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The 2015 Kia Optima carries over for one more model year in its current form, as a strong entry in its field in most respects, with good performance, a roomy interior, and an impressive value-for-money factor.

Although its Hyundai Sonata cousin receives a full redesign for 2015, the Optima was always an advanced student of design, so it still fits right into the market remarkably well. Kia got this design right from the start; a mid-cycle revamp last year really didn't mess much with the Optima's already attractive attributes. Altogether, that's saying a lot up next to contemporary, rakish models like the Ford Fusion and Mazda 6. Recent changes were largely limited to a sharper front-end appearance, revised tail, and some new trims, with LED lighting and new LED fog lamps to be had on some of the model line. As well, there's a new EX-L (Limited) model with a plush Nappa leather interior. And this year there's a new dark-cloth interior for the base LX. 

The cabin of the 2015 Kia Optima keeps it sporty and clean, with a classy, minimalist cockpit look that reminds us of Audi's interiors of a few years ago, with a wide rectangular bank of controls canted toward the driver. New TFT instrument-panel displays and a much-needed premium infotainment display occupy some new space, surrounded by some upgraded trims.

Review continues below

There are three different performance flavors of the 2015 Kia Optima. All three deliver responsive, economical performance. But what might come to a surprise to some who haven't been on the market for a car for several years is that there isn't a single V-6 to be seen; it's only four-cylinder engines under the hood—well, that and some other special hardware like turbochargers and hybrid systems in some versions. At the base level, and on all but the SX model, you get a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. It's a little coarse when you need to access its full potential, but it works well with the six-speed automatic transmission because it's plenty perky in the mid revs. Those who would have chosen the V-6 in the past will not be plenty satisfied with the sporty SX model and its 274-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. And with the new Drive Select system that's included in the SX model, you get several modes that command different transmission shift points and steering weighting.

Anyone who wants to make a big change in their petroleum habits will be quite pleased with the Optima Hybrid, with its electric-motor system and lithium-polymer battery pack that pair with a four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission (not a CVT). Last year the company made some subtle (but meaningful) changes that add up to far better drivability -- and up to 36 mpg city, 40 highway. 

We wouldn't by any means call the Optima a sport sedan, but with its rather firmly tuned suspension and reasonably good body control, the Optima has a lean, confident feel on a curvy road, with steering that's on the firm side but better weighted than some models in this class -- like the Optima's Hyundai Sonata cousin. 

The 2015 Kia Optima has one of the more usable, comfortable interiors in its class, even if the numbers might say otherwise in some respects. Getting in and out of the backseat can be a little tough due to the roofline; but once in, it's wide enough to fit three, with just enough headroom. Heated and cooled front seats available--heated back seats, too--the Optima and the back seats can be heated, too. In previous years we've noted that the Optima is a little noisier inside compared to most rival models; although for 2015 Kia has added a noise-isolating acoustic windshield to the entire model line.

The Optima earns five-star scores in all tests--including the side pole test--from the federal government. And it gets 'good' ratings in every test category from the IIHS (except an 'acceptable'  in the new small overlap frontal test). A Blind Spot Detection System and rear parking sensors have been added to the options list, and they're available on all but the base LX model. 

Value for money remains the focus; but in recent years Kia has added sporty SX models and now the SX-L (Limited) model--both of which could be seen as luxury models if you go only by their features lists. At the top of the line (or optionally), there's an eight-inch navigation and telematics system, including a UVO eServices suite (driven off the driver's paired smartphone) plus eight-speaker Infinity sound, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and SiriusXM Traffic. And through an eServices suite, you can get a number of different app-based extras or concierge services. 

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