By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.7
Stealing away one of Germany's most prized automotive designers is only half the reason for Kia's recent success. There's an engineering and customer satisfaction story to tell too, and no car tells it better than the 2015 Kia Optima sedan. Four doors never looked so sexy – at least not wearing a sub-$23,000 price tag. From its aggressive front end to its distinctive silhouette, the Optima turns heads and flusters the competition. The Kia Optima is no one trick pony, either. Slick styling and a powerful engine usually require sacrificing some interior comfort to help keep the price in line, but not so with the Optima. Options like a panoramic moonroof and heated rear seats come as pleasant surprises, as does the Optima's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Looking for a practical family sedan that doesn't look like a practical family sedan? You have a few cars from which to choose, but none as feature packed as the 2015 Kia Optima.
KBB Expert Ratings
The cruise-control buttons are moved to the right side steering wheel spoke and acoustic laminated windshield glass is now standard on all but the LX trim, which offers it as an option. The UVO2 telematics system is upgraded to include parenting features: speed alerts, curfew reminders and Geo Fencing.
Driving Impressions Deriving a favorable impression of the 2015 Kia Optima sedan requires only about five minutes behind the wheel, an open road and no salesman along to spoil your fun. The...... base 2.4-liter engine delivers a smooth, quiet and willing performance while sipping gasoline. Despite the car's racy appearance, the Optima's suspension is set up more for comfort than cornering, and not quite up to the standards set by the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. Around town, the steering is heavily weighted, but at cruising speeds it feels quite nice. The Optima Hybrid uses the same 2.4-liter engine, only it's paired with an electric motor that significantly improves both efficiency and off-the-line acceleration. Unlike some competitors, the Optima doesn't make a V6 engine or AWD available, but the SX trim does offer a robust 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that turns this comfortable cruiser into an asphalt abusing bruiser.
Even though the design is a few years old, the 2015 Kia Optima sedan still looks as fresh and new as the day it first arrived. We think it looks even better than some luxury sedans costing twice as much.
TURBOCHARGED 2.0-LITER ENGINE
V6? We don't need no stinking V6! The Optima's available 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers 274 horsepower for a thrilling 0-to-60-mph run, yet still earns an EPA-estimated 31 mpg on the highway.
On upper-end EX and SX trims, customers can opt for such extravagant features as a dual-panel moonroof, heated and cooling front seats, heated rear seats and a voice-activated navigation and infotainment system similar to Ford's SYNC. While we love the look of the 2015 Kia Optima sedan's interior, some of the plastic on the dash and steering wheel still lack the quality look and feel found in Honda, Mazda and even some GM and Ford products. The front seats are pretty comfortable for tall folks, but the Optima's sharply raked rear roofline may cause some headroom issues for the rear-seat passengers.Exterior
Looking a bit like something from the sci-fi movie Tron, Kia's 2015 Optima is a bold and original piece of work from the ground up. From its cross-hatch front grille and long sweptback headlight housing, to the red brake calipers on the SX-T trim, the Optima looks like it's going fast even when it's parked. There is a duality about the Optima sedan for 2015, speaking to both luxury and performance all while masking its true nature to serve duty as a humble family sedan. Even base trims offer such nice features as heated side mirrors, chrome door-handle inserts and 16-inch wheels.
Every 2015 Kia Optima family sedan offers Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod/USB audio connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated side mirrors, fog lights, tilt/telescopic steering column, 6-way power driver's seat and a cooling glove box that keeps drinks chilled. As for safety, the Optima has an impressive array of features including six airbags and electronic stability control. Like other base-priced models in its class, the entry-level Optima includes 16-inch steel wheels and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Optional equipment includes a panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather seating, 8-speaker Infinity sound system, HID headlights, LED fog lights, touch-screen navigation system, push-button start with Smart Key, UVO2 infotainment voice-active system, Blind Spot Detection and rearview camera. In addition to a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the top SX and SX Limited models offer a lightly sport-tuned suspension and more aggressive styling cues. The 2015 Optima Hybrid features lightweight wheels in standard 16-inch or sporty 17-inch size, as well as the EcoMinder LCD panel with graphics that show when the car is achieving maximum fuel economy.
The 2015 Kia Optima sedan doesn't offer the option of a V6, and why should it? The standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is nearly as powerful as some V6 engines and gets far better fuel economy. In fact, it has more power and better fuel economy than some 4-cylinder cars in the category, as well. Those wanting more power can opt for the turbocharged 2.0 liter (SX trims only). Only one transmission is offered: a 6-speed Sportronic automatic with manual-shift mode. However, on SX trims a Drive Mode Select option adjusts the transmission's shift points and the power steering input to better suit the driver's needs. The Optima Hybrid uses the 2.4-liter engine mated to a 40-horsepower electric motor for a combined output of 206 horsepower.
192 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
181 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/34 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
274 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/31 mpg
2.4-liter hybrid inline-4 + electric motor/generator
166 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
40 horsepower @ 1,400-6,000 rpm (electric motor)
154 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
152 lb-ft of torque @ 0-1,400 rpm (electric motor)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 36/40 mpg
The 2015 Kia Optima sedan starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $22,500 and stretches past $38,000 when fully loaded. The 2015 Optima Hybrid starts just around $30,000. Feature for feature, the Kia Optima sedan offers more for the money than the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion. Before heading to your local Kia dealer, be sure and check our Fair Purchase Price to see what the 2015 Optima is selling for in your area. As for resale value, we expect the Optima to hold its value better than the Ford Fusion, Dodge Avenger and Chevy Malibu, and to be only a few percentage points shy of the segment-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.