2021 Kia K5 review: The one to beat

The K5 is 1 snazzy-lookin’ sedan. Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow The Kia K5 — formerly identified as

The K5 is 1 snazzy-lookin’ sedan.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The Kia K5 — formerly identified as the Optima — comes on the scene with a new title, a new look and new powertrain choices. All of these work to not only differentiate it from its predecessor, but assist it stand out in the crowded crop of competing midsize sedans.


  • Lively one.6-liter turbo motor is now conventional
  • Nimble, simple-to-drive effectiveness
  • Stable conventional cabin and security tech suite

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  • Only the more compact screen gives wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Automated lights is a touch way too sensitive

The aesthetic is mostly new, but the K5’s proportions aren’t way too much off these of the earlier Optima. All round, the sedan is about 2 inches for a longer period with a one.eight-inch for a longer period wheelbase. Cargo and passenger quantity are within a several cubic inches of final year’s figures, way too. The roofline is about an inch reduced, which accentuates the a lot more “Stinger-like” fastback profile. Together with the enhanced size, this gives the K5 a much a lot more planted and menacing look than the Optima it replaces. On the other hand, contrary to the Stinger, the K5 is not a liftback, retaining a trunk separated from the cabin. A chrome accent arcs from the base of the A-pillar all the way back to the rear of the vehicle — a hallmark of the Optima design — but now flows easily into the window graphic fairly than just tapering off to an arbitrary level. 

Up front, the K5’s “tiger nose” grille is flanked by amber LED daytime operating lights with a zigzag design. The new sedan also ditches the previous one’s faux fender vents for a cleaner look. At the rear you’ll find a new complete-width LED taillight assembly that ties the design together properly, earning the sedan look wider in spite of being the similar width as right before.

My case in point is a midrange GT-Line product, which provides flashes of sporty flair with out the effectiveness upgrades of the a lot more potent, complete-on K5 GT. The GT-Line capabilities 18-inch alloy wheels, a gloss black rear spoiler and exceptional front and rear bumpers with LED foglights. Inside, you will find a flat-bottomed steering wheel and exceptional SynTex leatherette upholstery on the seats.

one.6-liter turbo engine

Kia’s one.6-liter Smartstream turbo engine replaces the previous 2.four-liter I4 as the K5’s base engine, earning a hundred and eighty horsepower and 195 pound-toes of torque. Which is 5 hp less than the 2.four-liter engine but, perhaps a lot more importantly, a improve of seventeen lb-ft, which keeps this engine feeling lively around town.


The GT-Line product capabilities styling and feature upgrades with out the effectiveness gains of the legitimate GT product.

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The one.6T is paired with an eight-velocity computerized transmission that feels like a good match for the engine. Together, they are not a supersporty pair — notably with the GT-Line’s deficiency of paddle shifters — but they do make an partaking duo that balances quiet effectiveness in the Normal drive mode with sleek and ample thrust when flicked to Activity.

Driving the K5 is best described as light and simple. From the steering to the throttle reaction, the sedan feels light on its toes, nimble and not fatiguing. You will find less opinions by means of the wheel than in a Honda Accord or Mazda6, which have better steering, but the Kia is yet responsive. In a class where your choices are normally both numb and detached or overly organization and “sport-tuned,” the K5 stands apart as 1 of the good ones, a notably well balanced and joyful drive.

This calendar year also marks the initially time the Optima/K5 is readily available with all-wheel drive. Checking this box provides $three,700 to the base line because it also rolls in a high quality tools bundle. Of program, optioning all-wheel drive nudges the K5 gasoline financial state estimates down to 26 miles for every gallon metropolis, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg mixed, so if you are living in a condition where you really don’t need to have the further grip, take into consideration sticking with the front-wheel drive configuration, where most K5 versions are good for a mentioned 27 metropolis, 37 highway and 31 mixed mpg. During my week of testing, I averaged 29.nine mpg with FWD. The base K5 LX product stands apart, gaining one-2 mpg across the board vs . the increased trims, most likely many thanks to its reduced bodyweight and fewer creature comforts. 

If you want a increased level of effectiveness, the K5 GT has a a lot more potent 2.5-liter engine with 311 hp and 290 lb-ft. I will be evaluating that soon in a separate evaluate, so stay tuned.


The K5’s checklist of conventional security capabilities is spectacular, but there are a several quirks.

