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2021 Kia K5 - Review by Larry Nutson

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New Car, New Name

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

There are more than 4 million sedans sold in the U.S. each year. Cars—coupes, convertibles, sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons--currently make up approximately 24 to 25% of new light vehicle sales.

Industry pundits say young people are buying cars because they don’t want to be driving what their parents drove---a UV.

Kia has been attracting new buyers with its focus on good value and striking designs. They’ve been quite innovative of late. And now they are making their mark in the midsize sedan segment with a sedan that doesn’t look like every other mainstream midsize sedan.

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The entirely new 2021 Kia K5 is the new Optima, now adopting the K5 global model name. The 5-passenger front-wheel drive K5 has a sleek design. It’s very sporty looking with its low sloped front hood and fastback roof. The K5’s “heartbeat” front lighting signature, looking somewhat like an EKG pulse, is distinctive and attention getting.

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It’s longer, lower and wider riding on an all-new platform. The new platform using the latest in engineering and materials technology provides for top-notch noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics delivering a refined and comfortable ride. Overall K5 has slightly sporty ride and handling. With its unique style the K5 just looks fast.

Big news is the availability of all-wheel drive (AWD) in this sedan. So, you don’t need to buy a utility vehicle to get AWD.

K5 is offered in five trims with two different turbocharged engines. A 180hp 1.6L turbo mated to a 8-speed automatic is equipped on LX, LXS, GT-Line and EX trims. AWD is optional on LXS and GT-Line trims.

GT trim comes with more punch. Up front is a 290hp 2.5L turbo 4-cylinder coupled to an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. Suspension, wheel and tire performance upgrades on the GT make for more fun with the added power.

For my drive experience around by Chicago-area home I drove a K5 in the EX trim equipped with the additional Premium Package and finished in Sapphire Blue.

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Inside the cabin the K5 provides a comfortable driver seating position. Tilt/telescoping steering wheel, nicely placed switches, a more traditional lever gear selector (vs. a rotatary controller or push/pull toggles) grace a well organized interior with everything seemingly well placed, at least for me. Premium materials, dual-zone temperature control, center mounted touchscreen—10.25 inches with Nav in the EX Premium Package, plus a Bose 12-speaker premium audio makes things feel elegant. There’s even voice recognition, so you can tell the car what to do.

I thought the 1.6L engine delivered decent performance. I liked that Kia put a true automatic in the K5 and not a CVT--not one of my favorites, especially with a 4-cylinder. There are no shift paddles, but that’s okay. Not every vehicle should have them.

Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom drive modes adjust settings for engine, transmission, AWD (when equipped) and steering mapping to provide the desired driving experience.

I did spend a lot of time in Sport mode which overcame a bit of lag coming from stop. I do think this engine/transmission combination will deliver satisfactory performance to a wide range of drivers achieving a balance with low fuel consumption.

EPA test-cycle ratings for the front-drive EX are 27 city mpg and 37 highway mpg. I got 26 mpg in my mostly city-type driving.

There’s a complete array of driver-assist safety features on the K5 including forward collision avoidance for pedestrians. The EX I drove also had avoidance for cyclists and at junctions for vehicles approaching on a cross street.

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The roomy 16 cu.ft. trunk is a good size when it comes to a midsize sedan. The 60/40 split-folding rear seat adds versatility.

The K5 pricing starts at $23,490 and goes up to $30,490. The EX I drove had a base price of $27,990. The optional Premium Package cost $3,400. AWD on the LXS or GT-Line adds $2,100. Destination charge is $965. Overall pricing provides good value.

More details and information can be found at  Kia’s 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty is worth noting. The K5 is assembled here in the United Stated in West Point, Georgia alongside the Telluride UV.

The GT with its 290hp and 8-speed DCT gets shift paddles, sport tuned springs and shocks, upgraded front and rear disc brakes, 19-inch wheels, 40-series performance tires, plus D-shaped flat-bottom steering wheel and other GT interior and exterior trim bits. EPA ratings for the GT are 24 city mpg and 32 highway mpg.

Lastly, the 2021 Kia K5 is a candidate for the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Family Vehicle of the Year award. The K5 has already received a number of accolades and awards, so we’ll see.

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

To See All Specs For All KIA K5 Cars Go To Costco Autos