2020 Kia Optima Review
  • Car Review

2020 Kia Optima Review

By Autolist Editorial | October 14, 2020

Quick Facts:


  • Sleek, stylish exterior.
  • Wealth of technological perks.
  • Stellar safety ratings.
  • Impressive fuel economy.


  • Short on rear-seat headroom.
  • No available all-wheel-drive.
  • Transmission shifts can be slow.

Vehicle Type: A four-door, five-passenger midsize sedan.

Price Range: $23,190 to $37,000, before options.

Powertrain: A 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

There are two optional powertrains:
A 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

A 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Front-wheel drive is standard for all powertrains.

More Photos

See more 2020 Kia Optima photos here.



The 2020 Kia Optima is a new car in the fifth generation of Kia midsize sedans. This model year keeps most aspects of the 2019 Optima, but several features across the new model's trim levels have changed in small ways. The standard forward collision mitigation system now has pedestrian detection, for example. The SX Limited and LX Premium trims have also been cut, leaving the LX, S, EX, EX Premium, and SX.

This midsize sedan remains an excellent family hauler or commuter, offering ample comfort with its rakish profile, plush cabin, and a diverse suite of safety and driver assistance amenities. The Optima's primary rivals are the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

Three engines are available for the Optima, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard. Two hybrid models are also available, one conventional gas-electric powertrain and a plug-in hybrid with a limited electric-only range.

Overall Score: 8/10

Safety Features: 7/10


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2020 Kia Optima an overall five-star score, the highest rating. Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the sedan a perfect overall crash test score. It also gave the Optima its Top Safety Pick Plus Award.

Standard safety features for this midsize sedan include a rearview camera, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane change assist, and rear parking sensors also come standard.

Higher trim levels offer adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, additional sensors for the forward collision avoidance system, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam control. But some rivals are starting to make these features standard across the model range.

Value: 7/10


All versions of the Optima are aggressively priced against rival midsize sedans. Even the base model is well-equipped, while top versions are less expensive than the highest trim levels of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, for example. The Hyundai Sonata is also aggressively priced and has been completely redesigned for 2020, while the Subaru Legacy represents a good value and comes standard with all-wheel-drive as a bonus.

The Optima comes standard with both a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty for peace of mind.

Tech Features: 8/10


The base trim of the 2020 Kia Optima boasts a wealth of tech amenities, including an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The LX also comes with a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a USB port.

Higher trims have even more features: push-button start, a hands-free unlocking trunk, UVO telematics with 4G LTE, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Higher trims have HD radio, extra USB ports in both the front and rear, a built-in navigation system, and more available driving modes. A wireless charging pad, a 4.3-inch LCD instrument display screen, and rear power outlet are also available, as are a power moonroof or panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive headlights, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Additional sensors are available for the forward collision avoidance system. Various levels of power seat adjustment are also available, depending on the trim level. The power driver's seat has two-way or four-way lumbar adjustments. Some driver's seats come with memory functions for convenience.

Practicality: 7/10


The Kia Optima's trunk has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, except for the hybrid, which only has 13.4 cubic feet, and the plug-in hybrid, which only has 9.8 cubic feet. Folding down the 60/40 rear seats adds cargo space. The Optima doesn't have many extra utility features, but higher trims enjoy a hands-free unlocking trunk, upgraded steering, and a sport-tuned suspension. Some models come with a spare tire instead of the standard tire repair kit.

A generous amount of storage compartments lends extra convenience to this sedan, including front- and rear-door bottle holders and a pair of cupholders for the back, with an overhead bin for sunglasses.

Styling & Design: 8/10


Sporting a sleek roofline and aggressive details, the 2020 Kia Optima is a handsome, sporty-looking vehicle – especially among other midsize sedans. The base model boasts a matte gray-finish grille and LED daytime running lights. Rear spoilers are on offer for higher trims. Although 16-inch alloy wheels come standard, 18-inch alloy wheels are also available on some models. The Optima has competitive space inside among other vehicles in this class. But due to small rear door openings, getting in and out of the sedan can be difficult. Dual-zone automatic climate control is available for the EX trim and above.

The Optima's dashboard is lower than in earlier model years, and the instrument panel has received criticism for being unintuitive. When it comes to cabin comfort, the Optima has gotten many accolades. The cabin materials look high-quality, and the seats are comfortable. The base trim comes with cloth seats, but higher trims have leather seats and sport cloth seats with leatherette bolsters. Some higher trims also have heated front and rear seats and ventilated front seats.

A tilt-and-telescopic steering column is standard. You can also get a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel as well as a flat-bottom steering wheel with wheel-mounted shift paddles. In terms of styling, metal, wood-trim, and satin chrome interior accents are on offer, as are gloss-black exterior accents. Other styling details available on higher trims include chrome dual exhaust tips, red brake calipers, metal pedals, and LED interior lighting. The acoustic front-door glass keeps the noise level in the Optima low.

