2020 Chevrolet Malibu Vs. 2020 Kia Optima

By Emily Stout | September 4th, 2020

Midsize sedans find that delicate space right in the middle of offering plenty of room for the whole family and retaining an easy-to-maneuver size. This is right where the 2020 Chevy Malibu and 2020 Kia Optima live. Which of these Goldilocks sedans is the better buy for you and your Wheaton area family? Continue reading to find out.

Exterior

The Malibu is a legend that dates back to the muscle-car era of the 1960s and 70s, but in recent decades it morphed into a timid family car. In 2016, Chevy revamped this midsize sedan, bringing back some of its muscular good looks with sharp creases, hard angles, wraparound headlights, and a coupe-like roofline that stretches deep into the trunk lid without affecting its luggage-hauling duties.

 

 

This new-look Malibu carries into 2020 without any changes, but it has gotten a handful of upgrades over the years, including the RS trim. This sportier take on the midsize sedan boasts subtle touches of aggressiveness with its black bow tie emblems, black badges, dual exhaust, rear spoiler, and unique 18-inch wheels.

 

The Kia Optima received its latest redesign the same year as the Malibu, but its good looks stretched back one additional generation. While the Malibu takes on a more muscular look, the Optima aims for a premium design with its sleek and smooth body that looks crafted by the wind. Sure, its SX trim gets a few dabs of sportiness with its red brake calipers, large wheels, and other light touches, but it’s clear where Kia was aiming this sharp sedan.

 

 

As for standard features, both of these midsize sedans are well-equipped. The 2020 Kia Optima boasts standard 16-inch silver-finish alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlights, heated outside mirrors, LED daytime running lights, power mirrors with mirror-integrated LED turn signals, projector-beam headlights, and more.

 

The 2020 Malibu matches the Optima’s wheels but lacks in other areas. It makes up for most of this missing equipment inside.

 

Measurement 2020 Chevy Malibu 2020 Kia Optima Difference
Length (in.) 194.2 191.1 +3.1
Width (in.) 73 73.2 -0.2
Height (in.) 57.9 57.7 +0.2
Wheelbase (in.) 111.4 110.4 +1
Ground Clearance (in.) 5.3
Curb weight (lbs.) 3,126 to 3,223 3,230 to 3,558 -432 to -7 pounds

 

Advantage: 2020 Kia Optima

  •       Loads of look-good features
  •       Classy design

Advantage: 2020 Chevy Impala

  •       Sporty-looking RS trim
  •       Muscular body

 

Interior

Inside, the 2020 Chevy Malibu takes on a more reserved look with its abundance of black and satin-chrome trim. This basic color scheme is set off only by a handful of trim pieces. The instrument panel features just enough swooping lines to keep your eyes interested without becoming a distraction.

 

 

The Optima flips its toned-down exterior styling on its ear with a sporty looking cabin that includes an available flat-bottom steering wheel, red seat inserts, and red stitching in its SX trim. The instrument panel focuses on horizontal lines to make everything feel wider, but you may find its center stack just a little too busy with all its knobs and buttons.

 

 

As for standard features, the Malibu makes up for its lack of standard exterior features with what’s inside. Its standard interior features include the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System with an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth® audio streaming, Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto™, six-speaker audio system, premium cloth upholstery, push-button start, keyless open, and more.

 

The Kia Optima matches all these features and gets a leg up on the new Impala, as it includes blind-spot monitors, driver attention warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-change assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and rear parking sensors.

 

In roominess, the Optima wins in most front-seat measurements, but the Malibu takes home a big win in the rear seats with an extra 2.5 inches of legroom. The Optima comes back to eek out a victory in trunk space by 0.2 cubic feet.

