Good-Bye, Kia Optima; Hello K5!

The K5 takes up where the Optima leaves off.


2021 Kia K5 front

The Kia K5 represents the evolution of midsize sedan engineering and style.


Kia now fields one of the most dependable brands of vehicles in the world, according to consumer surveys. This Korean automaker has consistently improved its offerings by rolling out new models that are among the best in its class. After a 20-year run, the Optima midsize sedan is no more, replaced by the K5. The new model starts just $100 more than the Optima while leaping forward in premium features, technology, and performance.

The 2021 Kia K5 offers standard front-wheel drive and newly available all-wheel drive. This model seats five. The K5 is available in five trims with prices ranging from $23,490 to $30,490. Add $965 for the destination charge. Package choices and individual options will add to your cost.

Styling

The K5 is slightly longer and wider than the Optima and sits lower to the ground. Its tiger-nose grille makes a bold statement with LED accent lights furnishing elegant touches. The K5’s profile is long with a falling roofline that eases into a short rear deck. The look is more refined than the Optima and is not too dissimilar from the Kia Stinger.

Inside, the cabin gains slightly more space, making the K5 seem like a large car instead of the midsize that it is. The rear bench seat is comfortable and roomy. Even tall passengers should find adequate legroom but take care: the sloping roofline impacts access and egress as well as restricts the headroom for some.


2021 Kia K5 dashboard


High-quality materials across the dashboard, covering the door panels, and wrapping the console supplies the K5 with a class-above vibe. Noticeably present was a long strip of trim separating the upper and lower dash – was it carbon fiber or a metal blend? We weren’t sure, but it looked great and served as a classy element.

Cloth, imitation leather, and real hides are among the seat covering choices available. Heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel are optional.

Performance

Kia offers two engine choices with the 2021 K5. Most trims have a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The engine is quite small, but the power delivered is entirely sufficient: 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Kia matches this engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the LX and EX trims are front-wheel-drive only, the LXS and GT-Line offer all-wheel drive, which supplies added traction.

The K5 GT is the fifth trim and this one has a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Exclusive to the GT, this engine develops 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, essentially rivaling the Nissan Maxima in performance. The only other model that rivals the K5 GT’s numbers is the Toyota Camry when equipped with its optional V6 engine. In the GT, an 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission sends power to the front wheels. The wet designation means it uses oil for lubrication, which is designed to help this transmission remain durable under punishing conditions.


2021 Kia K5 profile


Our test GT-Line AWD model delivered a smooth and comfortable ride. We’ve driven the Optima and noticed the improvements in the K5’s suspension system, handling, and braking. This sedan’s step-off acceleration is steady with power quickly building once the turbocharger spools – and it doesn’t delay noticeably as some models do.

We appreciated the all-wheel-drive advantage, especially when driving on twisty roads and when cornering. Under such conditions, up to half the power transfers to the rear wheels for added stability. It’s a feature ideal for slick or snowy roads, but it can also be useful when engaging in spirited driving.

Safety & Technology

For a premium sedan with a starting price under $25,000, the K5 certainly offers ample safety features for no additional charge. All trims come with forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning with leading vehicle departure assist, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and high beam assist.

Also available are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and parking assistance.
On the tech front, Kia supplies an 8-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, and a USB port. Among the upgrades are a 12-speaker Bose audio system, additional USB ports, navigation, satellite radio, and a 10.25-inch touch-screen display.


2021 Kia K5 rear


K5 Model Musings

The K5 impresses us and that says a lot. Although you most likely won’t need all-wheel drive, that this feature is available presents an intriguing option just a few other manufacturers match. That said, you might hold out for the late-available GT trim to enjoy a level of performance, sophistication, and elegance that should approach some luxury brands while maintaining a reasonable cost.


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