2020 Kia Optima

2020 Kia Optima Review: The Solid All-Round Value Proposition

by Jared Rosenholtz

There's been a lot to admire about the Kia Optima since its introduction to the US market where it was the most popular Kia from 2012 to 2015. From its stylish design to its featureful lineup, it has always been a value-rich offering boasting class and refinement. There is now even more to like from the 2020 model, with the midsize sedan having received some safety-focused alterations for the new year - a year that'll likely be this generation's last with an all-new model on the way for 2021. The class is a highly competitive one though, with the venerable Honda Accord and Toyota Camry effectively keeping the Optima in check. Even so, there's an Optima model for nearly everyone, with five trims to choose from, and three engine options available - ranging from a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder mill, to a 245-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-pot. With two transmission options available as well, will the Optima be able to regain a foothold in the segment for 2020?

2020 Kia Optima Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Optima?

For the 2020 model year, the EX Premium is now a specified trim rather than an options package, and the LX and SX Limited packages have been discontinued as Kia trims the fat in preparation for an all-new Optima. Features-wise, the forward collision-avoidance system on LX and S trims have been upgraded with pedestrian detection as standard, and wireless smartphone charging is now fitted to all EX and SX trims off the factory floor.

Pros and Cons

  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Extensive feature specification
  • Commodious in-cabin
  • Plenty of small-item storage
  • Expansive trunk cargo room
  • Loads of standard safety
  • Lackluster engine options
  • Not as fuel-efficient as rivals
  • Uninspiring driving experience

Optima Exterior

The Optima carries Kia's signature design character with its gloss black Tiger Nose grille and chrome accents; the grille is underscored by a black air intake integrated with a black lower air dam, while on either side of the front fascia there is a functional L-shaped air intake and foglight housing. Halogen projector headlights are standard across the lineup along with LED daytime running lights and a high-mounted LED rear stop lamp. All but the LX are fitted with LED rear combination lamps and halogen front fog lights, the SX is the only with adaptive LED headlights and LED fog lights. 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on the LX, the S is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, the EX and EX Premium with 17-inch alloy wheels, and the SX with 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels.

2020 Kia Optima Front View Kia
2020 Kia Optima Rear View Kia
2020 Kia Optima Front Angle View Kia
See All 2020 Kia Optima Exterior Photos

Dimensions

A firm fixture in the midsize sedan segment, the Kia Optima bears similar dimensions to chief rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It's 1.1 inches shorter than the Accord with an overall body length of 191.1 inches, while its wheelbase is shorter by an inch too, at 110.4 inches. The Optima stands slightly taller in stature with an overall height of 57.7 inches, and is fractionally narrower than the Accord with a width of 73.2 inches. Curb weights range from 3,230 lbs with the base Optima trim to 3,558 lbs with the top-spec model, making the Optima around 100 pounds heavier than the Accord.

Exterior Colors

There are seven exterior color options with availability dependant on your chosen trim. For all trims there's no-cost Ebony Black, Sparkling Silver, and Horizon Blue, as well as Snow White Pearl, which costs an additional $495. For the S and SX trims, there's Passion Red which also carries an additional cost of $495. Gravity Gray and Sangria can also be had on all but the S, and SX trims. The Snow White Pearl is an excellent option for any of the trims without access to the Passion Red, which is the ideal hue for the Optima's sporty demeanor, but both colors enhance the Optima's black and chrome exterior accents and contrast well with the black panoramic sunroof glass on the EX Premium and SX trims.

  • Snow White Pearl
  • Passion Red
  • Horizon Blue, Build Out: 11/30/2019
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Ebony Black
  • Sparkling Silver, Available 01/01/ 2020.
  • Gravity Grey
  • Sangria

Optima Performance

With three powertrains across the lineup, including 1.6-liter, 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter motors, the Optima's best straight-line performance comes from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot which is mated to the six-speed automatic gearbox in the top-spec SX trim. With this powertrain, the Optima is gifted with outputs of 245 hp and 260 lb-ft and accelerates from 0-60 mph in a class-average 6.8 seconds. While anything under seven seconds is respectable for the class, that's a lot slower than Honda Accord, which, with its detuned Civic Type R 2.0T engine and ten-speed automatic, accelerates from 0-60 mph in an impressive 5.7 seconds. With the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-pot mill and the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the Optima makes the 0-60 mph run in a slower 7.3 seconds, on par with the Hyundai Sonata. The 2.4-liter naturally aspirated mill is the slowest of the lot, getting the Optima up from 0-60 mph in an uninspiring 7.5 seconds.