 

Measurement 2020 Chevy Malibu 2020 Kia Optima Difference
Front headroom (in.) 39.1 39.8 -0.7
Front legroom (in.) 41.5 45.5 -4
Front shoulder room (in.) 58.5 58.1 +0.4
Front hip room (in.) 54.1 56 -1.9
Rear headroom (in.) 37.5 37.8 -0.3
Rear legroom (in.) 38.1 35.6 +2.5
Rear shoulder room (in.) 57.1 56.4 +0.7
Rear hip room (in.) 53.4 56 -2.6
Cargo room (cu. ft) 15.7 15.9 -0.2

 

Advantage: 2020 Kia Optima

  •       Roomier front seat
  •       Sporty SX cabin
  •       Tons of standard safety goodies

Advantage: 2020 Chevy Malibu

  •       Plenty of legroom
  •       Whisper-quiet cabin
  •       Advanced infotainment system

Performance

Midsize sedans used to be all about the V-6 engine, but today, many have scrapped those in favor of turbo four-cylinder engines. The 2020 Malibu starts with a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that pumps out 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This power routes through a continuously variable transmission and out to the front wheels for an 8.2-second 0-to-60 time.

 

While it is not fast in its base setup, the Malibu sure is economical at up to 36 mpg highway.

 

 

The optional engine in the Malibu is a different ballgame. This turbocharged 2.0-liter engine pounds out 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and ships it through a nine-speed automatic transmission. This results in a super-quick 5.7-second 0-to-60 sprint time. Fuel economy takes a hit at 22 mpg city, 32 highway, and 26 combined, but it is still better than the range-topping Optima engine.

 

 

Speaking of the Optima’s engines, it has three. The base unit is a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-pot that sprints the sedan to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. Next up is a 1.6-liter turbo four-pot with 178 horses that also sends the Optima to highway speed in 7.5 ticks. The range-topping 2.0-liter turbo four-pot delivers 245 horsepower and a 6.9-second sprint to 60 mph.

 

2020 Chev Malibu 2020 Kia Optima Difference
Standard engine 1.5-liter turbo 4-cyl 2.4-liter 4-cyl
Horsepower 160 hp at 5,700 rpm 185 hp at 6,000 rpm -15 hp
Torque 184 lb-ft at 2,500 to 3,000 rpm 178 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm +6 lb-ft
Transmission CVT 6-spd automatic
Driveline FWD FWD
0-60 time 8.2 seconds 7.5 seconds +0.7 seconds
MPG City 29 mpg 25 mpg +4 mpg
MPG Highway 36 mpg 35 mpg +1 mpg
MPG Combined 32 mpg 29 mpg +3 mpg
Optional engine 1.6-liter turbo 4-cyl
Horsepower 178 hp at 5,500 rpm -18 hp
Torque 195 lb-ft at 1,500 to 4,500 rpm -11 lb-ft
Transmission 7-spd dual-clutch
Driveline FWD
0-60 time 7.5 seconds +0.7 seconds
MPG City 27 mpg +2 mpg
MPG Highway 37 mpg -1 mpg
MPG Combined 31 mpg -1 mpg
Optional engine 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl
Horsepower 250 hp at 5,300 rpm 245 hp +5 hp
Torque 260 lb-ft at 2,000 to 5,000 rpm 260 lb-ft +0 lb-ft
Transmission 9-spd automatic 6-spd automatic
Driveline FWD FWD
0-60 time 5.7 seconds 6.9 seconds -1.2 seconds
MPG City 22 mpg 21 mpg +1 mpg
MPG Highway 32 mpg 30 mpg +2 mpg
MPG Combined 26 mpg 24 mpg +2 mpg

 

Advantage: 2020 Kia Optima

  •       Optional dual-clutch transmission
  •       Quicker base model

Advantage: 2020 Chevy Malibu     

  •       Surprisingly quick with 2.0
  •       Superior fuel economy

Pricing and Features

The 2020 Kia Optima lineup includes five trim levels – LX, S, EX, EX premium, and SX – and their starting prices range from $23,190 to $31,990.

