2020 Kia Optima

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz Senior Editor
July 7, 2020

Buying tip

For around $25,000, the 2020 Kia Optima S strikes a nice balance between price and features.

features & specs

EX Premium DCT
LX Automatic
27 city / 37 hwy
27 city / 37 hwy
24 city / 32 hwy

The 2020 Kia Optima makes for a pleasant mid-size sedan space for those willing to overlook the appeal of crossovers and SUVs.

The 2020 Kia Optima is a mid-size sedan eager to lure buyers away from crossover SUVs with its generous level of standard safety and convenience equipment and a wide lineup that includes a pair of thrifty hybrid choices.

For 2020, the Kia Optima lineup is shuffled to include LX, S, EX, EX Premium, and SX trim levels. The commute-slaying Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid are available in the EX trim only, and they’re limited to mostly West Coast states.

The Optima lineup rates 7.0 out of 10 on our scale, a pleasant reminder that four-door sedans continue to offer tremendous value and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

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Base LX and S Optimas use a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 185 horsepower, while EXs use a 1.6-liter turbo-4 that checks in with 178 hp but improved passing power thanks to the turbo. The Optima SX uses a 2.0-liter turbo-4 good for 245 hp. We like the bookends more than the middle-child EX, which uses a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that can stumble at low speeds.

Hybrids use an inline-4 paired with batteries and an electric motor fuel economy ratings in the 40-mpg range, and the plug-in hybrid version can go nearly 30 miles on electricity alone. No matter what’s underhood, the Optima provides a comfortable, spacious cabin with an average-size 15.9 cubic-foot trunk and materials that range from serviceable to relatively upmarket as the price climbs. 

At every step of the way, the Optima is a good value against its rivals. The base Optima LX wants for little at around $24,000 with its 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power features, and alloy wheels. Last year’s decadent SX Limited with its quilted nappa leather seats is no more, however. 

The Optima comes loaded with good safety gear such as an automatic emergency braking system that adds pedestrian detection this year on all trim levels. Crash-test results are excellent: five stars from the feds and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.


2020 Kia Optima


The 2020 Kia Optima’s styling is familiar but still attractive.

The 2020 Kia Optima doesn’t look quite as bold as it once did now that some rivals have followed suit with similar fastback-style shapes, though we still like it. We rate it 7 out of 10, with points above average for its interior and exterior.

A racy, coupe-like (maybe it’s coupe-lite) roofline gives the 2020 Optima a sporty look echoed by big wheels that fill its wells nicely and a wide palette of bright colors, even if the ones on dealer lots are more likely to be swathed in tans and grays. The Optima S and SX have the sportiest look of all with blacked-out exterior trim and upsized wheels.

Inside, the Optima has a low, somewhat featureless dash that’s less of a cockpit-like style than its predecessor. It may not look as expressive as before, but the latest Optima has a convenient control layout and improved outward vision.

The Optima Hybrids mostly look the same as their non-hybrid siblings aside from badging and wheel designs.

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2020 Kia Optima


The 2020 Kia Optima is short on thrills but delivers a refined, almost luxurious feel.

With a host of engine choices, the 2020 Kia Optima has a complicated performance story to tell. We rate the lineup at 6 out of 10 based on the LX and S versions likely to be most common on dealer lots.

The base Optimas make use of a conventional 2.4-liter inline-4 that sends 185 hp to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is quiet and smooth, and provides decent around-town go. The turbo-4 in the Optima EX and EX Premium has less horsepower (178 hp) but more torque (195 pound-feet) which gives it sprightly passing power. Unfortunately, it’s harder to recommend due to its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that is easily confused at urban speeds. 

The optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the Optima SX offers up 245 hp and predictably delivers better acceleration. It works well with its 6-speed automatic and makes a great choice if your budget stretches to the admittedly pricey range-topper. 

Underneath, the Optima uses the front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension typical to mid-size sedans. It’s tuned for a cushy, plush ride in most configurations, which means it takes big bumps with ease but leans into corners. Even in S and SX guise, the Optima is far from sporty but still sufficiently polished. The electric power steering system is light but delivers good on-center stability. 

A drive-mode selector offers up economy and standard modes in most trims, while the Optima SX includes a sport mode that holds gears longer.

2020 Kia Optima Hybrid

Select dealers on the West Coast may stock hybrid and plug-in hybrid Optimas that use a 2.0-liter inline-4 teamed with electric motors and trunk-mounted batteries. The engine is rated at a modest 154 hp, but the 1.6-kwh battery pack and electric motors ups the ante to a 192-hp net rating. The hybrids are smooth operators that provide acceleration akin to their gas-only siblings, and their 6-speed automatic transmissions are light on drama.