While it's common that most, if not all, vehicles in this class are offered solely as front-wheel-drive vehicles, Toyota just came out with an all-new all-wheel-drive variant of the Camry, and Subaru offers only AWD in its Legacy.

2020 Kia Optima Side View Kia
2020 Kia Optima Rear Angle View Kia
2020 Kia Optima Engine Kia

Engine and Transmission

The base powertrain is comprised of a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, directed to the FWD system via a six-speed automatic gearbox. While competent enough in getting the LX and S models on the go, the 2.4-liter doesn't feel as refined as the other engine options; its responses aren't as consistently smooth and with heavier throttle inputs it tends to get loud and feels less in-tune with the gearbox, occasionally stumbling and hesitating on a downshift.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, standard in the EX and EX Premium, with its peak outputs of 178 hp and 195 lb-ft is much more pleasant. It's designed to be the most efficiency-minded mill of the three, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox it's mated to proves to be a favorable alternative to the typically used CVT. The engine is surprisingly peppy despite its penchant for efficiency, and though with less hp, its 17 extra lb-ft has its acceleration responses feel far more robust throughout driving. Furthermore, the gearbox is smoother and slicker-shifting under acceleration, and if powerful acceleration is less a priority than refinement, this could well be the Optima's choice powertrain.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is solely equipped in the SX and is the most potent of the lot, delivering 245 hp and 260 lb-ft to the front wheels of the optima via the six-speed automatic gearbox. The engine packs plenty of punch for the Optima and delivers ample thrust in a linear and consistent manner. It's a great engine for the class, but its beat by most comparable rival engines and is considerably less economical than the lineup's alternatives.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 7-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Most of the Optima trims are equipped with a suspension tuned ideally for comfort, and they do ride comfortably with a mostly buttoned-down feel. Typical suburban and highway road imperfections and undulations are suitably smoothed over and absorbed, and the Optima's chassis remains composed and without excessive body movements. The SX's sport-tuned suspension copes with rough surfaces admirably, too, despite sporty inclinations.

The Optima is quite impressive when it comes to handling as well, its steering responses are accurate and fast without feeling overly darty at higher speeds; it always tracks straight, though it is rather light on feedback, and its suitably heavy weighting provides a sensation of solidity. There is a slight hint of understeer when pushing on too hard through corners, but the vehicle manages to remain firmly planted to the asphalt providing the driver with some confidence. The brakes also provide decent, consistent stopping power - not too aggressive, nor too weak, the pedal is easy to modulate in high traffic conditions.

The SX trim is equipped with some advanced underpinnings, including an electric-power-steering motor directly mounted to the rack, as opposed to the column as in other trim levels. This means that the SX turns into corners more aptly and, by virtue of its other specially-tuned mechanics, delivers a surprisingly improved ride quality with fewer disturbances transmitted to the cabin. Still, it lacks the sportiness of rivals like the Honda Accord and is better left to more sedate driving conditions.

Optima Gas Mileage

The 1.6-liter turbo-four engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox are the most efficiency-minded pairing; equipped in both the EX and EX Premium this powertrain returns impressive EPA estimates of 27/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined. Still, the Honda Accord is slightly more fuel-efficient though, with its most economic trim returning EPA estimates of 30/38/33 mpg on those same cycles. The LX, which is equipped with the 2.4-liter four-pot and six-speed auto gearbox returns 25/35/29 mpg. The S, which carries the same powertrain proves a little less efficient, returning 24/32/27 mpg, while the SX, with its 2.0-liter turbo-four and six-speed auto, is the least fuel-efficient trim, returning EPA estimates of 21/30/24 mpg. All models are equipped with an 18.5-gallon gas tank, which allows the 1.6-liter turbo-four to travel up to 573 miles before requiring a refuel.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 24/32 mpg
* 2020 Kia Optima LX Automatic