There are five trim levels in the 2020 Malibu lineup: L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier. Their starting pries range from $22,970 to 34,195

2020 Kia Optima Key Features and Pricing by Trim

LX: $23,190

  •       2.4-liter four-cylinder engine
  •       Six-speed automatic transmission
  •       Front-wheel drive
  •       Electric power steering
  •       16-inch silver-finish alloy wheels
  •       Auto-on/off headlights
  •       Chrome exhaust tip
  •       Matte-gray grille
  •       Heated outside mirrors
  •       LED daytime running lights
  •       Power mirrors with mirror-integrated LED turn signals
  •       Projector-beam headlights
  •       Sport front and rear bumpers
  •       Variable-intermittent wipers
  •       3.5-inch thin-film transistor LCD meter displat
  •       Six-speaker AM/FM audio system
  •       Bluetooth audio streaming
  •       Six-way manual passenger’s seat
  •       Eight-way driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar
  •       60/40 split-folding rear seat with center armrest
  •       8-inch touchscreen
  •       Android Auto™
  •       Apple CarPlay®
  •       Siri Eyes Free
  •       Cloth Seats with CleanTex
  •       Steering-wheel-mounted controls
  •       Comfort, Eco, and Sport driving modes
  •       Illuminated vanity mirrors
  •       Overhead sunglasses holder
  •       Power door locks
  •       Power windows with driver’s side one-touch auto down
  •       Remote keyless entry
  •       Tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel
  •       Automatic high-beam headlights
  •       Rearview camera
  •       Blind-sport monitors
  •       Driver attention warning
  •       Forward collision warning
  •       Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  •       Lane-change assist
  •       Lane-departure warning
  •       Lane-keep assist
  •       Rear parking sensors
  •       Rear cross-traffic alert
  •       Hill-start assist

S: $24,690

  •       All LX features, plus
  •       18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels
  •       Dual chrome exhaust tips
  •       Gloss-black grille
  •       LED taillights
  •       Projector-beam fog lights
  •       Rear spoiler
  •       Power-opening trunk
  •       Courtesy lighting
  •       Sport black side sills
  •       Door handle pocket lights
  •       10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
  •       Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob
  •       One-touch auto-up/down front windows
  •       Smart key with push-button start
  •       Sport black cloth seats with leatherette bolsters

EX: $26,990

  •       All S features, plus
  •       1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  •       Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission
  •       17-inch machine-finish alloy wheels
  •       Acoustic-laminated front windows
  •       Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  •       Dual-zone automatic climate control
  •       Electric parking brake with auto brake hold
  •       Heated front seats
  •       Leather seats
  •       UVO link infotainment with 8-inch touchscreen
  •       SiriusXM®
  •       Wireless phone charger
  •       Wood-grain accent trim
  •       Adaptive cruise control with stop and go

EX Premium: $29,990

  •       All EX features, plus
  •       Panoramic sunroof with power sunshade
  •       12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar
  •       8-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat with two-way lumbar
  •       Ambient lighting
  •       Harman/Kardon® QuantumLogic™ 630-watt, 10-aspeaker premium surround sound w/ Clari-Fi™
  •       Heated steering wheel
  •       LED interior lighting
  •       Leatherette instrument panel with silver stitching
  •       Navigation
  •       HD Radio™
  •       Ventilated front seats

SX: $31,990

  •       All EX Premium features, plus
  •       2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  •       Six-speed automatic transmission
  •       Red brake calipers
  •       18-inch gloss-black alloy wheels
  •       LED fog lights
  •       LED auto-leveling headlights
  •       Sport black mirrors
  •       Sport black rear spoiler
  •       Sport black side sills
  •       Gloss-black sport grille
  •       Driver’s seat memory
  •       Satin-chrome interior trim
  •       Sport leather seat trim
  •       Sport steering wheel
  •       Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters
  •       Supervision meter with 4.3-inch screen
  •       Adaptive headlights

