Kia Optima: Is the fuel trip computer accurate?

  • Arithmetic tells us the Optima trip computer has got it right
  • Switch 'eco' mode on to achieve optimum fuel economy
  • Optima's fuel consumption consistent at around 43mpg

There are motoring journalists that don't bother calculating their fuel economy the old-fashioned way and none of them are at Parkers.

Thankfully.

I've had conversations with fellow hacks about fuel economy and how they came to their conclusions about certain cars. They'll tell me a figure, then I'll ask them how they got that and they'll say two words that make me wince.

Trip computer.

I like computers because they allow me to make a living. You're reading this on a computer - in whatever form - and my company pays me to write this. It's a good trade-off I think.

Still, as much as I have a fondness for technology - it means I can pay the mortgage - I start getting a little tetchy when I start trusting it to measure fuel consumption accurately. I'm a bitter old journalist after all.

I monitor the Kia Optima's fuel economy obsessively. I'll flick through the trip button at least twice on my 70-mile journey to work to see how the average economy is doing and although it's been variable, it's pretty much stuck around the 45mpg mark as you can see from the photo at the bottom of the page.

For a while I was getting around 40mpg on a regular basis and I couldn't really understand why. I wasn't driving particularly quickly and the journeys were usually on motorways. Bearing in mind the official average economy is listed as 57.6mpg for this particular model, I expected a little more.

Of course, most official claimed fuel consumption figures are pie-in-the-sky. The tests are wholly unrealistic and although they do provide a good way of comparing different models, you have to be driving in an extremely careful fashion in order to achieve them. As a result you might want to lop 10mpg off the official combined fuel consumption stats to get a good indication of a car's real-life fuel economy.

So, I was getting somewhat agitated that I was around 17mpg off the claimed figure for the Optima.

Then at the end of June I discovered the Optima's 'eco' option by flicking through the screen info using the 'trip' button on the steering wheel-mounted controls.

It had been a schoolboy error. Should've read the manual.

Anyway, as you can see from my notebook, in May I was getting around 45mpg. Afterwards I think a miscreant in the Parkers team, who borrowed my car, turned the eco button off and my fuel economy started to plummet as a result.

I suspect Parkers Road Test Editor Simon McBride, but he denies it. I wasn't aware there was an eco mode and as a result of his tomfoolery my fuel economy had gone down as far as 36mpg. McBride generally drives like his backside is on fire and it's no surprise that this figure of 36.25mpg that I've circled on my fuel economy notes occurred when he borrowed the car for a while.

As a result of a simple procedure (turning the eco mode on) my fuel economy started to increase and it's back up to a healthy 45mpg - or thereabouts - on the trip. Average fuel economy according to my calculation is about 43mpg, which isn't far off. I expect it to get better in the coming months.

So, here's a valuable lesson: read the manual, and if you have a Kia Optima turn on the eco mode.

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Current mileage: 7,746 miles

Average mpg: 42.98mpg