New year, new Kia vibes. Getting behind the wheel of a Kia K5 feels like an upgrade over the Optima, K5’s predecessor. Similar to how Buick stepped up its marketing game, this modern sports sedan feels and looks right for a 2021 model. We tested a K5 and noticed its similarities to the 2020 Hyundai Sonata on the back end. But, up front, with its sandwiched grille, decorated with abstract lines inside, it’s a beauty.
The shiny Sapphire Blue paint leaves a poised and stoic impression, and the headlights are slyly trimmed into the sides. This exterior aspect of the sedan is its most unique, as the honeycomb grille adds a distinctive flair – perhaps to retire the staid Optima moniker once and for all.
The K5 projects confidence in its posture and looks anything but basic. Some automotive critics have even likened it to BMW 3-Series on a budget, and that surely makes sense. The desire factor for K5 is elevated a lot over the Optima, thanks to a unique-but-modern and intriguing sporty style and body language.
The Kia K5 has a turbo-4 engine under its hood, and matched up with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the EPA ratings are pretty decent: 31 mpg average with around 27 and 37 on city and highway, respectively. There’s a GT edition on its way with a more robust turbo-4 slated for later in the 2021 model year, but no plans for hybrid or plugin hybrid models offered in Kia Optima.
When it’s time to hit the road, the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line gets up through a 1.6-liter Turbo 4-Cylinder mated to a 8-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. At 180 hp and torque of 195 lb.-ft. it’s respectable and even admirable for a sedan in this segment. The downside, to our chagrin, was performance at higher speeds, when the tranny lags and is otherwise imprecise. Maybe those 3-Series ambitions are indeed an illusion, but hey, there are positives.
For instance, the K5 handles corners well. Steering, on the other hand, can be dodgy and the suspension without any oomph factor. If dynamic and burst of speed is what you expect, the K5 is more moderate and less volatile – so don’t feel all bad.
The modern design and specs that K5 packs appeal to rational buyers, which is why the safety features such as front automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights should be something to pay attention to.
With the exception of the base model, the K5 also comes equipped with standard blind-spot warning, collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert. We tested out a K5 with a GT-Line featuring adaptive cruise control with lane-tracing and all the features that make the ride spicy and fun. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning stop-and-go driving is here thanks to the adaptive cruise control and it’s part of an alluring package.
What perhaps is alluring the most about the 2021 K5 is an MSRP that starts at $25,390 and tops out at $27,995 with all the trims. This price is attractive, although the competition is stiffer than an 90s Isuzu Rodeo without power steering. The sports sedan segment features the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the tried-and-true Japanese whips with solid street cred. The Camry, in particular, has AWD and a hybrid chassis, with the tradeoff coming in its rather simpleton body design. Elsewhere, Subaru Legacy offers AWD but looks basic, and Nissan Altima is also AWD but doesn’t pack all the interior pizazz that the K5 carries.
Photo Credit: Kia