2020 Toyota Corolla vs. 2019 Kia Optima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Corolla 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.

The Corolla has standard Safety Connect, 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 Corolla and the Optima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee 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, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors and available blind spot warning systems.

Warranty

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

Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Corolla for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Kia doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Optima.

There are over 59 percent more Toyota dealers than there are Kia dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Corolla’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Corolla first among compact cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Optima was rated second in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 18 more problems per 100 vehicles, Kia is ranked 10th.

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

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Corolla

Manual

SE 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

29 city/36 hwy

Auto

1.8 DOHC 4 cyl.

30 city/38 hwy

XLE 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl.

29 city/37 hwy

SE 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

31 city/40 hwy

XSE 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

31 city/38 hwy

Optima

Auto

EX 1.6 turbo 4 cyl.

22 city/32 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

Transmission

The Corolla offers a manual transmission for better acceleration, control and sportiness. The Optima doesn’t offer a manual transmission.

The Corolla 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.

Tires and Wheels

The Corolla SE/XSE’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Optima S/SX’s 45 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the Corolla’s turning circle is 1.7 feet tighter than the Optima’s (34.1 feet vs. 35.8 feet).

Chassis

The Toyota Corolla may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 300 to 400 pounds less than the Kia Optima.

The Corolla is 8.8 inches shorter than the Optima, making the Corolla easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The front step up height for the Corolla is 2 inches lower than the Optima (13” vs. 15”). The Corolla’s rear step up height is 2.3 inches lower than the Optima’s (13” vs. 15.3”).

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the Corolla easier. The Corolla’s trunk lift-over height is 25.5 inches, while the Optima’s liftover is 28.7 inches.

Ergonomics

The Corolla (except L/LE/Manual) offers a 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 Corolla’s 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 Corolla 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 Toyota 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.

Model Availability

The Toyota Corolla comes in sedan and four-door hatchback bodystyles; the Kia Optima isn’t available as a four-door hatchback or station wagon.

Recommendations

The Toyota Corolla outsold the Kia Optima by almost three to one during 2018.

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

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