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2021 Kia K5 assessment: The one to beat


The K5 is one snazzy-lookin’ sedan.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The Kia K5 — previously often called the Optima — arrives on the scene with a brand new title, a brand new look and new powertrain choices. All of those work to not solely differentiate it from its predecessor, however assist it stand out within the crowded crop of competing midsize sedans.

LikeLively 1.6-liter turbo motor is now standardNimble, easy-to-drive performanceSolid customary cabin and security tech suite

Do not LikeOnly the smaller display affords wi-fi Android Auto and Apple CarPlayAutomatic lighting is a contact too delicate

The aesthetic is generally new, however the K5’s proportions aren’t too far off these of the earlier Optima. Total, the sedan is about 2 inches longer with a 1.8-inch longer wheelbase. Cargo and passenger quantity are inside a couple of cubic inches of final 12 months’s numbers, too. The roofline is about an inch decrease, which accentuates the extra “Stinger-like” fastback profile. Together with the elevated size, this offers the K5 a way more planted and menacing look than the Optima it replaces. Nonetheless, in contrast to the Stinger, the K5 shouldn’t be a liftback, retaining a trunk separated from the cabin. A chrome accent arcs from the bottom of the A-pillar all the way in which again to the rear of the car — a trademark of the Optima design — however now flows easily into the window graphic somewhat than simply truly fizzling out to an arbitrary level. 

Up entrance, the K5’s “tiger nostril” grille is flanked by amber LED daytime working lights with a zigzag design. The brand new sedan additionally ditches the outdated one’s fake fender vents for a cleaner look. On the rear you may discover a new full-width LED taillight meeting that ties the design collectively properly, making the sedan look wider regardless of being the identical width as earlier than.

My instance is a midrange GT-Line mannequin, which provides flashes of sporty aptitude with out the efficiency upgrades of the extra highly effective, full-on K5 GT. The GT-Line options 18-inch alloy wheels, a gloss black rear spoiler and distinctive entrance and rear bumpers with LED foglights. Inside, there is a flat-bottomed steering wheel and distinctive SynTex leatherette upholstery on the seats.

1.6-liter turbo engine

Kia’s 1.6-liter Smartstream turbo engine replaces the outdated 2.4-liter I4 because the K5’s base engine, making 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That is 5 hp lower than the two.4-liter engine however, maybe extra importantly, a lift of 17 lb-ft, which retains this engine feeling vigorous round city.

The GT-Line mannequin options styling and have upgrades with out the efficiency positive aspects of the true GT mannequin.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The 1.6T is paired with an eight-speed computerized transmission that looks like an excellent match for the engine. Collectively, they don’t seem to be a supersporty pair — significantly with the GT-Line’s lack of paddle shifters — however they do make an attractive duo that balances quiet efficiency within the Regular drive mode with clean and ample thrust when flicked to Sport.

Driving the K5 is finest described as gentle and simple. From the steering to the throttle response, the sedan feels gentle on its toes, nimble and never fatiguing. There’s much less suggestions by means of the wheel than in a Honda Accord or Mazda6, which have higher steering, however the Kia is however responsive. In a category the place your choices are normally both numb and indifferent or overly agency and “sport-tuned,” the K5 stands aside as one of many good ones, a very balanced and joyful drive.

This 12 months additionally marks the primary time the Optima/K5 is on the market with all-wheel drive. Checking this field provides $3,700 to the underside line as a result of it additionally rolls in a premium gear bundle. In fact, optioning all-wheel drive nudges the K5 gasoline economic system estimates all the way down to 26 miles per gallon metropolis, 34 mpg freeway and 29 mpg mixed, so in case you dwell in a state the place you do not want the additional grip, contemplate sticking with the front-wheel drive configuration, the place most K5 fashions are good for a said 27 metropolis, 37 freeway and 31 mixed mpg. Throughout my week of testing, I averaged 29.9 mpg with FWD. The bottom K5 LX mannequin stands aside, gaining 1-2 mpg throughout the board versus the upper trims, almost definitely because of its decrease weight and fewer creature comforts. 

If you would like the next stage of efficiency, the K5 GT has a extra highly effective 2.5-liter engine with 311 hp and 290 lb-ft. I will be evaluating that quickly in a separate assessment, so keep tuned.

