2020 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid vs. 2019 BMW i3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW i3 doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The i3 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Autonomous Emergency Braking optional in the Optima Plug-In Hybrid as “Superior.” The i3 scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The i3 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

To help make backing safer, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The i3 doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The i3 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the i3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available around view monitors.

The Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid weighs 521 to 838 pounds more than the BMW i3. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the general design of front seat head restraints for their ability to protect front seat occupants from whiplash injuries. The IIHS also performs a dynamic test on those seats with “good” or “acceptable” geometry. In these ratings, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid with power recline seats is safer than the i3:

Optima

i3

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Restraint Design

GOOD

GOOD

Dynamic Test Rating

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Seat Design

Pass

Fail

Torso Acceleration

13.1 g’s

13.3 g’s

Neck Force Rating

Low

Low

(Lower numerical results are better in all tests.)

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Optima Plug-In Hybrid its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 59 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The i3 was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The i3’s 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 10,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima Plug-In Hybrid 6 years and 50,000 miles longer than BMW covers the i3. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the i3 ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are over 2 times as many Kia dealers as there are BMW dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s warranty.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 32 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 20th, below the industry average.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 8 places higher in reliability than BMW.

Engine

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 32 more horsepower (202 vs. 170) and 92 lbs.-ft. more torque (276 vs. 184) than the i3’s standard electric motor. The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 21 more horsepower (202 vs. 181) and 77 lbs.-ft. more torque (276 vs. 199) than the i3s REx’s standard electric motor. The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 18 more horsepower (202 vs. 184) and 77 lbs.-ft. more torque (276 vs. 199) than the i3s’ standard electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the Optima Plug-In Hybrid running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the i3 REx running on electricity (103 city/100 hwy vs. 107 city/93 hwy MPGe).

On the EPA test cycle the Optima Plug-In Hybrid running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the i3 REx running its gasoline range extender (39 city/44 hwy vs. 30 city/31 hwy).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has 12.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the i3 Range Extender (14.5 vs. 2.3 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s brake rotors are larger than those on the i3:

Optima

i3

Front Rotors

12 inches

11 inches

Rear Rotors

11.2 inches

11 inches

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid has larger tires than the i3 (215/55R17 vs. 155/70R19). The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the i3 (215/55R17 vs. 175/55R20).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the i3’s standard 70 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The i3’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Optima Plug-In Hybrid flat and controlled during cornering. The i3’s suspension doesn’t offer stabilizer bars.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s wheelbase is 9.2 inches longer than on the i3 (110.4 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Optima Plug-In Hybrid is .8 inches wider in the front and 1.4 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the i3.

Chassis

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The design of the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid amounts to more than styling. The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .25 Cd. That is significantly lower than the i3 (.29 to .33) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Optima Plug-In Hybrid get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Optima Plug-In Hybrid a Mid-size car, while the i3 is rated a Subcompact.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard seating for 5 passengers; the i3 can only carry 4.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has 21.2 cubic feet more passenger volume than the i3 (104.8 vs. 83.6).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has .2 inches more front headroom, 5 inches more front legroom, 4.5 inches more front shoulder room, .6 inches more rear headroom, 3.7 inches more rear legroom and 7.2 inches more rear shoulder room than the i3.

Cargo Capacity

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To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just waiting momentarily behind the back bumper can open the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The i3 doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Ergonomics

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The i3 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children in the rear seat from operating them, but the driver can still raise and lower all of them with the lock engaged. BMW does not offer a locking feature on the i3’s standard power windows.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the i3’s headlights are rated “Acceptable.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Optima Plug-In Hybrid detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The i3 doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard extendable sun visors. The i3 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Optima Plug-In Hybrid keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The i3 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The i3 doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The i3 doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The i3 doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The i3 doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/04/06

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the BMW i3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Kia Optima outsold the BMW i3 by almost 20 to one during 2019.

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