Comparison: Toyota Camry Hybrid vs. Kia Optima Hybrid

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

Picture a hybrid in your mind, and chances are that an aerodynamic, boomerang-shaped hatchback is what your memory banks will serve up. That’s the Toyota Prius (and its lesser-known Hyundai Ioniq doppelganger). And that’s a look some people simply don’t want.

Enter the midsize hybrid sedan. Perhaps misjudging the consumer shift to SUVs, several car companies are selling high-mileage hybrids with four doors and a trunk. Among them, the most popular is the Toyota Camry Hybrid, most recently redesigned for the 2018 model year. For 2019, Toyota makes several important upgrades to its fuel-sipping Camry.

2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid Changes:

  • Apple CarPlay is standard
  • Amazon Alexa compatibility is standard
  • Safety Connect is standard and comes with a 3-year free trial to services
  • Wi-Fi Connect is standard and includes a 6-month or 2-GB free trial to services
  • Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is standard

Meanwhile, born and raised in South Korea, the Kia Optima Hybrid toils in relative obscurity. Based on an impressive car, it boasts tailored style, upscale fittings, and an available plug-in variant offering up to 28 miles of all-electric range before reverting to traditional gas-electric hybrid operation. The 2020 versions of this car are already on sale.

2020 Kia Optima Hybrid Changes:

  • Kia Drive Wise suite of ADAS is standard
  • Next-generation UVO Link connected services are standard
  • Reversing camera display gains dynamic guidelines
  • Wireless smartphone charging is standard
  • Standard Hybrid versions add a standard auto-dimming rearview mirror and 17-inch aluminum wheels

In this battle between David (Kia) and Goliath (Toyota), which car is the best? That’s what we’re going to determine, so read on.

2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid Price and Configurations

Red Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
Three different versions of the Camry Hybrid are on sale, each with a distinctive personality. Shown here is the racy, sport-tuned SE trim level. (Toyota)

 

Toyota offers the Camry Hybrid in three trim levels. The LE ($28,400) is the most efficient version, the SE ($30,100) is the sportiest version, and the XLE ($32,975) is the most luxurious version.

Choose the SE trim, and the Camry Hybrid adds the following features in addition to or in place of LE standard equipment:

  • Nickel-metal hydride battery pack in place of lithium-ion
  • Sporty exterior design details with 18-inch aluminum wheels
  • Sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters
  • SofTex simulated leather upholstery and mesh cabin trim

The Camry Hybrid XLE swaps out the SE versions sporty styling and dynamic tuning in favor of a more conservative and upscale look and feel. The following features are included either in place of or in addition to SE trim:

  • Metallic grille trim
  • Unique 18-inch aluminum wheels
  • Upgraded LED headlights and taillights
  • Heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators
  • Leather upholstery and wood-tone cabin trim
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Larger driver information center
  • Color head-up display
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Programmable garage door opener
  • Rear seat air conditioning vents
  • Larger 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment system
  • HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Service Connect and Remote Connect services
  • Two additional 2.1-amp quick-charge USB ports
  • Wireless smartphone charger
  • Dynamic guidelines for reversing camera
  • Blind-spot monitoring system
  • Rear cross-traffic alert

Option packages and dealer-installed accessories are available for each version of the Camry Hybrid.

2020 Kia Optima Hybrid Price and Configurations

Blue Kia Optima Hybrid
Unique styling details help to make the Kia Optima Hybrid more aerodynamic, and by extension more fuel-efficient. Still, it can’t match the Toyota when it comes to MPG. (Kia – 2019 model year wheel design shown)

 

Two versions of the 2020 Kia Optima Hybrid are on sale. The Optima Hybrid is priced at $29,310, while the Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) starts at $36,090. A federal income tax credit amounting to $4,919 helps to reduce the PHEV’s cost.