The K5’s record of normal security options is spectacular, however there are a couple of quirks.

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Glorious driver-assistance tech

The 2021 Kia K5 retains present with the automaker’s suite of normal security and driver-aid applied sciences, with lane-departure warning, lane-keeping help, ahead precollision warning, pedestrian detection, driver alertness monitoring and computerized headlamp and high-beam methods fitted to each mannequin. Kia’s auto-light applied sciences are a contact too delicate for my tastes, although; whereas driving round in broad daylight, I am going to catch the headlamps momentarily activating if I move underneath a dense tree or overpass, inflicting the map to flick from day to nighttime mode, which is distracting. I additionally discover the automated high-beams annoying, activating even at low speeds on my moderately illuminated residential road. 

On greater trim ranges, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are added to the function set, and Kia’s full-speed adaptive cruise management comes on-line as elective gear. The latter works effectively, even at stop-and-go speeds, with none jerkiness when different autos merge into or out of my lane. These higher trim ranges may improve the emergency braking help setup with bicycle owner detection and junction help, which helps forestall collisions throughout cross-traffic (left-hand) turns.

Cabin tech: Greater is not all the time higher

Kia’s cabin tech is normally pretty easy and simple to know, however 2021 provides a couple of odd particulars you may need to control. You will get the K5 with both an 8-inch or a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system within the dashboard. Each run variations of the automaker’s latest-generation UVO software program, relying on trim and choices chosen. Each are neatly organized and simple to make use of with options starting from surprisingly helpful (voice memo recorder) to type of bizarre (ambient cafe sounds).

Each additionally function customary Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Nonetheless, whereas the smaller unit has wi-fi connectivity for Android and Apple telephones, the 10.25-inch mannequin solely connects by way of USB. Because of this alone, I might personally persist with the smaller display. The distinction in visible actual property is not large, however the wi-fi cellphone connection is extra handy, making for a much less cluttered cabin with out dangling cables. It additionally makes the elective wi-fi cellphone charging slot a extra compelling and helpful improve. 

In fact, in case you’re planning on utilizing the onboard software program, that is much less of a nit to choose. Kia’s built-in navigation is fairly good and simple to make use of with pure language voice recognition and deal with enter. The menu construction is smart and may be very simple to get round because of devoted {hardware} shortcut buttons slightly below the display main to each main perform.

The smaller UVO system (pictured right here) options the wi-fi Android and Apple connectivity that the bigger unit lacks.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow
Pricing and competitors

The 2021 Kia K5 begins at $24,585 for the bottom LX (together with $995 for vacation spot), a rise of solely $100 over final 12 months’s beginning worth. Contemplating the K5 comes with extra customary gear than the Optima, to not point out the once-optional improve to the turbocharged engine, I feel it is price the additional dough. 

Whereas the thriftiest shall be tempted by the LX’s lower cost and barely higher gasoline economic system, I feel the candy spot within the lineup might be the front-drive GT-Line. It is barely costlier, beginning at $26,485, however provides extra customary options, appears higher and has the next stage of security gear. Take into account the elective $1,600 GT-Line Premium Package deal with its LED headlamps and inside lights, panoramic sunroof, wi-fi cellphone charger, smarter collision avoidance tech and stop-and-go adaptive cruise. As examined and so geared up, you are $28,085 out the door. Drivers who want the surefootedness of all-wheel drive are a still-reasonable $30,185 with the Premium pack.

The 2021 K5 sits in a candy spot of nice efficiency, fascinating options and glorious worth.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

That is about two grand lower than a comparably geared up Toyota Camry — with or with out all-wheel drive — with extra participating efficiency and easier-to-use tech. Honda’s Accord is barely accessible with front-wheel drive, but manages to be costlier than the K5 AWD. The Mazda6 is barely cheaper and extra enjoyable to drive, but in addition boasts much less area for folks and cargo in addition to a extra spartan tech. 

The 2021 Kia K5 and the brand new Hyundai Sonata stand as my prime picks within the reasonably priced midsize sedan area, the Kia matching its cousin’s tech, security options, construct high quality and worth. Nonetheless, the K5 pulls forward on extra subjective metrics, with extra palatable fashion and sharper efficiency.

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