2021 Kia K5 review: The one to beat

Victoria D. Doty

The K5 is one snazzy-lookin’ sedan.

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The Kia K5 — formerly recognised as the Optima — comes on the scene with a new identify, a new glance and new powertrain solutions. All of these operate to not only differentiate it from its predecessor, but enable it stand out in the crowded crop of competing midsize sedans.


  • Lively one.six-liter turbo motor is now normal
  • Nimble, uncomplicated-to-travel performance
  • Strong normal cabin and protection tech suite

Don’t Like

  • Only the smaller screen delivers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Computerized lighting is a contact far too delicate

The aesthetic is typically new, but the K5’s proportions are not far too far off those of the former Optima. Overall, the sedan is about two inches for a longer period with a one.8-inch for a longer period wheelbase. Cargo and passenger quantity are in just a few cubic inches of final year’s quantities, far too. The roofline is about an inch reduced, which accentuates the much more “Stinger-like” fastback profile. Alongside with the elevated duration, this gives the K5 a a lot much more planted and menacing glance than the Optima it replaces. On the other hand, not like 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 again to the rear of the automobile — a hallmark of the Optima style — but now flows easily into the window graphic instead than just tapering off to an arbitrary level. 

Up front, the K5’s “tiger nose” grille is flanked by amber LED daytime working lights with a zigzag style. The new sedan also ditches the previous one’s faux fender vents for a cleaner glance. At the rear you will find a new entire-width LED taillight assembly that ties the style collectively properly, generating the sedan glance broader in spite of becoming the similar width as in advance of.

My illustration is a midrange GT-Line product, which provides flashes of sporty aptitude with out the performance updates of the much more impressive, entire-on K5 GT. The GT-Line capabilities 18-inch alloy wheels, a gloss black rear spoiler and distinctive front and rear bumpers with LED foglights. Within, there is certainly a flat-bottomed steering wheel and distinctive SynTex leatherette upholstery on the seats.

one.six-liter turbo motor

Kia’s one.six-liter Smartstream turbo motor replaces the previous two.four-liter I4 as the K5’s base motor, generating a hundred and eighty horsepower and 195 pound-ft of torque. Which is five hp much less than the two.four-liter motor but, probably much more importantly, a strengthen of seventeen lb-ft, which retains this motor sensation energetic about city.


The GT-Line product capabilities styling and attribute updates with out the performance gains of the genuine GT product.

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The one.6T is paired with an eight-velocity automatic transmission that feels like a fantastic match for the motor. Jointly, they are not a supersporty pair — significantly with the GT-Line’s deficiency of paddle shifters — but they do make an partaking duo that balances quiet performance in the Normal travel mode with smooth and sufficient thrust when flicked to Activity.

Driving the K5 is greatest described as gentle and uncomplicated. From the steering to the throttle reaction, the sedan feels gentle on its toes, nimble and not fatiguing. There is certainly much less comments through the wheel than in a Honda Accord or Mazda6, which have improved steering, but the Kia is even so responsive. In a course exactly where your solutions are normally both numb and detached or overly organization and “activity-tuned,” the K5 stands aside as one of the fantastic kinds, a significantly well balanced and joyful travel.

This yr also marks the to start with time the Optima/K5 is obtainable with all-wheel travel. Checking this box provides $three,seven hundred to the base line because it also rolls in a premium gear package deal. Of system, optioning all-wheel travel nudges the K5 gasoline financial state estimates down to 26 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg blended, so if you are living in a condition exactly where you will not want the additional grip, take into account sticking with the front-wheel travel configuration, exactly where most K5 designs are fantastic for a mentioned 27 city, 37 highway and 31 blended mpg. All through my 7 days of tests, I averaged 29.9 mpg with FWD. The base K5 LX product stands aside, getting one-two mpg throughout the board versus the better trims, most very likely thanks to its reduced excess weight and much less creature comforts. 

If you want a better stage of performance, the K5 GT has a much more impressive two.five-liter motor with 290 hp and 311 lb-ft. I’ll be assessing that soon in a independent review, so remain tuned.


The K5’s record of normal protection capabilities is amazing, but there are a few quirks.

