2020 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid vs. 2019 Tesla Model S

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 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 2020/02/29

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 Tesla Model S 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 Model S doesn’t offer a whiplash protection 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 Model S 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 Model S doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard 911 Connect, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Model S doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the Model S have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras and available around view monitors.

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 Model S has not been tested, yet.

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 Model 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 2 years longer than Tesla covers the Model S. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Model S ends after only 8 years.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s corrosion warranty is 1 year and 50,000 miles longer than the Model S’ (5/100,000 vs. 4/50,000).

There are over 12 times as many Kia dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s warranty.

Reliability

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A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s reliability 18 points higher than the Model S.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 14 places higher in reliability than Tesla.

Fuel Economy and Range

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s maximum EPA estimated driving range on a full charge and a full tank of fuel is 666 miles, after which it can be refueled at any gas station in minutes. The Model S’ range is only 259 to 335 miles, after which the minimum recharge time is 30 minutes for only a 54% charge at a specially configured quick charge station not available in most areas. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 82 hours and 53 minutes.

Brakes and Stopping

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In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a standard brake assist system to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model S doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

Suspension and Handling

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For better maneuverability, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s turning circle is 1.2 feet tighter than the Model S’ (35.8 feet vs. 37 feet).

Chassis

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The Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 950 to 1150 pounds less than the Tesla Model S.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid is 4.9 inches shorter than the Model S, making the Optima Plug-In Hybrid easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has 10.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Model S (104.8 vs. 94).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has 1 inch more front headroom, 2.8 inches more front legroom, 1 inch more front hip room, .4 inches more front shoulder room, 2.5 inches more rear headroom, .2 inches more rear legroom, 1.3 inches more rear hip room and 1.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the Model S.

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 Model S doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

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A maintenance reminder system is standard on the Optima Plug-In Hybrid to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals based on odometer mileage. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Tesla doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Model S.

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 Model S doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The Model S’ cruise control switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard side window demisters help clear frost or condensation from the side windows in the winter. The Model S doesn’t even offer side window demisters, so the driver may have to wipe the windows from the outside to gain side vision.

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 Model S 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 Model S doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a standard heated steering wheel to take the chill out of steering on extremely cold winter days before the car heater warms up. A heated steering wheel costs extra on the Model S.

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 2020/02/29

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

The Kia Optima outsold the Tesla Model S by almost five to one during 2019.

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