Some responses to the replies:
1. The Optima I sat in was the first model year. 2010, maybe? I took a look at the Kia page, and to get the car equipped as I'd like, it would be more than $30K.
2. Yes, only a lease. I can get more car for the money and I'm perfectly happy with a monthly payment forever.
3. My lease is up in late October. It's unlikely that many 2015s will still be available then. When I got my current car, a 2013, in late 2013, there were no 2012 models to be found.
4. I've driven the Fusion and really liked it. It was only when I got back to the dealership that it became obvious that Ford was unwilling to provide a good lease rate, mostly because of the money factor. For my Civic, the money factor is something like .0000001; for the Fusion it was closer to 0.0035, which may not seem like much, but it makes for a difference of about $140 per month.
5. I thought about the Soul, but I think I've been spoiled by my hybrid MPG. Also, I've never had a car that came anywhere close to its EPA rated MPG. The Altimas I had were supposed to be 23-24 city/32-33 hwy, but the best MPG I ever got was on a road trip, and that was about 30. 25 was its average until I started working in downtown DC, and then it dropped to the teens.
6. I really like Mazda in general, the 3 in particular, but it's just too tiny for me. The back seat is so narrow that the seatback sits between my shoulder blades.
7. Sadly, I live in an apartment, so I can't have an electric car: no place to charge it. Otherwise, I think I'd love one.
8. "a lease deal for $3,020 down and $300/month for 39 months (12k miles/year)" That's not a good lease deal to me. The sticker price on the Civic was $27,815, and I pay $299/month, nothing down. I also don't need 12k miles/per year: after 28 months, I have about 16K miles on the Civic. I don't drive very far; it just takes a while to drive it.
9. I was not a fan of the Elantra, and it seemed to have more room inside than the Sonata. But I will take another look
10. Pricing out the Cmax, a Fusion is cheaper; the Cmax starts $2K higher than the Fusion hybrid.
Thanks for all of the answers! I really appreciate your suggestions.