2020 Lexus ES Series vs. 2020 Kia Optima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus ES Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Kia Optima doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The ES Series has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Optima doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The ES Series offers optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Optima doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Optima only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

Both the ES Series and the Optima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors, available blind spot warning systems 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 Lexus ES Series is safer than the Kia Optima:

ES Series

Optima

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

120

185

Neck Compression

30 lbs.

55 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

33%

50%

Neck Stress

159 lbs.

192 lbs.

Neck Compression

62 lbs.

101 lbs.

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

Warranty

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The ES Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year and unlimited miles longer than the Optima’s (6/unlimited vs. 5/100,000).

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 20 more problems per 100 vehicles, Kia is ranked 10th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Kia is ranked fifth.

Engine

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The ES Series has more powerful engines than the Optima:

Horsepower

Torque

ES 300h 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl. hybrid

215 HP

n/a

ES 350 3.5 DOHC V6

302 HP

267 lbs.-ft.

Optima EX 1.6 turbo 4-cyl.

178 HP

195 lbs.-ft.

Optima 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

185 HP

178 lbs.-ft.

Optima SX 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

245 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Consumer Reports the ES 350 is faster than the Kia Optima 2.4 4-cylinder:

ES Series

Optima

Zero to 30 MPH

3 sec

3.3 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.9 sec

8 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.2 sec

4.8 sec

Quarter Mile

15.4 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

89 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the ES Series gets better fuel mileage than the Optima:

MPG

ES Series

2.5 4-cyl. Hybrid

43 city/44 hwy

3.5 DOHC V6

22 city/32 hwy

F Sport 3.5 DOHC V6

22 city/31 hwy

Optima

EX 1.6 turbo 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

FE 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

24 city/31 hwy

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the ES Series Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Optima doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the ES Series Hybrid’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Optima doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Lexus ES Series, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the Optima.

The ES 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Optima doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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The ES Series stops shorter than the Optima:

ES Series

Optima

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

139 feet

140 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the ES Series has larger standard tires than the Optima (215/55R17 vs. 205/65R16).

The ES Series’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Optima LX’s standard 65 series tires. The ES Series’ optional tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Optima S/SX’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the ES Series has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Optima LX. The ES Series’ optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels on the Optima S/SX.

Suspension and Handling

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The ES Series offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Optima’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 2.6 inches longer than on the Optima (113 inches vs. 110.4 inches).

Chassis

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The ES Series F Sport uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Optima doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Cargo Capacity

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The ES Series has a larger trunk than the Optima (16.7 vs. 15.9 cubic feet).

With its sedan body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the ES Series offers cargo security. The Optima’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the ES Series. The Optima doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the ES Series offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The Optima doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Servicing Ease

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J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Kia. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 56% lower rating, Kia is ranked 20th.

Ergonomics

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The ES Series offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Optima doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The ES Series’ power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Optima’s parking brake has to released manually.

The ES Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Optima’s standard power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. Only its driver’s window opens automatically. With the Optima S/EX/SX’s power windows, only the front windows open or close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the ES Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (Your Lexus service department must activate this window function.) The driver of the Optima can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The ES Series’ optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The Optima’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

A power rear sunshade is optional in the ES Series to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Optima doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

The ES Series has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Optima offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The ES Series has a 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. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Optima EX/SX.

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

Economic Advantages

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The ES Series will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the ES Series will retain 48.23% to 49.19% of its original price after five years, while the Optima only retains 39.17% to 40.49%.

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 2019/10/18

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus ES Series and the Kia Optima, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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

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