2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Kia Optima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Altima 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.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Altima are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Optima doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard Rear Automatic 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 Altima offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Optima doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The Altima has standard NissanConnect, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Optima 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 Altima and the Optima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

The Altima’s 5 year corrosion warranty has no mileage limitations, but the corrosion warranty on the Optima runs out after 100,000 miles.

There are over 40 percent more Nissan dealers than there are Kia dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Altima’s warranty.

Engine

The Altima has more powerful engines than the Optima:

Horsepower

Torque

Altima 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. AWD

182 HP

178 lbs.-ft.

Altima 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. FWD

188 HP

180 lbs.-ft.

Altima 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

248 HP

273 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 Nissan Altima 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Kia Optima 2.4 4-cylinder:

Altima

Optima

Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

3.3 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

8 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.5 sec

4.8 sec

Quarter Mile

15.9 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

92 MPH

89 MPH

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Altima 2.0 VC turbo is faster than the Optima SX 2.0 turbo:

Altima

Optima

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

7.3 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

15.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97.4 MPH

90.3 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Altima

FWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

28 city/39 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

AWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

Optima

FWD

EX 1.6 turbo 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

LX 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

S 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

24 city/33 hwy

SX 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Altima’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.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Nissan Altima higher (7 out of 10) than the Kia Optima (5 to 7). This means the Altima produces up to 8 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Optima every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The Altima 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

The Altima stops much shorter than the Optima:

Altima

Optima

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

185 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Altima has larger standard tires than the Optima (215/60R16 vs. 205/65R16).

The Altima S’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Optima LX’s standard 65 series tires. The Altima SR/Platinum’s tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Optima S/SX’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Altima SR/Platinum has standard 19-inch wheels. The Optima’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

The Altima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Optima doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Altima SR handles at .89 G’s, while the Optima pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Altima Platinum executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.5 seconds quicker than the Optima (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.8 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

Chassis

The front grille of the Altima uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Optima doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Altima SL/Platinum 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.

Passenger Space

The Altima has .1 inches more front shoulder room and .7 inches more rear shoulder room than the Optima.

Cargo Capacity

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

Ergonomics

The Altima has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Optima doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Altima’s standard driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths. The Optima’s standard driver’s power window switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.

If the windows are left open on the Altima 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. The driver of the Optima can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Altima’s speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Optima’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Consumer Reports rated the Altima’s headlight performance “Good,” a higher rating than the Optima’s headlights, which were rated “Fair.”

Recommendations

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

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Optima has never been an “All Star.”

The Nissan Altima outsold the Kia Optima by over two to one during 2018.

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

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