Driving Experience: 7/10


The base Optima LX uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, but the EX trim has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that gets 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. A 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine is also available for the SX, and it produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard with the Optima, but a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission comes with the 1.6-liter turbo engine.

The Optima is tuned for a smooth ride. It glides over uneven pavement without much effort but also leans into turns somewhat. The sedan has four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Smart, and Sport. Sport has the best steering feedback, but all settings feature the same competent handling. Although the Kia's available sport-tuned suspension makes for a slightly stiffer ride, the available engines are smooth, quiet, and powerful. Models with the six-speed automatic, however, sometimes suffer from slow shifts. The seven-speed transmission is better in this regard, although it can feel jerky at low speeds.

Fuel Efficiency: 8/10


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the base trim of this midsize sedan gets 25 mpg on city roads and 35 mpg on highways for a combined 29 mpg, while the S trim gets 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. By comparison, the EX and EX Premium trims get 27 city, 37 highway, and 31 combined, while the SX trim gets 21 city, 30 highway, and 24 combined. The Optima Hybrid has excellent fuel economy, with an mpg of 40 city, 45 highway, and 42 combined, though the Hybrid Plug-In has an even more impressive combined MPGe of 101.

According to reviewers, the 2020 Optima has better fuel estimates than most rivals, including the nonhybrid versions, though the Toyota Camry is a close competitor. The Optima's Drive Mode Select feature includes an Eco option for even more fuel efficiency.

What’s it Going to Cost Me?


Ranging in price from $23,190 to $37,000, the 2020 Kia Optima comes in five trim levels: the base LX, S, EX, EX Premium, and SX. Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid Optima models are also available.

Starting at $23,190, the Kia Optima LX comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. This trim also features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, and a USB port. All Optima LXs also come with a rearview camera, forward collision warning and automatic braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Lane change assist, a driver drowsiness monitor and attention warning, rear parking sensors, and 16-inch alloy wheels are also standard SiriusXM satellite radio, a USB port, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, and a trip computer are also included.

The Kia Optima S trim, which starts at $24,690, comes with all the features available on the base model plus 18-inch alloy wheels, projector-beam LED foglights, LED taillights, a rear spoiler, and dual exhaust tips. As well, the Optima S has proximity keyless entry, push-button start, A hands-free unlocking trunk, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Sport cloth seats with leatherette side bolsters also come with the S trim, as does a revised front bumper design. This trim also boasts a smart trunk, UVO telematics with 4G LTE, a 10-way power driver's seat, and acoustic front-door glass.

The available Panoramic Sunroof package for the Optima S includes a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, and gloss-black exterior accents.

With a starting MSRP of $26,990, the Kia Optima EX trim boasts an impressive suite of standard features on top of those available at lower levels, though it loses the rear spoiler. In addition to a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which gets 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, this trim sports a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Other features include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and rear air vents. The Optima EX features leather upholstery, additional sensors for the forward collision avoidance system, a wireless charging pad, a rear power outlet, and HD radio. Three USB ports are available, two of which are rapid-charge. Dual-projection headlights, wood-trim interior accents, a power moonroof, and a heated steering wheel come with the EX as well. Rounding out this trim is a 12-way power driver's seat with four-way power lumbar support and two-position memory.

The Kia Optima EX Premium trim starts at $29,990. It comes with a panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, LED interior lighting, and a navigation system. It also brings back the rear spoiler. Additionally, the EX Premium offers driver-seat memory functions, a power passenger seat with two-way lumbar support, ventilated front seats, heated rear seat cushions, and automatic emergency braking and warning. The driver's seat gets four-way power lumbar adjustment.

The Kia Optima SX trim, which starts at $32,190, has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and six-speed automatic transmission. This trim has all the EX Premium's features along with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic high-beam control, upgraded steering, a sport-tuned suspension, red brake calipers, and black-painted exterior accents. The Optima SX also boasts a flat-bottom steering wheel with wheel-mounted shift paddles, a metal interior trim, and a larger driver information display. Whereas other trims levels get a tire repair kit, this one comes with a spare tire. As well, the SX sports chrome dual exhaust tips, adaptive LED headlights, a 10-way power passenger seat, a 4.3-in LCD panel, satin chrome interior accents, and metal pedals.

With a starting MSRP of $30,300, the Kia Optima Hybrid comes with a 2.0-liter inline-four engine with electric motors and trunk-mounted batteries, which together get 154 horsepower. When equipped, the 1.6-kWh battery pack raises the vehicle's horsepower to 192. Along with all the standard features available on the EX trim, the Hybrid comes with a special badge and wheel design.

An optional $4,500 package for the Hybrid throws in a panoramic moonroof, Harman Kardon speakers, LED lights, and cooled front seats.

Finally, the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid, which starts at 37,000, includes the regular Hybrid's 2.0-liter inline-four engine while adding a 9.8-kWh battery pack with an upgraded electric motor for a total output of 202 horsepower and an electric-only driving range of 30 miles.

The Hybrid's $4,500 optional feature pack is available for this model as well.

More Photos

See more 2020 Kia Optima photos here.