Kia shows off new Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid EVs in Chicago (w/Images)

Kia intends to boost is overall fuel efficiency in the US by 25% come 2020. The new Optima Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models are a big part of meeting that goal.

Both use the same 154 horsepower, 2.0 liter four cylinder engine and the same six speed automatic transmission. The Hybrid has a 38 kW electric motor coupled with the transmission and a 1.62 kWh battery mounted under the floor of the trunk. It is expected to have a combined fuel economy rating of 42 mpg.

The powertrain in the Kia Plug-in Hybrid is identical to the one in the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid. It has a 50 kW electric motor and a 9.8 kWh battery mounted behind the rear seat.The Kia gives drivers the same choice between an all electric mode, a hybrid mode that saves electric charge, and a charging mode which charges the battery pack. It features up to 27 miles of all electric range.

Both are visually similar to the regular gas powered Optima sedan, but have subtle visual differences like active grille shutters and other aerodynamic tweaks to lower the coefficient of drag to a remarkable Cd 0.24.

Inside, both cars benefit from the significant upgrades in ride comfort and interior appointments Kia introduced on all Optimas last year. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported on the central touchscreen and a ten speaker, 630 watt Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system is available.

Also available is a suite of active safety and driver assistance systems, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, which brings the car to a stop to avoid a collision or minimize damage.

It is interesting that Kia boldly announces the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid nature of its cars, whereas Chrysler is running away from the plug-in label for its upcoming Pacifica minivan. Chrysler thinks its customers are afraid of the word “plug-in,” while Kia obviously thinks otherwise.

Both of Kia’s new high efficiency models will go on sale in the fall. Expect more details about pricing and available optional features later this year.