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Excellent driver-support tech

The 2021 Kia K5 retains present with the automaker’s suite of normal protection and driver-assist technologies, with lane-departure warning, lane-preserving aid, ahead precollision warning, pedestrian detection, driver alertness monitoring and automatic headlamp and significant-beam programs equipped to just about every product. Kia’s automobile-gentle technologies are a contact far too delicate for my preferences, though while driving about in broad daylight, I’ll catch the headlamps momentarily activating if I move under a dense tree or overpass, causing the map to flick from working day to night time mode, which is distracting. I also find the automatic significant-beams bothersome, activating even at small speeds on my fairly illuminated residential road. 

On better trim amounts, blind-place monitoring and rear cross-visitors alert are extra to the attribute set, and Kia’s entire-velocity adaptive cruise regulate will come online as optional gear. The latter functions perfectly, even at cease-and-go speeds, with out any jerkiness when other cars merge into or out of my lane. These higher trim amounts can also upgrade the emergency braking aid set up with bicycle owner detection and junction aid, which can help avoid collisions for the duration of cross-visitors (remaining-hand) turns.

Cabin tech: Even bigger just isn’t usually improved

Kia’s cabin tech is normally quite easy and uncomplicated to realize, but 2021 provides a few odd particulars you will want to keep an eye on. You can get the K5 with both an 8-inch or a 10.two-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the dashboard. Both run versions of the automaker’s most current-technology UVO software package, based on trim and solutions picked. Both are neatly arranged and uncomplicated to use with capabilities ranging from amazingly handy (voice memo recorder) to kind of bizarre (ambient cafe seems).

Both also attribute normal Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the other hand, while the smaller unit has wireless connectivity for Android and Apple telephones, the 10.25-inch product only connects via USB. For this explanation on your own, I would personally adhere with the smaller screen. The change in visual real estate just isn’t big, but the wireless telephone relationship is much more easy, generating for a much less cluttered cabin with out dangling cables. It also makes the optional wireless telephone charging slot a much more persuasive and handy upgrade. 

Of system, if you might be scheduling on making use of the onboard software package, this is much less of a nit to choose. Kia’s constructed-in navigation is really fantastic and uncomplicated to use with all-natural language voice recognition and handle input. The menu construction makes perception and is quite uncomplicated to get about thanks to devoted hardware shortcut buttons just underneath the screen primary to just about every key function.


The smaller UVO system (pictured in this article) capabilities the wireless Android and Apple connectivity that the larger sized unit lacks.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Pricing and opposition

The 2021 Kia K5 begins at $24,585 for the base LX (which includes $995 for destination), an improve of only $a hundred in excess of final year’s starting off rate. Considering the K5 will come with much more normal gear than the Optima, not to point out the once-optional upgrade to the turbocharged motor, I consider it really is well worth the additional dough. 

While the thriftiest will be tempted by the LX’s reduced rate and a little bit improved gasoline financial state, I consider the sweet place in the lineup is in all probability the front-travel GT-Line. It is really a little bit much more high priced, starting off at $26,485, but provides much more normal capabilities, seems improved and has a better stage of protection gear. Take into consideration the optional $one,600 GT-Line Top quality Bundle with its LED headlamps and inside lights, panoramic sunroof, wireless telephone charger, smarter collision avoidance tech and cease-and-go adaptive cruise. As analyzed and so equipped, you might be looking at $28,085 out the door. Motorists who want the surefootedness of all-wheel travel are looking at a still-fair $thirty,185 with the Top quality pack.


The 2021 K5 sits in a sweet place of wonderful performance, desirable capabilities and superb benefit.

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Which is about two grand much less than a comparably equipped Toyota Camry — with or with out all-wheel travel — with much more partaking performance and less complicated-to-use tech. Honda’s Accord is only obtainable with front-wheel travel, yet manages to be much more high priced than the K5 AWD. The Mazda6 is a little bit more cost-effective and much more fun to travel, but also boasts much less place for people and cargo as perfectly as a much more spartan tech. 

The 2021 Kia K5 and the new Hyundai Sonata stand as my leading picks in the reasonably priced midsize sedan place, the Kia matching its cousin’s tech, protection capabilities, create quality and benefit. On the other hand, the K5 pulls forward on much more subjective metrics, with much more palatable design and sharper performance.

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