Review: 2021 Kia K5 takes over from the Optima
Kia has dropped the Optima and replaced it with the K5, a more sport-themed design. The K5 is, for all intents, a “new” Optima in that it has an all-new design, but takes lots of cues from the outgoing model.
At a Glance
- More upscale and appealing than the outgoing Optima
- Good powertrain base with a significant upgrade option
- Smart tech inside, with one odd caveat
For the 2021 model year, the all-new K5 joins the Rio, Forte, and Stinger in Kia’s sedan lineup. The only Kia remaining with a letter-number name (the K900, along with the Cadenza, was dropped this year due to slow sales and cross competition with the Genesis luxury brand owned by Kia’s partner Hyundai), the K5 comes in five trim levels with front-wheel drive as standard and all-wheel drive as an option on two of the mid-range trims. We drove the GT-Line mid-level trim, which adds sporty aesthetics, 18-inch wheels, and that AWD option.
The 2021 Kia K5 has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 180 horsepower (134 kW) to an eight-speed automatic transmission. For more power, Kia offers the K5 in the GT model with a turbocharged 2.5-liter that outputs 290 hp (216 kW) to a nine-speed automated dual-clutch transmission.
The K5 has a lot going for it. It’s a well-sized sedan with seating for up to five. The sloping rear roofline, which looks really good, can make getting in and out of the rear seats a challenge for taller people, but the wide-opening doors and low sills help make up for that. The interior of the K5 is smart, includes well-chosen modern materials, and is comfortable to ride in. The K5 is quiet on the road and just tech-savvy enough to make most users happy.
The 2021 K5 comes standard with forward collision mitigation, a lane keeping system, and driver attention monitoring. The GT-Line we drove adds keyless entry and ignition, remote monitoring via smartphone app, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alerts, and an unusual rear passenger safe exit system. That system keeps the rear doors from opening if the car senses another vehicle approaching from behind to prevent passengers from opening their doors into oncoming traffic.
Infotainment in the Kia K5 is good, with a right-sized 8.5-inch touchscreen that can be upgraded to 10.25-in. The standard screen does not have Kia’s advanced voice recognition system, but does have wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay whereas the larger screen upgrade adds the voice recognition upgrade and downgrades to wired-only CarPlay and Auto. This is an odd either-or choice that seems out of place. But either choice has Kia’s well-executed infotainment screens with fast responses and easily understood icons. Our test ride also had the 12-speaker Bose audio upgrade, which was appreciated.
Around town and in most driving situations, the 1.6L engine, while not punchy, is definitely adequate for keeping confidence while driving. On the onramp or in high acceleration situations, though, it does feel sluggish. So while the style and feel of the Kia K5 may have gone towards the Stinger’s look, the car itself isn’t a Stinger. For that, the more expensive GT would have to be opted for, and it may or may not live up to that potential.
Our overall feel is that Kia has done a solid job of making the 2021 K5 a more desirable when compared to the Optima it replaces. Value-wise, the K5 is well-priced at US$23,590 for the base model, $30,335 for the GT-Line (with upgrades) that we drove, and $30,490 for the top-of-the-range GT model without any upgrades.
Product Page: 2021 Kia K5