Chronicling the Changes: Kia K5 (Optima)

Revised: October 16, 2023

The Kia Optima is a midsize, five-passenger, front-wheel drive sedan. Known as the Kia K5 in most markets, the Optima name lasted for four generations until it assumed the global K5 naming convention in 2021. Regardless of its name, the Optima/K5 is a solid entry in a now-declining segment.

Kia logo

2024 — Only one change for 2024. This one involves making heated seats standard equipment on the GT-Line.

2023 — Kia drops the LX trim and adds sound-deadening front windows to most remaining models.

2022 — Light changes accompany the 2022 K5, including a newly available surround-view camera system.

2021 — Kia rolls out an all-new midsize sedan. It drops the Optima name in favor of its global K5 nomenclature. The new sedan features upgraded styling, available all-wheel drive, and new engine choices. A 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard and makes available all-wheel drive. This engine works with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Exclusive to the K5 GT is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that works with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. A K5 Hybrid is not offered.

Fifth-Generation Kia K5 (Formerly Optima)

The fifth-generation Kia Optima (K5)
The fifth-generation Kia K5 (formerly Optima)

2020 — For its final model year, the Kia Optima is mostly unchanged.

2019 — Kia updates the Optima with a fresh exterior, including new headlights and wheel designs. Expanded driver-assist features grace all models; new infotainment offerings are present.

2018 — Kia overhauls the Optima’s grades, adding a sporty S model in the mix. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are now standard.

2017 — One year removed from its most recent overhaul, the changes this year involve mostly new packages and some trim shuffling.

2016 — Kia rolls out the fourth-generation Optima, a model that is longer, wider, and marginally taller than before. The two previous engine choices carry forward, but a third engine – a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is available. An all-new Optima Hybrid also debuts. Lots of refinement inside and out, along with upgraded infotainment and safety features accompany this model.

Fourth-Generation Kia Optima (K5)

The fourth-generation Kia Optima
The fourth-generation Kia Optima

2015 — Light changes this year including an updated UVO infotainment system.

2014 — The Optima is refreshed with new front and rear fascias. Inside, a restyled steering wheel, updated front seats, and new display screens are presented. On the safety front, blind-spot monitoring and rear parking sensors are available.

2013 — Kia drops the EX Turbo and slot in the Limited at the top of the model line. The Optima Hybrid gains a second trim level.

2012 — New front seats supply improved support. Kia’s UVO infotainment system debuts all on but the base grade.

2011 — Kia launches the third-generation Optima, a model that is more stylish than before. Kia drops the V6 engine, replacing it with an available 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic. Most models, though, work with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Kia introduces an Optima Hybrid. This model works with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, and a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Third-Generation Kia Optima (K5)

The third-generation Kia Optima
The third-generation Kia Optima

2010 — The 2010 Optima is largely unchanged.

2009 — Kia tweaks the Optima by delivering a new front end. Other changes include upgrading the audio package and boosting performance for the two engine choices. With this model year, anti-lock brakes and stability control are now standard.

2008 — No changes this year except for the addition of an auxiliary audio jack.

2007 — For 2007, the Optima is all-new and is larger and more stylish than the previous model. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard and works with either a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. A 2.7-liter V6 is optional and works with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Second-Generation Kia Optima (K5)

The second-generation Kia Optima
The second-generation Kia Optima

2006 — For its final year, the first-generation Optima returns without changes. By midyear, though, the second-generation model debuts and sports a 2005.5 model year distinction.

2005 — Once again, only light changes were made for the 2005 model.

2004 — Light changes accompany the 2004 Optima, including a fresh grille design.

2003 — For its third model year, the Optima is refreshed. It benefits from a new front end and wheels. Inside, an updated center stack, new door panels, and redesigned seat fabric are included.

2002 — For its second year, the Optima gains a new 2.7-liter V6, replacing the previous V6. This one works with a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.

2001 — Kia gains a new model, the Optima, its first internally developed midsize sedan. Previously, Kia relied on Mazda to produce a model, but with Hyundai taking effective control of the company in 1998, subsequent models including the Optima, come from that relationship. The Optima is like the Hyundai Sonata and is known as the Kia K5 in most markets. For its initial year, the Optima comes with two engine choices. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine powers most models and works with a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. A 2.5-liter V6 is optional and works with a 4-speed automatic transmission.

First-Generation Kia Optima (K5)

The first-generation Kia Optima
The first-generation Kia Optima

Kia Optima Considerations

The Kia Optima (K5) operates within a declining segment. As such, there are only a handful of models to consider, including the mechanically similar Hyundai Sonata. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Chevrolet Malibu are other models of note. We believe that late model Optima models hold the best value in this segment.

See AlsoGood-Bye, Kia Optima; Hello K5!

Photo Attribution

Fifth-generation Kia K5 (Optima) photo supplied by Stumpwater Media Group, LLC.

By Vauxford – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

Third-generation photo copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

By IFCAR – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia

Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0 Creative Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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