Select standard features include:

  • Aluminum wheels
  • Auto-hold brake function
  • Heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators
  • Hands-free trunk opener
  • Hands-free entry and push-button start
  • Leather upholstery
  • 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Manual front passenger’s seat height adjuster
  • Heated front seats
  • Rear air conditioning vents
  • Touchscreen infotainment system with 8-inch screen
  • UVO Link services, SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Wireless smartphone charger

Additionally, for 2020, Kia makes its Drive Wise ADAS technologies standard. They’re listed below, along with other standard safety features:

  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Driver monitoring system
  • Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Blind-spot monitoring system
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Lane change assist
  • Rear parking sensors

A Technology Package is optional for both versions of the Optima Hybrid. Highlights for both versions of the car include:

  • LED headlights with automatic high-beam assist, LED fog lights
  • Ambient and LED interior lighting
  • Panoramic glass sunroof
  • 10-way power front passenger’s seat

The Optima Hybrid’s Technology Package also includes the following features, all of which are standard for the Optima PHEV:

  • 12-way power driver’s seat with memory settings
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Navigation system
  • 10-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system

Additionally, Kia buyers can choose from a range of dealer-installed accessories to further personalize the Optima Hybrid.

The Best Things About the Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid vs. Kia Optima Hybrid
The Toyota Camry LE, shown here with a Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid, provides 52 mpg in combined driving at a base price under $28,500. (Toyota and Kia – 2019 model year wheel design shown on Optima PHEV)

 

Based on research into the Toyota Camry Hybrid’s features and specifications, these are the best things about it in comparison to the Kia Optima Hybrid:

  • Lower base price (by $910)
  • More fuel-efficient (by 5-11 mpg in combined driving, depending on trim)
  • More powerful drivetrain (by 16 horsepower)
  • Three distinctly different trim levels
  • Amazon Alexa compatible infotainment system
  • Optional 360-degree view camera and sonar
  • Available rear cross-traffic automatic braking system
  • Free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles
  • Bigger trunk (by 1.7 cubic feet)

The Best Things About the Kia Optima Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid vs Kia Optima Hybrid Dashboards
Inside, the Camry and Optima are distinctly different. Kia does a better job of ensuring occupant comfort. (Toyota and Kia – Kia Optima SX interior shown. Hybrids have different instrumentation and a different steering wheel)

 

Based on research into the Kia Optima Hybrid’s features and specifications, these are the best things about the car in comparison to the Toyota Camry Hybrid:

  • Unbeatable warranty and roadside assistance program
  • Hybrid uses a 6-speed automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission
  • Larger fuel tank (by 2.9 gallons) for 650 miles of range in combined driving, beating all but Camry LE for distance between fuel stops
  • Available plug-in hybrid version with up to 28 miles of electric range and carpool lane eligibility
  • Attractive exterior styling and interior color choices
  • Offers Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay
  • Longer list of standard equipment in exchange for a modest price premium
  • Greater comfort due to standard rear air conditioning vents, more front seat adjustment range, available ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel, and UVO Link remote climate control pre-conditioning with PHEV
  • More standard safety technologies

Toyota Camry Hybrid vs. Kia Optima Hybrid. Which is Better?

Toyota Camry Hybrid vs Kia Optima Hybrid Rear View
With the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the trunk is the same size as the standard Camry whereas the Kia Optima Hybrid gives up some space – especially in plug-in hybrid format. (Toyota and Kia – 2019 model year wheels shown on Kia)

 

If you’re a hybrid car buyer who cares about spending the least in terms of price and getting the most in terms of fuel economy, the Camry Hybrid LE is the car for you. And if you want an expressively styled hybrid car that looks sporty, the Camry Hybrid SE delivers.

Otherwise, the Kia Optima Hybrid is our favorite between the two, because it delivers genuine value in both obvious and subtle ways while offering the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

RELATED CONTENT:

10 Best Hybrid Cars Under $30,000

Toyota Corolla Hybrid vs. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius Prime vs. Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

Close Menu