Kia notes Americans bought nearly 1.5 million lower midsize sedans in 2019. While a big chunk of those went to fleets, the Korean automaker believes a market for family-sized 4-door cars still exists.
Enter the all-new 2021 Kia K5, which replaces the Optima.
With styling inspired by the automaker's Stinger sports car, the ’21 Kia K5 comes in LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX and GT trim levels. Design highlights include a new approach to Kia’s tiger-nose grille, new front and rear LED lighting signatures designed to resemble a heartbeat from an electrocardiogram reading, and fastback styling emphasized by a dramatic loop of chrome trim outlining the side and back glass.
Driver-focused, the K5’s interior (below) emphasizes horizontal lines and offers leatherette upholstery, satin chrome accents and simulated wood trim, depending on the trim level. To the right of the analog instrumentation, the infotainment display resides within a flush black panel and is canted toward the driver. All K5s have an acoustic laminated windshield for a quieter ride. A panoramic glass roof is available.
Kia builds the K5 on a new N3 platform. Stronger, longer, lower and wider than the outgoing Optima’s architecture, it preserves interior dimensions while improving driving dynamics. Kia says the K5 is 2 ins. (51 mm) longer, 1 in. (25 mm) wider and almost an inch lower than the Optima, and boasts a 1.8-in. (46 mm) wheelbase stretch.
A turbocharged 1.6L 4-cyl. is standard, generating 180 hp at 5,500 rpm and 195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) of torque between 1,500 rpm and 4,500 rpm. Kia shares this engine with the Hyundai Sonata, and it includes a world-first application of Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology. Independent control of valve duration improves engine performance and efficiency, Kia says.
An 8-speed automatic transmission powering the front wheels is standard. As an option with LXS and GT-Line trims, the K5 offers all-wheel drive that actively varies power between the front and rear wheels. Drivers choose between Normal, Smart, Sport and Custom driving modes. With AWD, the K5 includes a Snow mode.
When the Kia K5 GT goes on sale a few months after other versions of the car, it will have a turbocharged 2.5L 4-cyl. delivering 290 hp at 5,800 rpm and 311 lb.-ft. (422 Nm) of torque between 1,650 rpm and 4,000 rpm. Kia uses a new 8-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission with this engine and includes both a Sport+ driving mode and paddle shifters with GT trim. The automaker estimates this version of the car will accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.8 seconds.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the 2021 Kia K5, but only with the 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen infotainment system. Upgrade to the 10.25-in. (26-cm) touchscreen setup, and you’ll still need to use wires to integrate a smartphone. However, you will be able to pair two Bluetooth devices to the technology at once, helping make up for it.
With the larger display, the infotainment system also includes satellite radio capability, server-based navigation with real-time traffic data and natural voice recognition technology including for the climate settings. Kia offers its Your Voice connected services for the K5, along with wireless smartphone charging, a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system and a Sounds of Nature ambient audio system with six different themes designed to calm occupants.
Using the K5’s Smart Key, owners can remotely start the engine and preheat and cool the cabin. Kia equips the K5 with its Smart Trunk hands-free opening system. A Safe Exit Assist system warns when it might be dangerous to open the doors when traffic is approaching from behind.
That’s one child safety feature in the new Kia K5. The other is a standard Rear Occupant Alert system that reminds the driver to check for a child, pet or important object in the back seat before locking up and leaving.
Standard safety technologies include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping and -centering assistance, and a driver attention monitor. Knowing that people tend to look at their smartphones while waiting in traffic or at intersections, Kia equips every K5 with a Leading Vehicle Departure Alert that informs the driver traffic ahead is moving.
Driving assistance and collision avoidance upgrades include cyclist detection, active blindspot collision avoidance, active rear cross-traffic and parking-collision avoidance with automatic rear braking, and navigation-based adaptive cruise control that adjusts vehicle speed to limits and slows the car for upcoming curves. New Junction Turning assistance is available to prevent the K5 from turning left in front of oncoming traffic.
Built in West Point, GA, the ’21 Kia K5 goes on sale this summer.