2020 Chevy Malibu Key Features and Pricing by Trim

L: $22,970

  •       1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  •       Continuously variable transmission
  •       Automatic engine stop/start
  •       16-inch aluminum wheels
  •       Automatic on/off halogen headlights
  •       Daytime running lights
  •       Power mirrors with manual folding
  •       Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System
  •       8-inch touchscreen
  •       Bluetooth® audio streaming
  •       Voice command
  •       Apple CarPlay®
  •       Android Auto™
  •       Six-speaker audio system
  •       Premium cloth upholstery
  •       Six-way manual-adjust front seats
  •       60/40 split-folding rear seat
  •       Carpeted floor mats
  •       Tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel
  •       Steering-wheel-mounted controls
  •       Driver-information center
  •       Power windows with one-touch up/down driver’s and one-touch down in all other
  •       Power door locks
  •       Push-button start
  •       Keyless open
  •       Cruise control
  •       Single-zone manual climate control
  •       Trunk cargo anchors
  •       Chevrolet Connected Access capable
  •       OnStar®
  •       Rearview camera

LS: $24,095

  •       All L features, plus
  •       Acoustic-laminated front glass
  •       4G LTE Wi-Fi® (data plan required)
  •       Outside temperature display
  •       Teen Driver

RS: $25,095

  •       All LS features, plus
  •       Dual-outlet exhaust
  •       18-inch aluminum wheels
  •       Black grille with a chrome surround
  •       Body-color, power mirrors
  •       Black bow tie emblems
  •       Rear spoiler
  •       Eight-way power driver’s seat
  •       Leather-wrapped shift knob
  •       Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  •       Power driver’s seat lumbar control
  •       Rear seat armrest

LT: $27,495

  •       All LS features, plus
  •       17-inch aluminum wheels
  •       Body-color, heated, power mirrors
  •       LED daytime running lights
  •       LED taillights
  •       Eight-way power driver’s seat
  •       Dual-zone automatic climate control
  •       Heated front seats
  •       Power driver’s seat lumbar
  •       Power windows with driver’s one-touch up
  •       Rear seat armrest
  •       Remote ignition
  •       SiriusXM®
  •       Rear heating and cooling vent
  •       Illuminated vanity mirrors

Premier: $34,195

  •       2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine
  •       Nine-speed automatic transmission
  •       Dual-outlet exhaust
  •       19-inch aluminum wheels
  •       Mirror-integrated turn signals
  •       Bright front sill plates
  •       Chrome door handles with body-color insert
  •       Dual-pane sunroof
  •       LED headlights
  •       120-volt plug
  •       Six-way power passenger’s seat
  •       8-inch driver-information center
  •       Bose® premium nine-speaker audio system
  •       Carpeted trunk mat
  •       Rear charge-only USB port
  •       Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System Plus
  •       Navigation
  •       8-inch high-definition touchscreen
  •       Heated rear outboard seats
  •       Heated steering wheel
  •       Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  •       Leather-wrapped shift knob
  •       Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  •       Ambient interior lighting
  •       Power passenger’s seat lumbar
  •       Perforated-leather-trimmed seats
  •       Ventilated front seats
  •       Wireless charging pad
  •       HD rearview camera

Who Should Buy the 2020 Kia Optima

The Kia Optima is great for buyers seeking a more distinguished look from their midsize sedan. Plus, taller drivers will appreciate its extra front-seat legroom.

Who Should Buy the 2020 Chevy Malibu

With its gobs of rear-seat legroom, the 2020 Chevy Malibu is a true family sedan. Though it will haul the family better than most, it also harks back to its muscle-car roots with its 5.7-second sprint time with the 2.0-liter engine.

 

Ready to put the stylish and muscular 2020 Chevy Malibu in your driveway today? Stop by Sunrise Chevrolet serving Lombard, Glendale Heights, and the surrounding areas today to check out our in-stock Malibu models and take a few out for test drives. Can’t make it today? You can also navigate to our online inventory page, pick a few in-stock Malibu models that fit your needs, and schedule a test drive around your busy life.

 

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