Entry price: $23,490
Price as tested: $28,400
This week, we’re driving the all-new 2021 Kia K5, a midsize sedan that may be new to the American consumer but not so to those in South Korea. To explain, the K5 has been in production in South Korea for many years, and its popular midsize sedan platform is now here in America and replaces what was previously called the Kia Optima.
However, unlike its foreign counterpart K5, America’s new K5 is being built in West Point, Georgia, and with the exception of a different dashboard and some other minor tweaks, it’s the exact same K5 that is ultra-popular abroad and looks to have a very solid consumer base here in the states based on Optima popularity.
Further, along with corporate twin Hyundai, this partnership finds Hyundai/Kia as the third top vehicle manufacturing group in the world, behind Toyota and Volkswagen and ahead of GM and Ford. For those who own a Kia, this information comes as no surprise as both Kia and Hyundai, still with its 10-year, 100,000-mile drivetrain warranties, have been building some really great cars the last decade.
To emphasize further, years ago a good friend and drag racer by the name of Larry Carasea, who owns a successful body repair and paint shop in Vestal, New York, (L JC Jr. Enterprises) once told me he knows why Kia is so popular because he’s rebuilt many that have crashed. He said the quality of a Kia build is right in front of his eyes compared to other brands. That’s a powerful statement on quality and one I haven’t forgotten.
Enough about why Kia has grown so popular, so let’s concentrate on the K5 and this week’s review. Delivered in sporty GT-Line dress in a special Wolf Gray exterior paint, this all-new design, compared to the Optima it replaces, is visually outstanding. K5 is available in five trims, starting with entry LX ($23,490), followed by the LXS ($24,490), our tester GT-Line ($25,390), EX ($27.990) and being delivered to dealers right now the GT ($30,490).
The new K5 is wider, lower and has a longer wheelbase than the Optima it replaces and when it comes to style and design, the K5’s aggressive aerodynamic stance resulted in many “hey, what kind of car is that?” questions from interested onlookers. Our GT-Line came with a beautiful deep red interior that really set off the gray exterior paint even more so.
Compared to second tier LXS, our mid-level GT-Line upgrade includes stitched leatherette seating with GT-Line embroidered logos, special front and rear bumpers, a GT line special front grill, gloss black mirror surrounds, gloss black spoiler, special sport design flat bottom steering wheel, LED fog lamps, power driver with lumbar and power passenger seat. Inside, there’s excellent front and rear visibility even with the sloped rear window while the sporty motif features a nice chrome trim surround that circles the rear windshield. LED taillights go the full length of the trunk while the front LED headlights flow into the sides of the front fenders. You can tell the Kia designers put full thought into this new design, and the end product is a thing of modern day beauty.
Under the hood sits the engine that powers all trims except the GT, namely a 1.6-liter turbo inline four-cylinder. It produces 180 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. torque all connected to Kia’s new eight-speed automatic that is specially designed for better shifts. With selectable drive modes of fuel-saving ECO, SPORT, SPORT+ COMFORT, plus automatically adjustable SMART or create your own style CUSTOM, each offers a different shift and RPM pattern resulting in zero to 60 mph times of 7.3 seconds in the Sport modes. Our Kia also was able to break the front tires loose a bit before traction control kicked in while fuel mileage is very good at 27 city and 37 highway. It’s not a speedster by any means, but if you need more power the just introduced K5 GT will be fitted with a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder and put out 290 horsepower and 311 lb. ft. of torque. This one will be a performer as zero to 60 is expected to be 5.8 seconds with a dual-clutch automatic.
The GT-Line handles well thanks to a MacPherson strut front suspension coupled to a multi-link rear while 18-inch Pirelli P-Zero tires on machined alloy GT-Line wheels help plant K5’s footprint. As for safety, every K5 trim built features the “Kia Drive Wise” technology package featuring Auto Emergency Braking, Lane Keep and Lane Following Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, High Beam Assist and Electronic Stability Control. Those who need more traction will be pleased as the K5 is available in AWD formats with an Electronically-Controlled Transfer Case. Your Kia dealer will explain all options when you visit or call.
Inside GT-Line’s cabin you’ll find a standard 8-inch display infotainment center that includes a class exclusive wireless Apple and Android compatibility infotainment system with a six-speaker stereo and SiriusXM satellite. A 10.25 Bose stereo upgrade is available, but it does not offer the wireless Apple and Android. There are two USB ports up front with a 12-volt outlet access and two more USB chargers in the rear. Heated front seats are standard and the dash is well done with a digital display with LED gauges. In the back seat there’s a flip down center console rest with two cup holders, however there are no rear seat climate control vents.
Our tester included the GT-Line Premium option for $1,600 that adds panoramic sunroof, LED projection headlights, forward collision assist, smart cruise with stop and go, wireless phone charger, LED overhead interior lighting, and a GT-Line red interior package. The only other option was $445 for the beautiful wolf gray paint.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 112.2 inches, 3,228 lb. curb weight, 16.0 cu. ft. trunk space, 14.8 gallon fuel tank, and a 5.3-inch ground clearance.
Offering value, style, reliability, and a great warranty in five distinct trims, this new 2021 Kia K5 is a solid midsize winner.
Likes: Aggressive design, great price, lots of standard equipment.
Dislikes: No rear seat climate vents, a few more horsepower on the 1.6 would be nice.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive column: All-new 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line
Entry price: $23,490