the Convertible version I drove last winter. Fiat, which owns Chrysler, has, ironically, improved build, fit and finish at Chrysler.

Yet I have to say, on a 600+ mile trip to Indianapolis and back via back roads in central and northern Indiana, the 200 was comfortable and paid big gas mileage dividends.

Its standard 2.4-liter I4 with variable valve timing delivers a moderate 173 horsepower. But its gas mileage was stellar. I got between 25.5 and 28.5 mpg and topped out at 32 mpg in a straight highway drive. The EPA rates this car at 20 mpg city and 31 highway and the trip computer estimated I could travel 502 miles before a fill-up. That makes for a stellar long-distance driver. Continue reading 2013 Chrysler 200