2021 Kia K5
- $25,000-$40,000 (estimated)
- Summer 2020
What to expect
- All-new midsize sedan that replaces Kia's Optima
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Available all-wheel drive
- New GT trim level with 290 horsepower
- 2021 marks the debut of the Kia K5
What is the K5?
The K5 is Kia's new midsize sedan formerly known as the Optima. For the past two decades, the Optima has offered attractive styling and fairly good value for money. With this redesigned 2021 model, Kia has apparently decided to go all-in and give it a new name too.
Highlights include bolder styling, new engine and transmission options, and available all-wheel drive. The K5 will be offered in five trim levels: LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX and the sporty GT, which will be available later in the model year.
What's under the K5's hood?
Standard on everything but the GT trim is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. We're guessing that this is pretty much the same engine that Kia offered as the Optima's midrange engine, though it's been tweaked to provide slightly better power and fuel economy. It's also connected to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Based on our previous evaluations of the Optima, this combo should provide adequate acceleration.
Like the Optima, the K5 will use front-wheel drive. But as a twist Kia will offer all-wheel drive for the LXS and GT-Line trim levels; the extra traction should boost the car's appeal if you live in a region with snowy or icy roads in the winter. The K5 joins other midsize sedans coming out with optional all-wheel drive, such as the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
Want more than 180 hp? The K5 GT gets a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is good for 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. This is a healthy output for a midsize sedan, and it packs more punch than the upgraded turbocharged engines of many rivals including the Accord (252 hp) and the Mazda 6 (252 hp). The GT also gets a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; Kia says will provide quicker shifts for a sportier driving experience.
How's the K5's interior?
Though not as striking as the exterior, the new K5's interior design is nonetheless handsome. A large, high-mounted infotainment screen dominates the dashboard, which is now nearly free of physical buttons. The rest of the controls will look reassuringly familiar to any previous Kia owners.
Premium options will include a panoramic sunroof, metallic or wood trim, and even seats covered in red simulated leather. Kia is including a "Sounds of Nature" ambient sound system for a more peaceful driving experience, but the jury's still out on the effectiveness of that one.
How's the K5's tech?
Kia has never shied away from offering a lot of technology features for the money, and the K5 looks to be no different. The all-new infotainment touchscreen comes in 8-inch and 10.25-inch sizes and is controlled by touch only — no more rotary knobs or auxiliary buttons.
An integrated navigation system with live traffic updates will be available, as will a Bluetooth system that will allow for connecting two phones at once. The K5 will also offer wireless connectivity for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means you can integrate your phone and its apps without using a USB cord.
On the driver assistance front, the K5 will come standard with a plethora of features to help make you a safer or more relaxed driver, such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, driver attention warning and lane keeping assist. Kia says it will also offer an advanced adaptive cruise control system that can use navigation data to slow the car for upcoming bends as well as reduce or increase the vehicle's speed relative to the posted speed limit.
Kia is hoping the all-new 2021 K5 will thoroughly eclipse the outgoing Optima with an intriguing style and a more engaging driving experience. Combined with Kia's history for excellent value for the money, we think the K5 could rocket up our midsize sedan rankings. We're looking forward to sampling Kia's latest offering as soon as possible.