2020 Kia Optima vs. 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2019 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 2019/10/14

The Optima 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 Jetta doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Optima’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 Jetta doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Optima’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 Jetta doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Optima and the Jetta have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Kia Optima is safer than the Volkswagen Jetta:

Optima

Jetta

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

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 its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Jetta was last qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2017.

Warranty

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Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima 4 years and 28000 miles longer than Volkswagen covers the Jetta. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Jetta ends after only 6 years or 72000 miles.

There are over 18 percent more Kia dealers than there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Optima’s warranty.

Reliability

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To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Optima has a standard 800-amp battery (760 SX). The Jetta’s standard 480-amp battery and largest (optional) 640 amp battery aren’t as powerful.

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’s reliability 20 points higher than the Jetta.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Optima third among midsize cars in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Jetta isn’t in the top three in its category.

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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 43 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 11 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

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The Optima EX’s standard 1.6 turbo 4 cyl. produces 31 more horsepower (178 vs. 147) and 11 lbs.-ft. more torque (195 vs. 184) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The Optima’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 38 more horsepower (185 vs. 147) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The Optima SX’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 98 more horsepower (245 vs. 147) and 76 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 184) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Car and Driver the Optima EX 1.6 turbo 4 cyl. is faster than the Volkswagen Jetta (automatics tested):

Optima

Jetta

Zero to 60 MPH

7.3 sec

7.7 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

19.1 sec

22.5 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

7.6 sec

8.6 sec

Quarter Mile

15.8 sec

16.1 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

92 MPH

87 MPH

Top Speed

134 MPH

127 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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The Optima has 5.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta (18.5 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

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The Kia Optima comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Jetta.

The Optima offers an available sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Jetta doesn’t offer an SMG.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the Optima’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Jetta:

Optima LX/S

Optima EX/SX

Jetta

Front Rotors

12 inches

12.6 inches

11.5 inches

Rear Rotors

11.2 inches

11.2 inches

10.8 inches

The Optima stops shorter than the Jetta:

Optima

Jetta

70 to 0 MPH

185 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Optima S/SX’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Jetta (235/45R18 vs. 205/60R16).

The Optima S/SX’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Optima S/SX has standard 18-inch wheels. The Jetta’s largest wheels are only 17-inches.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Kia Optima has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Volkswagen Jetta has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

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

The Optima has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Optima flat and controlled during cornering. The Jetta’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Optima’s wheelbase is 4.7 inches longer than on the Jetta (110.4 inches vs. 105.7 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Optima is 2.5 inches wider in the front and 3.1 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Jetta.

The Optima SX handles at .83 G’s, while the Jetta SEL pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Optima’s turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the Jetta’s (35.8 feet vs. 36.4 feet).

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Optima a Large car, while the Jetta is rated a Compact.

The Optima has 10.1 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Jetta (104.8 vs. 94.7).

The Optima has 1.3 inches more front headroom, 4.4 inches more front legroom, 2.2 inches more front shoulder room, .6 inches more rear headroom and 2.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the Jetta.

Cargo Capacity

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The Optima has a much larger trunk than the Jetta (15.9 vs. 14.1 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Optima S/EX/SX’s trunk can be opened just by waiting momentarily behind the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Jetta doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

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The Optima uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Jetta uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

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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’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the Jetta’s headlights are rated “Marginal” to “Poor.”

The Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium’s cornering lamps activate a lamp on the front corner when the turn signal is activated. The Optima SX’s standard adaptive cornering lights turn the actual headlight unit up to several degrees, depending on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. This lights a significant distance into corners at any speed.

The Optima’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Volkswagen charges extra for heated mirrors on the Jetta.

When the Optima EX/SX is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Jetta’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Both the Optima and the Jetta offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Optima EX/SX has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Jetta doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

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

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the Optima owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Optima with a number “1” insurance rate while the Jetta is rated higher at a number “3” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Optima is less expensive to operate than the Jetta because it costs $54 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Optima than the Jetta, including $439 less for a water pump, $418 less for a muffler, $6 less for front brake pads, $468 less for a starter, $172 less for fuel injection, $232 less for a fuel pump, $245 less for front struts, $2 less for a timing belt/chain and $118 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 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 2019/10/14

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Kia Optima and the Volkswagen Jetta, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Kia Optima outsold the Volkswagen Jetta by 12% during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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