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Review: 2021 Kia K5

Jesse McGraw

While other manufacturers are ending sedans in their lineups, Kia has taken the Optima and flipped it into an intimidating performance vehicle. Take a look at the all new Kia K5.

Out With the Old

The family sedan is slowly being phased out in favor of crossovers and compact SUVs. Models like the Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Impala all have seen their end in 2020. One of Kia’s sedan offerings, the Kia Optima, has seen countless design and technology changes to skew sales in its favor. However, Optima too has seen its end… but in this case only in name. Kia let their designers take the newly renamed sedan and run with it, making what may be the breakout design for model year 2021. The all new 2021 Kia K5 just might force a reassessment of the endangered sedan segment.

Keep It Simple or Have More Fun

Currently, the only options under the hood in the K5 is a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder engine putting out 180hp and 195lb-ft of torque paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and standard FWD. The base performance produces decent acceleration and works as an everyday driver getting 29mpg city and 38mpg highway. However, you can enhance your ride a little more with the optional AWD, giving the reinvigorated model an edge when comparing to most of the remaining competition only offering FWD.

2021 Kia K5 GT - kia.com

2021 Kia K5 – kia.com  |  Shop Kia K5 on Carsforsale.com

That’s not all that Kia is providing though. Coming later this year, Kia will release the Kia K5 GT. While you can get a similar exterior design in their GT-Line trim, the official GT trim will come with a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder making 290hp and 311lb-ft of torque. Plus, add in Kia’s in-house developed 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and performance Pirelli P Zero tires, and the K5 looks to really standout. If you really want to experience track performance while also having the seating and space of a sedan, wait for the Kia K5 GT. I know I am.

A Refined and Intimidating Look

Now, you can add plenty of under the hood improvements to a car, but people will have to be excited about the exterior too if Kia really wants it to sell. It looks like Kia knows what the people want, because the K5 looks great. The redesign over the old Optima really makes a statement. Their awkward little badge piece above the grille has been removed, replaced by an elongated, sportier hood transitioning into the intimidating large grille embedded in an aggressively styled aerodynamic bumper. The grille is complimented even more by the sharp new headlight design featuring a cool LED day running/indicator light line.

2021 Kia K5 headlight - kia.com
2021 Kia K5 headlight - kia.com

The front-end makes the K5 more eye-catching, and the rest of the car builds on that styling. The new streamlined slope of the body lends a sports car feel while also improving aerodynamics. At the rear, the new LED taillight design looks like something out of an arcade racer – in a good way. Rather than follow the trend of going full light bar across the back like Porsche or even Toyota’s latest crossover the Venza, Kia dashed the line making the already interesting taillights more compelling.

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2021 Kia K5 taillights - kia.com
2021 Kia K5 taillights - kia.com

Add in the dual exhaust look, rear diffuser, awesome new rim selection, and you have a sedan that is ready to make everyone notice. Kia designed the K5 just right for the modern-day shopper. Sure, it’s a sedan, but it isn’t the blandly styled grocery getter of yore. No, the Kia K5 is a sleek, efficient, and in-your-face sedan that doesn’t blend in with the rest of the parking lot. And just when you think it can’t get any more enticing, you take a look inside.

It Only Gets Better Inside

2021 Kia K5 interior - kia.com
2021 Kia K5 interior - kia.com

Lately, Kia has been on their game when it comes to affordable and well-designed interiors. The recent developments in the Stinger and Telluride brought some great interior design and technology with them, and the Kia K5 takes cues from both. The K5 received a reimagined dash and interior trim design that closely resembles that of the Telluride’s. Strong silver lines along the door panels make their way across the dash towards the centered 8.5in infotainment touchscreen. A 10.25in infotainment system is available if you want even more screen, but the only downfall is that the wireless CarPlay option will be dropped with that option. Below that is the dual climate control with new crisp toggle control switches.

2021 Kia K5 dash - kia.com
2021 Kia K5 dash - kia.com

Every little detail in the K5’s interior has been given its own special care with aspects reflective of the design as a whole. From the specially designed air vents to the carefully contoured Bose speaker covers, no corner has been left untouched. That includes the sports car elements taken from the Stinger like the same “jetfighter thruster” designed automatic shifter (which feels awesome to use), the twist knob driving mode selector that will tell your K5 how you want to drive, and a similar flat bottom, racing inspired steering wheel with integrated controls found in the GT-Line and upcoming GT trims.

2021 Kia K5 trunk - kia.com
2021 Kia K5 trunk - kia.com

Going into the rear of the Kia K5, the only downside really is that there isn’t a rear air vent, which is a pretty minor setback. Rear passengers will still experience accommodating room and comfort for a sedan. Thankfully, the spacious rear seating doesn’t cut into the trunk all that much with an available 15.9cu/in of cargo room.

Could This Be 2021’s Best Vehicle?

2021 Kia K5 - kia.com

2021 Kia K5 – kia.com  |  Shop Kia K5 on Carsforsale.com

So, does the K5 represent a sedan revival? Will Kia spark a new era of cool sedans? We may soon find out, but for now the Kia K5 looks all the part of a breakout star for model year 2021 with a starting MSRP of $23,490. Its new performance options and striking designs assert that sedans are still here to stay (and that’s even before the top GT trim level has been released). If you’re in the market for an affordable new car that looks cool, has a quality build, and ample seating – get the Kia K5. Don’t let the crossovers and compact SUVs try to tempt you, the sedan is back and better than ever.

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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