Once known as the Kia Optima, the latest generation Kia mid-size sedan has inherited its Korean home market name of K5 to go along with its bold new styling language and latest N3 platform architecture.
The K5 is all-new from the ground up and brings a fresh design details to the table while retaining some of the same avant garde touches that tie it to the past like the chrome C-pillar strip wrapping into the trunk that resembles the frame of designer sunglasses.
New though is a bolder and more daring front end with a highly detailed grill and sculpted silhouette along with LED headlamps and daytime running light signatures that cannot be missed coming down the road.
Our EX tester is just one notch down from the top-grade GT model and this well equipped with many competitive features on the exterior such as the aforementioned LED lighting package in addition to its sexy 18-inch wheels.
The interior carries through on the promises of its artful exterior with a lot of thoughtful and passionately penned design elements. Our K5 EX had a black interior with ash blue colored leatherette seating surfaces and trim. It’s really more of a light gray but has a slight blue tint which I found appealingly unique.
The seats themselves were plenty comfortable and with the premium package had all manner of power adjustments, memory and both heating and ventilation. The leather covered steering wheel had plenty of controls for everything but like other Kias, the switches can easily get bumped when you are turning causing you to inadvertently change various settings here and there.
The instrument cluster is a traditional two-dial set up while the upgraded infotainment system features Hyundai/Kia’s UVO 10.3-inch top-end touchscreen and Bose audio system. The sound is great and there are plenty of great features to keep you happy. Annoying though is that it refuses to stay on the screen you left it on such as the radio, always running back to a home screen – forcing you to navigate back at all times.
Powering the K5 EX is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a smooth shifting automatic transmission. With 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque I found it more than adequate and mostly competitive in the power and drivability department. It can be a coarse sounding engine at times and has a bit of lag from a stand still however.
It’s rated by the EPA at 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. In my week with it I achieved 26 mpg combined, less than even the posted city rating. The good news here is that Kia has not polluted this powertrain with an annoying idle start-stop system, at least not on upper trim grades.
With its larger 18-inch wheels and low profile tires I found the handling and driving experience to be sharp and precise. Suspension is tuned on the stiffer end of the spectrum and thus offers up athletic reflexes when taking corners swiftly and making sudden moves. The chassis also felt more than solid over bumps, potholes and undulations like residential speed humps.
Our well optioned K5 priced in at $32,355 and as such offers I think a lot of value in the market when compared to the heady though shrinking list of mid-size competitors. If you like stand out design that isn’t just like everything else and like the value argument of lots of the money and the longest warranty in the business, the new 2021 Kia K5 is worth a look.