2020 Kia Optima vs. 2019 Volkswagen Passat

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 Passat 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 as “Superior.” The Passat scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

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 Passat doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Optima and the Passat 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, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras and rear cross-path warning.

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 Passat:

Optima

Passat

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

185

312

Neck Injury Risk

22%

39%

Neck Stress

218 lbs.

391 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

114/300 lbs.

104/367 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

282

384

Chest Compression

.4 inches

.8 inches

Neck Stress

192 lbs.

297 lbs.

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

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Kia Optima is safer than the Volkswagen Passat:

Optima

Passat

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

111

119

Chest Movement

.8 inches

.9 inches

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

15 inches

HIC

196

305

Spine Acceleration

37 G’s

44 G’s

Hip Force

585 lbs.

671 lbs.

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 Passat 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 Passat. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Passat 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

© 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

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Optima has a standard 150-amp alternator. The Passat’s 140-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

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

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

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 4 more horsepower (178 vs. 174) and 11 lbs.-ft. more torque (195 vs. 184) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Optima’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 11 more horsepower (185 vs. 174) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Optima SX’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 71 more horsepower (245 vs. 174) and 76 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 184) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the Optima EX gets better fuel mileage than the Passat (27 city/37 hwy vs. 25 city/36 hwy).

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Kia Optima higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Volkswagen Passat (3 to 7). This means the Optima produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Passat every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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A seven-speed automatic (SMG) is standard on the Kia Optima EX, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Passat.

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 Passat doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the Optima EX/SX’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Passat:

Optima EX/SX

Passat

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

11.2 inches

10.7 inches

The Optima stops much shorter than the Passat:

Optima

Passat

70 to 0 MPH

185 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

130 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

140 feet

147 feet

Consumer Reports

Suspension and Handling

© 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 front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Passat’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Optima is 1.1 inches wider in the front and 2.5 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Passat.

The Optima handles at .83 G’s, while the Passat pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Optima SX executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Passat SE R-Line (27.4 seconds @ .64 average G’s vs. 28.1 seconds @ .59 average G’s).

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

Chassis

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The design of the Kia Optima amounts to more than styling. The Optima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .27 Cd. That is lower than the Passat (.29) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Optima get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Optima a Large car, while the Passat is rated a Mid-size.

The Optima has 2.5 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Passat (104.8 vs. 102.3).

The Optima has 1.5 inches more front headroom, 3.1 inches more front legroom and 1.2 inches more front shoulder room than the Passat.

Ergonomics

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The Optima’s optional easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Passat doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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 Passat’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Optima detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Passat doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The Passat (except S/R-Line/GT)’s optional 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 only offers heated mirrors on the Passat SE R-Line.

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 Passat’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Optima EX Premium/SX keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Passat doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Optima EX Premium/SX’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Passat doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

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 Passat doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Economic Advantages

© 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 will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Optima will retain 39.17% to 40.49% of its original price after five years, while the Passat only retains 33.69% to 34.46%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Optima is less expensive to operate than the Passat 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 Passat, including $214 less for a water pump, $412 less for a muffler, $7 less for front brake pads, $521 less for a starter, $165 less for a fuel pump, $219 less for front struts, $353 less for a timing belt/chain and $46 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 Passat, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Kia Optima outsold the Volkswagen Passat by over two to one during 2018.

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

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