Kia K5 in blue

Complete redesign with lot of upside

Roseville, Calif. – The Kia Optima had a nice run for nearly two decades, but found itself put on the shelf for good due to the company’s insistence on a name change to initiate a new image.

Say hello to the 2021 Kia K5, a midsize sedan that the South Korean automaker says is more powerful, sportier, features upgraded technology, and is more visually appealing than the Optima. The name change now matches what the vehicle has always been called in South Korea and China.

The Optima had modest sales its first 11 years, but enjoyed a huge jump in 2012 when 152,399 were sold. Sales hit a high of 159,414 in 2015.

However, after a seven-year run of 100,000 or more, sales dropped below six figures in 2019 and last year dramatically plummeted to 48,484. It’s tough to argue with the switch to the K5 that also coincided with a complete redesign. The K5 is off to a good start with sales of 67,600 through August 2021.

Curbside appeal is evident in a competitive class that typically lacks imagination among its leaders – Honda and Toyota. The K5 is 2 inches longer and 1 inch wider than its predecessor and resembles some luxury models with its fastback-like profile.

The sedan has some nice curves and lightly slopes from front to back. Up front is a textured grille that is surrounded by LED headlights. Its appeal is enhanced by a chrome strip running along the window line.

There’s a new look and a new name, yet one important aspect hasn’t changed. Just like the Optima, the K5 is offered at an appealing price, starting at approximately $23,700. It has five trim levels (LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX, GT).

At a Glance – KIA K5

  • Performance: turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder, 180 horsepower; turbo 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 290 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 29-38 mpg; 24-32 mpg
  • Price estimate: $23,700 – $30,700
  • Warranty: 5 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain: 10 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000; Corrosion: 5 years/100,000


Kia did a nice job of making the K5 alluring for anyone who values performance. There are two turbocharged engines that both give the front-wheel drive sedan some punch. All-wheel drive is a new option.

The standard engine is a turbo 1.6-liter, four-cylinder that generates 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’s been clocked going 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds and gets 29-38 mpg.

The more powerful engine is the optional turbo 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. The K5 GT goes 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds and fuel economy is considerably lower at 24-32 mpg.

Despite the increased performance, the K5 isn’t considered sporty in terms of handling, although the GT model is really fun to drive. All models offer a composed and relatively quiet ride, even at high freeway speeds.

interior of Kia K5

Safety & Interior

Standard safety features for the K5 include lane keeping system, forward collision mitigation, rear occupant alert, driver attention warning, and automatic emergency braking.

Kia also did a fine job of recreating the interior by modernizing the cabin with more technology, increasing soft-touch surfaces, and making it more user-friendly overall.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard and the 8-inch touchscreen makes sense and is easy to master.

Both rows of seating provide good leg room for even taller passengers. However, due to the sloping roofline, head room is not as generous in the back seat for 6-footers. Cargo space measures 16 cubic feet, slightly better than average for the class.

By designing a well-rounded new sedan, the 2021 Kia K5 slips in as a good replacement for the Optima. It offers increased performance, more curb appeal, and the interior has been upgraded.


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