Optima Interior

Though a lot of the Optima's interior is made up of mostly black materials, including the dash and door cards, all of these are high-quality materials with a soft-touch feel. The dash features simulated stitching, and gunmetal accents border the infotainment touchscreen and outer AC vents, with gloss black accents bordering the buttons and inner AC vents. The door-integrated armrests are nicely positioned along with the center armrest and are covered with comfortable soft-touch padding. The visual impression may be very plain, but the materials themselves accord the cabin with a high-value feel. The build quality is exceptional too; materials are properly integrated and fixtures and fittings firmly attached. The doors close with a solid feel, and the overall interior impression is one of comfort with impressive ergonomics.

2020 Kia Optima Steering Wheel Kia
2020 Kia Optima Driver Seat Kia
2020 Kia Optima Central Console Kia
See All 2020 Kia Optima Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

There is adequate seating for up to five occupants in the Optima, even for five adults, thanks to the rear outboard seats, which have been designed to utilize the available space effectively to create a spacious, wide seating area. And, whether it be with the cloth or leather upholstery, the seats are extraordinarily comfortable, they offer cushioned comfort even throughout extended journeys, and offer ample support thanks to sporty contouring and bolstering. The cabin is commodious too, with ample head and legroom provided throughout, even for adults who are six-feet tall. Ingress and egress are no issue either, thanks to the spacious cabin and sizable seats, which are set at moderate seating height. The driver's seating position is ergonomic and is set well behind the controls with everything in reach, and with good outward visibility all-round.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Every Optima model comes with a cosmetically varying interior. The LX is equipped with seats upholstered in black cloth with brown cloth as an alternative option - a urethane steering wheel is standard, a tri-cot headliner, and behind the front seats are mesh type map pockets. The S's seats are upholstered in black leatherette and cloth, with black sport cloth upholstery optional, and features a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Genuine black leather seating is standard in the EX and EX Premium, with black and gray sport leather seating-appointments available, too. The seats in the SX are black sport leather with red stitching, although black and red sport leather upholstery is optional.

Optima Trunk and Cargo Space

Despite the Optima's 15.9 cubic feet of trunk room not being the best in the segment, it's still a strong effort - rivals like the Honda Accord are a little more practical, with 16.7 cu-ft behind the rear seats, while the Toyota Camry offers only 15.1 cubes. The Optima's cargo space is good for safely hauling that new 65-inch TV and if it's an 80-inch you want, then you'll be happy to know that the rear seats are 60/40 split-folding and can accommodate bigger items.

There's an abundance of in-cabin storage solutions for passengers, with wide, bottle-holder integrated door side pockets on every door, a sealable front-center cubby, two open storage bins in the center console, a spacious center armrest cubby, dual cupholders, a sizable glove box compartment, two seatback map pockets, and dual cupholders in the rear center seat backrest.

2020 Kia Optima Trunk Space Kia
2020 Kia Optima Rear Angle View 1 Kia
2020 Kia Optima Taillights Kia
  • Trunk Volume
    15.9 ft³

Optima Infotainment and Features

Features

The Optima lineup is value-packed with features, even from the base-spec trim. The LX comes standard with remote keyless access, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a 3.5-inch mono TFT LCD information display, a day/night rearview mirror, manual air conditioning, and six-way manually-adjustable front seats. Equipped in the Optima S is a smart key system with push-button start and smart trunk release, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-up/down front windows, and a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat. The EX is fitted with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. The EX Premium boasts a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, a twelve-way power-adjustable driver's seat with a two-position memory system, a ten-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a panoramic sunroof, and ambient interior lighting with variable colors. The SX is upgraded with a 4.3-inch color TFT LCD information display and a leather-wrapped perforated D-shaped steering wheel with red stitching and "SX" emblem.

Kia's Drive Wise safety suite brings the driver assists to the table, with all models featuring a standard rearview camera, cruise control, hill-start assist, impact sensing door unlock functionality, blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, rear cross collision warning, rear park assist, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection. The EX, EX Premium, and SX feature a smart cruise control system with stop-and-go functionality, too.

