Kemna Automotive Group Compares 2017 Chevrolet Malibu VS 2017 Kia Optima In IA

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2017 Chevrolet Malibu

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2017 Chevrolet Malibu

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2017 Kia Optima

Safety Comparison

The Malibu has standard OnStar®, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions, remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, 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 Malibu 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, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, available crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Chevrolet Malibu is safer than the Kia Optima:







5 Stars

5 Stars




Neck Compression

29 lbs.

55 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

186/153 lbs.

114/300 lbs.




5 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

173 lbs.

192 lbs.

Neck Compression

62 lbs.

101 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Chevrolet Malibu is safer than the Kia Optima:





Into Pole


5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

13 inches

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

37 G’s

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty Comparison

The Malibu’s corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Optima’s (6/100,000 vs. 5/100,000).

Chevrolet pays for scheduled maintenance on the Malibu for 2 years and 24,000 miles. Chevrolet will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance (up to 2 oil changes). Kia doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Optima.

There are almost 4 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Kia dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Malibu’s warranty.

Reliability Comparison

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2016 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in reliability, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Kia is ranked 17th.

Engine Comparison

The Malibu has more powerful engines than the Optima:



Malibu Premier 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

250 HP

Optima SX/SX Limited 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

245 HP

As tested in Motor Trend the Malibu Premier 2.0 Turbo is faster than the Optima 2.0 Turbo:




Zero to 60 MPH

6.2 sec

7.3 sec

Quarter Mile

14.7 sec

15.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

96.2 MPH

90.3 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Malibu Premier 2.0 Turbo gets better fuel mileage than the Optima 2.0 Turbo (22 city/33 hwy vs. 22 city/31 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the Malibu with its standard 1.5 Turbo gets better fuel mileage than the Optima LX 2.4 4 cyl. (27 city/36 hwy vs. 25 city/36 hwy). The Malibu with its standard 1.5 Turbo gets better fuel mileage than the Optima EX 2.4 4 cyl. (27 city/36 hwy vs. 24 city/37 hwy).

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Malibu 1.5 Turbo’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.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

The Malibu stops much shorter than the Optima:





70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

185 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the Malibu’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Optima (245/45R18 vs. 235/45R18).

The Malibu L/LS’ 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 Malibu Premier’s optional tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Optima SX/SX Limited’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Malibu Premier offers optional 19-inch wheels. The Optima’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The Malibu Premier handles at .88 G’s, while the Optima LX 1.6T pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Malibu Premier executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.4 seconds quicker than the Optima LX 1.6T (26.4 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.8 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

Chassis Comparison

The front grille of the Malibu (except 2.0 Turbo) 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.

Passenger Space Comparison

The Malibu has .4 inches more front shoulder room, 2.5 inches more rear legroom and .7 inches more rear shoulder room than the Optima.

Ergonomics Comparison

The Malibu (except L) 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 Malibu’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge – which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The Optima does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The Malibu’s standard front and rear power windows all lower with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Optima’s standard power windows’ passenger windows don’t open automatically. The Optima’s optional rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to lower them fully.

When the Malibu Premier is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Optima’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Malibu (except L/LS) offers an optional 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The Optima doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

The Malibu Premier’s optional Semi-Automatic Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Optima doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages Comparison

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Malibu is less expensive to operate than the Optima because it costs $153 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Malibu than the Optima, including $22 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations Comparison

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Chevrolet Malibu, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels.

The Chevrolet Malibu outsold the Kia Optima by 67% during the 2016 model year.

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