Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A bird's eye view of a red 2020 Kia Optima parked.

Kia Keeps it Simple

The 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid finds itself in a very curious place. It has become well known that American manufacturers are cutting car lines across the board, focusing their research and development on pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Cars, such as sedans and coupes, have been replaced by much more versatile vehicles. But, the Kia Optima Hybrid keeps on trucking. This mid-size sedan has something going for it that you rarely see in an American car, outside of muscle cars and concept cars. The hybrid only has one trim level.

Having only one trim level gives you very limited options on any vehicle, let alone a dying breed like the mid-size sedan. In a world where we want to customize every aspect of our car, the 2020 Kia Optima has given you the exact opposite. Well, almost. It does have one available package to add. But, what Kia has done with their “take it or leave it” mentality is reduce part of the headache of car shopping. Here is the Kia Optima Hybrid, in all its bare-bones glory.

Engine

There is only one engine on the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid, and that is a pretty strong one, given the class of the car. It is a 2.0L 4-cylinder that gets 154 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. For a car the size of the Optima, that is pretty substantial power. It is enough to stay with traffic on both highway and city streets, even in merging situations. It isn’t so much power, though, that handling can get out of control.

Since it is a hybrid, it also has the electric capability of a 9 kWh, 240 volt battery, allowing it to go approximately 27 miles on battery power alone. When combining the gasoline engine and the hybrid component, you are looking at 45 miles per gallon combined on the highway, and 40 in city traffic. For anyone that takes notice of gas prices, that is a very appealing number. The longer you can go between fill-ups means more money in your pocket. In the case of the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid, that is well over 600 miles. If you live in the city and don’t have much of a commute, that is almost like a mini pay raise.

A bird's eye view of the Turbo GDi engine.

Standard Features

Here is where the 2020 Kia Optima gets fun. A lot of times, we might take this time to tell you about different safety, infotainment, and convenience features you will find on the vehicle. We would also tell you which ones come on which trim levels, and which ones can be added through available packages. We might also tell you the price differences between these trim levels. With some vehicles, this can be very long and confusing. Some vehicles, like SUVs in particular, have as many as seven trim levels. This is further confused by having a choice between 2WD and 4WD. With trucks, it is even more convoluted by having crew cab, regular cab, extended cab, and various bed lengths. These vehicles can give you dozens of configurations between all the available options. Who wants all that useless info?

Not the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid, apparently. There is but one trim level, needlessly named the EX (not to say that the regular gas version won’t have other trim options). Some of its standard features include an 8” touchscreen infotainment center with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility so that you can have instant and easy access to your favorite music or podcasts; a push-button ignition; leather seats, and a wireless charging station for your smartphone or tablet. It also features a long list of safety features, such as Stability Control, Tire Pressure Monitoring, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and much more.

Isn’t it easier to know what is included without having to slog through level upon level of irrelevant information? Kia certainly seems to think so.

A white 2020 Kia Optima is driving down a city street during the daytime.

Technology Package

The one flaw in this argument is that, while there is technically only one trim level, the addition of the technology package acts as a second trim level. Maybe Kia just thought it would be easier if they called it one trim level and one available package. They might really be on to something there.

The technology package has such perks as ventilated front seats, LED headlights and fog lights, LED ambient interior lighting, an upgraded Harmon Kardon stereo system, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system and a slew of adjustable seat features. If you look closely at what the technology package adds, you might agree that it is somewhat misnamed. Sure, these are all born of modern automotive technology, but they are really convenience features. Besides the navigation, which can be classified as either convenience or safety, these features are all meant to make your driving life more enjoyable.

These features are added bonuses and not safety features you would expect to see as standard features. They are pleasant additions, but not altogether necessary. These are the kinds of things that, when you see them pop up in trim levels of other cars, you think “oh, that’s pretty cool.” You don’t go looking for them like you might active safety features like Blind Spot Warning or Lane Departure Warning.

That’s what makes this technology package so appealing. It is simple, it may be unnecessary, but it is something to look forward to. The tech package is also very reasonably priced at $4,510. Trying to add all of that with aftermarket parts will cost significantly more than that. And if you don’t want the technology package, there is nothing in there that you absolutely need.

The front black and red leather interior with a touchscreen, and other high tech features are shown.

The demise of the American sedan is a curious one that brings up a lot of questions and not many answers. Is the versatility of the modern SUV to blame for usurping the sedan’s role as the go-to family car? Did the Millennial generation become so enamored with the unique qualities of crossover SUVs that they effectively forced the sedan the way of the station wagon? Is the size and strength of the pickup truck due credit for rapidly becoming the new family vehicle? Who knows?

Perhaps Kia caught on to something that major American automakers missed: simplicity. It seems that, for the past several years, the American brands have been fixated on supplying the consumer with option after option after option. That is a good thing, but only to a point. Somewhere along the multiple trim levels, too much of a good thing turns sour. You get jaded and frustrated and tired of seeing so many levels that you just want something easy.

That is exactly what the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid offers. It has fellow Optimas, like the gas-powered Optima and the Optima Plug-In Hybrid, but those are for a different day. All the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid has to offer is its one trim level, with the basics and a few higher-end items. If you want to splurge on one single package, you can. Choices considered, made, and done.

The 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid starts off at $29,310 for the EX level. Adding on the Technology Package will bump it up to around $33,500 before taxes, tags, etc. So, for less than $40,000, you can have a fully loaded 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid with excellent fuel economy, a fully capable engine and a bunch of stuff you want, but don’t necessarily need. That sounds like a pretty simple decision.

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