Infotainment

An eight-inch infotainment touchscreen display occupies the center dash of every Optima trim, as of the EX model, installed with Kia's latest UVO Link software which includes full smartphone integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. The system also allows for AM/FM/ radio connectivity with MP3 compatibility, although satellite radio is only introduced as of the EX trim along, with embedded telematics integrated W-Fi modem. Navigation, HD radio, and satellite digital radio are standard in the EX Premium and SX trims. Keeping up with the times, wireless smartphone charging is also standard on EX and SX trims and additionally features an extra charge-only USB port and power outlet in the front and rear of the center console, respectively, for access by rear passengers. While a stock six-speaker audio layout is standard in most trims, a ten-speaker Harman Kardon Quantum Logic premium surround-sound audio system is standard in the EX Premium and SX trims.

Optima Problems and Reliability

There have been no recalls commissioned for the young 2020 Kia Optima, but the 2019 year model fell subject to one with the problem pertaining to the forward collision-avoidance system which may not have engaged on occasion. Fortunately, Kia has upgraded the system this year and the issue should be resolved. Kia does, however, cover the Optima with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and an industry-leading ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Optima Safety

The 2020 Kia Optima scored a top-notch overall safety rating of five-stars out of a possible five stars from the NHTSA. And, having scored top results of Good for all six of the IIHS's specified crash test evaluations for both 2019 and 2020, the Optima carries the authority's top achievement of Top Safety Pick+ for 2019, too.

Key Safety Features

There's a vast array of safety and advanced driver-assist features in every Optima, with the standard selection including seven standard airbags (driver's side knee airbag, dual-front, and full-length side curtain), and essentials such as ESC, ABS, VSM, TCS, as well as a rearview camera, cruise control, hill-start assist, and impact sensing door unlock functionality. Standard driver-assist technology includes blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, rear cross collision warning, rear park assist, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection - from even the entry-level trims and up under the Drive Wise banner. Smart cruise control with stop-and-go functionality and pedestrian radar are added to the EX, EX Premium, and SX models.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Kia Optima a good car?

The Kia Optima is an exceptional vehicle - but it's not the best in the class. While there's a lot to like, especially from the two turbocharged powertrains, which are reasonably powerful and fuel-efficient, many rivals simply manage to perform better in both regards. The Honda Accord is one such rival that also happens to be roomier on the inside and more premium in interior design and quality. But the Optima is, nevertheless, comfortable and spacious, offering plenty of passenger room and a usable trunk, with a wide array of in-cabin storage solutions. The infotainment system is favorable too, coming standard with full smartphone integration and with a premium Harman Kardon audio system in the top-spec trims. Every Optima model also comes equipped with a compendium of safety and advanced driver-assist features as standard - so there's no skimping on safety in lower-level trims - and it boasts a history of exceptional crash test safety ratings from both key authorities. A relatively good reliability rating also contributes to making the Optima one of the most ideal family sedans around. Most of all, the Optima delivers brilliant value within the class, in terms of specification levels versus cost - even the base model comes with many advanced features which other vehicles require you to add on. It's a great buy for anyone, really.

What's the Price of the 2020 Kia Optima?

There is a lot of value within the Optima lineup, with its price range falling slightly below the average midsize sedan costs. The base-spec model of the lineup, the LX, is given a sticker price of $23,190; the Optima S is priced at $24, 690 and is followed by the EX which is priced at $26,990. The EX Premium, which has an MSRP of $29,990, sits below the top-spec SX, which is presented with an MSRP of $31,990.

2020 Kia Optima Models

There are five Optima trims for buyers to choose from, the LX, S, EX, EX Premium, and SX. The LX and S are equipped with a 2.4-liter nat-asp four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox, while the EX and EX Premium are powered by an efficiency-optimized 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that's mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Finally, the SX, which has a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder motor beneath the hood, is mated to the same six-speed automatic gearbox featured in the lower-end trims.

The base-spec LX comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, remote keyless access, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a 3.5-inch mono TFT LCD information display, a day/night rearview mirror, manual air conditioning, and six-way manually-adjustable front seats. The base infotainment setup consists of an eight-inch touchscreen tethered to an AM/FM/MP3 capable stereo with a six-speaker audio layout. It includes full smartphone integration and functionality.

