Kia’s fine line of sedans and SUVs adds another sedan for 2021, well not exactly. The new K5 is a re-shaped and upscale Optima which it replaces in the Korean fleet. It is sportier on the outside with a near luxury interior and is value-packed with safety gear and more available oomph.


Attractive styling in the $20s-$30s

Generous cabin space

Impressive list of standard equipment


Base engine okay

Turbo lag

Some interior plastics remain

The mid-size sedan is available in five trims – LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX and GT. A 1.6-liter turbo four with 180 ponies is standard and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with front wheel drive. Kia offers all-wheel-drive, a first, on the LXS and GT-Line only for an additional $3,700.

Based on the Sonata platform, the K5 GT will bring a smile with a more powerful 2.5-liter turbo four, adding 110 horsepower and an eight-speed dual clutch automatic. Together they propel the nearly 3,200-pounder to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 ticks, more than two seconds quicker than the base engine. Top speed is 130 mph.

Our EX tester was a head turner with its weaved darkened grille and horizontal-lined bumper. From the side it is on par with rivals Accord and Honda. Its illuminated tail lamps extend side to side with small gaps through the trunk lid. Amber LED lighting outlines the front headlamp assemblies adding a stylish cue.

Trunk space is deceiving at first glance with a short deck. Once opened it carries through to the rear seatbacks easily holding four golf bags.

Although our K5 lacked rapid acceleration, it did provide a smooth ride within a quiet cabin at highway speed. Passing maneuvers were acceptable and a cushioned ride absorbed most road imperfections. Steering was precise and braking firm with little body roll.

Driving modes are adjustable with a console mounted rotary dial. Custom, normal, sport and smart modes vary pedal pressure, gear shifts and suspension. While most accelerator pedals are top-hinged, the K5 uses a floor-mounted pedal that takes some getting used to.

The K5 leads the pack with basic coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles and powertrain protection for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

To lure consumers, interior appointments match high-end imports costings thousands more. Wood trim panels grace the dashboard and door panels while full leather is included in the EX and above as well as ambient interior lighting, available heads-up display, ventilated up front and heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof and wireless charging.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is included with the standard eight-inch display screen. Surprisingly, the larger 10.25-inch digital touchscreen needs a cord to connect with your smartphone. Go figure.

Safety equipment includes forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, rear seat reminder and automatic high beams all standard. Available equipment includes one of the best adaptive cruise controls on the market, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive headlights.

Be sure to add the K5 to your short list of test drives in this crowded segment.

What was reviewed: 2021 Kia K5

Engine: 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder turbo, 180 horsepower

EPA Mileage: 27 city, 37 highway, 31 combined

Assembled: The U.S. specification K5 is assembled at Kia’s West Point, GA assembly plant. Information on U.S./Canadian parts content, major source of foreign parts and country of origin for engine and transmission is not available.

Crash test ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had not tested the K5 as of this writing.

Warranty: 5-year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper; 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at

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