Many people love the idea of a hybrid, but are concerned about hybrid performance in the dead of winter. To answer this question, I took a Kia Hybrid for an extended 2-day demo. Lots of people write about how the Kia Hybrid performs in winter in places like Vancouver or Chicago, but Winnipegians will only trust a real Winnipeg test, so now we’re giving you the real Winnipeg test in January. By the way, Winnipeg’s average temperature in January is between -23 and -13 degrees C.
The Kia Optima Hybrid I drove was a 2012 hybrid that had an MSRP of $30,895 plus freight, fees and taxes. Currently, as of this writing, Kia is showing a $3,400 rebate on this vehicle that puts it on par with its non-hybrid counterpart.
When I was given the keys to this vehicle, it was 6pm, so it was already dark. The car was parked in the back lot where it hadn’t been used for the last 30 days or so. It was a cold January afternoon (-18 degrees C) and the car was sitting under 6 inches of snow and parked behind a row of 8-inch-high snow plows. After cleaning the windshield and driver’s door, I jumped in and hit the quick start button. It started up immediately and the seat quickly adjusted to the preset position. I let it warm up for a minute while I shoveled the rest of the snow off the top of the vehicle. When I got back in the vehicle, I turned off the traction control and pulled out of the snow I was parked in. I drove the car up to the building and put a license plate on it. When I got back to the car it was already warm. This went much faster than I expected and I was impressed.
The first thing customers want to know when it comes to a hybrid is what the fuel economy is. Will you save enough fuel to pay for yourself? The second is how long will the battery last and how much will it cost to replace it?
Let me address the second point first. In Canada, Kia has put a 96-month, 100,000-mile limited warranty on the entire hybrid system. So if your battery fails within the first 8 years or 100,000 miles, you’ll be covered. This will mean that for most consumers battery life and replacement value are not issues.
Kia Optima Hybrid is in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Lowest Fuel Consumption, US 48 States – Gasoline Hybrid Car” as verified by a Guinness World Records adjudicator. In this exhibition they achieved an average of 3.3l/100km. The only thing we find in Winnipeg in January driving through the heart of the city is that you can throw the energy ratings out the window. Regardless of the vehicle you drive, the ratings will actually be about 75% of the actual gas mileage. Others may argue this, but with my driving style and vehicle use, I generally find these numbers to be accurate no matter what vehicle I drive. This was true with the Optima Hybrid. Energuide ratings for this vehicle are 5.8 l/100 km for city driving. Energuide ratings for the non-hybrid Optima are 8.6 l/100 km. The actual mileage I found for these two vehicles in this condition was 8.1 for the Hybrid and 11.7 for the GDI Optima. The Optima Hybrid continues to save a considerable amount of fuel in Winnipeg in the winter compared to its non-hybrid sibling. However, a disclaimer is that the vehicle did not function as an electric vehicle until about 17 km into the trip, so it was sitting at 11-12 l/100 km until the last km where it started to function fully with the EV and average gas mileage plummeted.
So for those wondering if the Hybrid will pay for itself, in this app the answer is a resounding yes. Current rebates on the hybrid make this vehicle similar in price to the Optima EX. So the purchase costs are about the same regardless of whether you choose Hybrid or Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI). If the vehicle travels 100,000 km with this difference in fuel consumption, the savings will amount to $3,780. This number is based on fuel at $1.05/liter. The savings will be greater at higher gas prices. Remember this is based on winter driving only. This will increase for anyone traveling more than 20 km per trip. As stated, the EV motor kicked in after 17km, so gas mileage started to improve considerably. At the other end of the spectrum, if you use your car only to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread, you may not notice any winter savings. I will point out that while driving the Hybrid in the summer, it was running full EV when I went around the block.
So for all of you asking me if a hybrid can withstand our Winnipeg winters, I’ll say “definitely.” It started to get cold after a long stop, handled well on snow-covered roads, saved fuel in the long run, and is priced competitively with the non-hybrid version.