Standard across the lineup, safety-wise, is a rearview camera, cruise control, hill-start assist, impact-sensing door unlock functionality, blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, rear cross collision warning, rear park assist, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection.

In the S you'll receive larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a smart key system with push-button start and smart trunk release, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-up/down front windows, and a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat.

The EX is fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. The infotainment setup is updated with satellite radio connectivity and with an embedded telematics W-Fi modem. There is also wireless smartphone charging. A smart cruise control system with stop-and-go functionality is added to the safety suite.

The EX Premium boasts a heated steering wheel, a twelve-way power-adjustable driver's seat with a two-position memory system, a ten-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a panoramic sunroof, and ambient interior lighting with variable colors. Navigation, HD radio, and satellite digital radio are standard along with a ten-speaker Harman Kardon Quantum Logic premium surround-sound audio system.

The SX is upgraded with 18-inch black alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and fog lights, a 4.3-inch color TFT LCD information display and a leather-wrapped perforated D-shaped steering wheel with red stitching and "SX" emblem.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$23,390
S
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,890
SE
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$26,390
EX
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$27,190
EX Premium
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$30,190
See All 2020 Kia Optima Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Due to being comprehensively specified even at base level, there are no additional packages available for any of the Optima trims, and the only significant standalone option is the power-operated panoramic sunroof, which is available for $1,000 (for those models that don't come with it as standard). With the panoramic sunroof option comes overhead LED front and rear reading lamps and a gloss black door pillar and frame cover. Heated front seats, leather upholstery, LED headlights, and smart cruise control can be specced onto those trims that don't have them.

What Kia Optima Model Should I Buy?

The EX Premium is our model of choice, as it is one of two models, along with the standard EX, that comes with the better-performing 1.6-liter turbo-four engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. This powertrain not only accords the Optima with better straight-line performance than the 2.4-liter engine, but it's also the most fuel-efficient in the entire lineup. The EX would be a suitable pick too, but the EX Premium is well worth the extra $2,000 for the fully-power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, upgraded Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, and the panoramic sunroof.

Check out other Kia Optima Styles

2020 Kia Optima Comparisons

Hyundai Sonata Hyundai
Honda Accord Honda

2020 Kia Optima vs Hyundai Sonata

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is an all-new model this year but still features powertrain options that are similar to those of the Optima's, specifically the 1.6-liter turbo-four. The Sonata has an eight-speed automatic transmission, however, which is slightly more fuel-efficient, returning estimates of 28/38/33 mpg on the EPA drive cycles. Though neither of these sedans are exclusively sporty by design, the Sonata exudes more of a modern, athletic appearance, which may appeal to some. Both are very sedate in their performance, built for the commuters among us and not the racers. The Sonata is also a little more refined on the inside; the cabin is more interesting and exudes more of a premium impression, and it features a larger, available 10.3-inch touchscreen, which just graces the dash beautifully when installed. While the two midsize sedans are very similar in most regards, the Sonata is a little over $500 more than the Optima, which when considering that it's a newer generation with more modern tech, makes it a no-brainer.

See Hyundai Sonata Review

2020 Kia Optima vs Honda Accord

The Honda Accord is a long time - and thriving - rival of the Optima. It's only a little more expensive than the Optima and comes equipped with a 1.5-liter turbo-four engine on base trims, which is not only more powerful than two of the Optima's available powertrains, but it's more fuel-efficient as well. An even more powerful engine is optional for the higher-spec trims of the Accord lineup. The Accord delivers greater performance and a more refined ride than the Optima: it's faster, more capable around the bends, and with all that said, it's still suitably comfortable. Like the Optima, the Accord also comes generously outfitted with features - from comfort and convenience, to safety and driver-assists. And, both vehicles are awarded exceptional crash test ratings as well. The Accord boasts a far more premium-feeling interior though, with a bit more class and visual appeal. Overall, the Honda Accord is a better all-rounder, delivering a little more of everything in comparison to the Optima.

See Honda Accord Review

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