Opt for the Plug-In Hybrid Optima and a 9.8-kwh battery pack and an upgraded electric motor boost net power to 202 hp and offer nearly 30 miles of electric-only driving range. In our testing, however, we’ve found that a healthy throttle application will turn the gas engine on. 

The hybrids ride a little better than their non-hybrid counterparts since they weigh about 200 pounds more. 

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2020 Kia Optima

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Kia Optima has a well-wrought interior, though rear-seat head room is a sore spot.

Front-seat riders will find comfortable seats and good outward vision in the 2020 Kia Optima. Rear-seat riders may want to remove their hats. 

Overall, the sedans come in at 7 out of 10 for their interiors, with points above average for cargo space and interior room.

The standard front seats are supportive and offer a good range of adjustment. Ten-way power adjustment is standard on S and higher trims for the driver, while EX Premium and SX trims include additional lumbar support. A power passenger’s seat comes on EX Premium and SX Optimas as well. 

Rear-seat riders will find a reasonable 35.6 inches of leg room but just 37.8 inches of head room thanks to the sloping roofline. Low-cut door openings make entering and exiting a chore, too. 

Materials inside are good for the price. The standard cloth seats on the Optima LX have a durable feel, while the synthetic leather/cloth trim on the Optima S is a nice upgrade. Leather upholstery is standard on EX and SX trims.

The trunk holds 15.9 cubic feet of cargo on standard Optimas. Hybrids cut that to 13.4 cubes, while the Optima Plug-In Hybrid can haul just 9.8 cubic feet of luggage.

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2020 Kia Optima


The Kia Optima comes with a high level of safety gear and has done well in crash tests.

Good crash test scores and a wide range of standard collision-avoidance tech help the 2020 Kia Optima earn 8 out of 10 points on our scale.

This year, every 2020 Optima includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control in addition to a full complement of airbags and stability control. Adaptive cruise control comes on higher-trim cars. 

The insurance industry-funded IIHS rated last year’s Optima a Top Safety Pick+, but only with the LED headlights fitted to the range-topping Optima SX. The standard halogen headlights on other versions rate just “Poor,” the lowest possible score.

Meanwhile, the feds scored last year’s Optima at five stars overall.


2020 Kia Optima


The 2020 Kia Optima is well-equipped for the money and can be had a wide range of trim levels.

Every version of the 2020 Kia Optima is packed with features we don’t often see at their price points. We arrive at 9 out of 10 based on the car’s good standard equipment, its wide lineup, its stellar infotainment software, and a terrific warranty.

The base Optima LX costs about $23,000 and wants for little with its power features, active safety gear, alloy wheels, and 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

At the other end of the lineup, the Optima SX costs about $33,000 and includes a 245-hp turbo-4, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a power panoramic moonroof, and adaptive cruise control. Range-toppers use the same infotainment software but add baked-in navigation and 10 Harman Kardon speakers. 

We’d have a hard time saying no to the base Optima LX, though the $2,000 Kia charges for the Optima S buys 18-inch wheels, fog lights, a power driver’s seat, keyless ignition, and a host of exterior styling upgrades that may appeal to some buyers.

Regardless of trim, all Optimas come with an unusually long 5-year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. 

Optima Hybrid features

The Optima Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid come in just one trim level—EX—and they’re not offered outside of select Western U.S. states. 

The EX is pleasantly equipped with leather seats that are heated up front, a power moonroof, and a few other features. Kia asks about $30,300 for the base Hybrid and charges $4,500 more for a package loaded up with a panoramic moonroof, Harman Kardon speakers, LED lights, cooled front seats, and more. 

The Plug-In Hybrid costs $37,000 and tops $40,000 with that same option package, though buyers may qualify for state and local incentives. 

Review continues below

2020 Kia Optima

Fuel Economy

Standard versions of the 2020 Kia Optima are just average when it comes to fuel economy, though the hybrids are miserly.

It pays to look closely when it comes to the 2020 Kia Optima’s fuel economy. The lineup ranges from just average with the base engines to downright thrifty hybrids.

We rate the lineup at 5 out of 10 based on the more popular base engine.

It’s rated at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined. The Optima EX uses a turbo-4 that rates an impressive 27/37/31 mpg. Go for the powerful Optima SX, however, and those estimates drop to just 21/30/24 mpg. 

Hybrids are impressive: 40/45/42 mpg for the standard model. The Plug-In Hybrid rates 41 mpg combined and 101 MPGe with a full charge, as well as a 28-mile range. However, both hybrids are available only in certain markets concentrated around the Western U.S.

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