The 2020 Kia Optima combines the value, room and practicality of a midsize family sedan with aggressive styling, a premium luxury interior and one of the best factory warranties in the business. The Optima once stood alone in its class, but its success has clearly given the green light to the radical new looks of the latest iterations of the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima.
In contrast to its long and low roofline, the Optima is actually quite roomy inside, with excellent legroom in the front and rear and a large trunk. Kia is renowned for its ability to deliver a well-equipped vehicle at a modest price point, and the 2020 Optima follows suit. Even the most inexpensive model comes equipped with features one wouldn’t expect in a base car.
Power is never in short supply, as the Optima offers two turbocharged engines and one normally aspirated unit, as well hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. When pitted against rivals — specifically the Accord, the Camry and the Chevrolet Malibu — the Optima shines brightly, even if it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, which you can get on the Ford Fusion and the Altima and which comes standard on the Subaru Legacy.
Inside, the Optima delights with its modern styling and impressive list of standard and available features. Small touches, such as the available 10-way power passenger seat, make a big difference. So, too, do the luxury options, which include a massive panoramic glass sunroof, heated rear seats and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
What’s New for 2020?
The Optima has a slightly shuffled model range: There’s a new EX Premium trim, and a few option packages have been dropped. Forward-collision avoidance assist has been enhanced to include pedestrian detection on the LX and S trims. See the 2020 Kia Optima models for sale near you
What We Like
Standard collision-avoidance systems
Impressive standard and optional equipment list
Choice of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines
Good fuel economy
What We Don’t
Limited rear-seat headroom
Imprecise handling, compared with some rivals
The 2020 Optima offers a choice of three gasoline-powered engines. Standard on the LX and S trims is a 2.4-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder good for 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is also standard. On the LX trim, this engine is rated at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. On the S, it’s 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Next is an available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine offered only on the EX trim that produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 1.6T gets an impressive 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy.
Finally, there’s the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine available only on the top-level SX trim. This engine produces a healthy 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates for the 2.0T are a respectable 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Kia Optima is offered in five trims.
The Optima LX ($23,190) has a 2.4-liter engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels, power windows, power locks, power heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, air conditioning, cruise control, 6-speaker UVO audio with an 8-in touchscreen, rear back-up display, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an iPod/USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist, forward-collision warning and braking with pedestrian detection, driver-attention warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, 60/40 split folding rear seats and adjustable steering settings.
The Optima S ($24,690) adds a sport front bumper, 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, projector-beam LED fog lights, LED taillights, sport cloth seats with leatherette bolsters, a smart key with push-button start capability, a smart trunk, UVO telematics with 4G LTE, a 10-way power driver’s seat and acoustic front-door glass.
The S Panoramic Sunroof Package ($1,000) adds a panoramic sunroof and LED interior lighting.
The Optima EX ($26,990) has a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, 17-in alloy wheels, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, dual-projection headlights, automatic dual-zone climate control, wireless device charging, two rapid-charge USB ports, wood-trim interior accents, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, a 12-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support and 2-position memory for the driver’s seat and mirrors.
The EX Premium trim ($29,990) adds a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a 12-way power driver’s seat with memory, a 10-way power passenger seat, LED interior lighting, a navigation system, a 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, heated rear seat cushions and a heated steering wheel.
The Optima SX ($31,990) offers the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, an upgraded steering and suspension setup, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, 18-in alloy wheels, chrome dual exhaust tips, red brake calipers, adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated sport front seats, a 10-way power passenger seat, navigation, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a rear spoiler, a 4.3-in LCD display panel, satin chrome interior accents and metal pedals.
Every 2020 Kia Optima comes standard with a full complement of airbags, including front-seat side, full-length side-curtain and driver’s-knee airbags. Electronic traction and stability control are standard, as are Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management system, hill-start assist and a tire-pressure monitor. Advanced safety features include collision warning and emergency braking, lane-keeping assists, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and driver-attention warning.
The Optima earned five stars in every test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2018 Optima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all crash tests, including a Superior rating in crash detection and mitigation. We expect the 2020 Optima to perform the same.
Behind the Wheel
We drove a model the 2.0-liter turbo-equipped SX trim during our test in Aspen, Colorado. Despite the thin air, the Optima’s 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque delivered a spirited performance, with a manageable, predictable level of turbo lag. We thought the performance every bit as satisfying as the Optima’s best V6 rivals, and its fuel economy was more than acceptable. Four drive modes are selectable via a center-console switch (Comfort, ECO, Sport and Smart), and they affect the electric power steering, throttle response and transmission shift points. The steering was noticeably better in Sport mode, as it killed some of the numbness that cropped up on center in the other modes. Handling, on the whole, is better than on previous Optimas, regardless of mode.
On the road, the Optima was exceptionally quiet, though the ride was somewhat firm. If you’re looking for comfort over performance, the smaller wheel and tire packages and more pliant suspension settings of the LX and EX trims might make a better choice. The Optima’s seats are impressively well constructed, with good thigh and back support.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Honda Accord — The Accord sports a sporty new look and offers a choice of two turbocharged 4-cylinder engines. The Optima still offers more luxury features, but the Accord has better resale value.
2020 Toyota Camry — The Camry is also looking much sharper these days, sporting aggressive styling to go with its class-leading reliability and resale figures. The Camry retains its V6 engine option and standard driver-assist systems, but the Optima still offers more luxury features and a better warranty.
2020 Subaru Legacy — The Legacy isn’t as powerful or as fun to drive as the Optima, but its standard AWD makes it superior in winter driving, and its resale numbers are near the top of the class.
Surprisingly, we think the base LX offers everything you need in a family sedan, especially with the addition of pedestrian detection for 2020. The value prospect for more upscale buyers is probably the EX Premium trim. Find a Kia Optima for sale