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Great driver-guidance tech

The 2021 Kia K5 keeps present with the automaker’s suite of conventional security and driver-support systems, with lane-departure warning, lane-retaining assist, ahead precollision warning, pedestrian detection, driver alertness checking and computerized headlamp and high-beam programs equipped to just about every product. Kia’s vehicle-light systems are a touch way too sensitive for my preferences, however although driving around in broad daylight, I will capture the headlamps momentarily activating if I pass underneath a dense tree or overpass, producing the map to flick from day to night mode, which is distracting. I also find the computerized high-beams bothersome, activating even at reduced speeds on my moderately illuminated residential road. 

On increased trim amounts, blind-place checking and rear cross-targeted traffic alert are extra to the feature established, and Kia’s complete-velocity adaptive cruise handle will come on line as optional tools. The latter will work perfectly, even at end-and-go speeds, with out any jerkiness when other motor vehicles merge into or out of my lane. These upper trim amounts can also update the crisis braking assist set up with bike owner detection and junction assist, which helps stop collisions during cross-targeted traffic (still left-hand) turns.

Cabin tech: Even larger is not generally better

Kia’s cabin tech is normally relatively clear-cut and simple to comprehend, but 2021 provides a several odd details you’ll want to hold an eye on. You can get the K5 with both an eight-inch or a ten.2-inch touchscreen infotainment program in the dashboard. Each run versions of the automaker’s most up-to-date-technology UVO computer software, relying on trim and choices picked out. Each are well arranged and simple to use with capabilities ranging from shockingly beneficial (voice memo recorder) to kind of weird (ambient cafe sounds).

Each also feature conventional Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the other hand, although the more compact unit has wireless connectivity for Android and Apple telephones, the ten.25-inch product only connects by using USB. For this explanation alone, I would personally stick with the more compact screen. The big difference in visible real estate is not substantial, but the wireless cellphone relationship is a lot more practical, earning for a less cluttered cabin with out dangling cables. It also makes the optional wireless cellphone charging slot a a lot more compelling and beneficial update. 

Of program, if you are setting up on working with the onboard computer software, this is less of a nit to pick. Kia’s designed-in navigation is fairly good and simple to use with purely natural language voice recognition and handle enter. The menu composition makes feeling and is incredibly simple to get around many thanks to devoted components shortcut buttons just down below the screen main to just about every key operate.


The more compact UVO program (pictured below) capabilities the wireless Android and Apple connectivity that the more substantial unit lacks.

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Pricing and competition

The 2021 Kia K5 begins at $24,585 for the base LX (such as $995 for place), an boost of only $a hundred above final year’s starting up value. Considering the K5 will come with a lot more conventional tools than the Optima, not to point out the after-optional update to the turbocharged engine, I feel it is well worth the further dough. 

Whilst the thriftiest will be tempted by the LX’s reduced value and a little better gasoline financial state, I feel the sweet place in the lineup is almost certainly the front-drive GT-Line. It truly is a little a lot more highly-priced, starting up at $26,485, but provides a lot more conventional capabilities, appears to be better and has a increased level of security tools. Take into account the optional $one,600 GT-Line Top quality Package deal with its LED headlamps and inside lights, panoramic sunroof, wireless cellphone charger, smarter collision avoidance tech and end-and-go adaptive cruise. As tested and so geared up, you are wanting at $28,085 out the door. Drivers who need to have the surefootedness of all-wheel drive are wanting at a nonetheless-fair $thirty,185 with the Top quality pack.


The 2021 K5 sits in a sweet place of wonderful effectiveness, fascinating capabilities and fantastic benefit.

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Which is about two grand less than a comparably geared up Toyota Camry — with or with out all-wheel drive — with a lot more partaking effectiveness and less difficult-to-use tech. Honda’s Accord is only readily available with front-wheel drive, still manages to be a lot more highly-priced than the K5 AWD. The Mazda6 is a little more affordable and a lot more enjoyable to drive, but also boasts less house for people today and cargo as perfectly as a a lot more spartan tech. 

The 2021 Kia K5 and the new Hyundai Sonata stand as my leading picks in the cost-effective midsize sedan house, the Kia matching its cousin’s tech, security capabilities, develop quality and benefit. On the other hand, the K5 pulls ahead on a lot more subjective metrics, with a lot more palatable fashion and sharper effectiveness.