The Kia Optima arrived in 2000, and it’s been a competitor to other midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Kia has now retired the Optima name and adopted the more globally used K5 for its 2021 models and going forward.
Kia is confident that this change is more than just the name, and that it will be able to trade blows with other sedans—including the Hyundai Sonata. But is it all just talk, or is the K5 really something special—especially the EX and GT-Line? Let’s take a look.
With its bold new styling, the K5 manages to look both luxurious and sporty, with the four-door version looking especially attractive.
It’s lower and longer than the Optima, which instantly makes it look sporty. This is complemented by the LED DRLs and the tiger grille, along with the full-width lighting across the rear.
The GT-Line has bespoke elements and 19-inch wheels, while the EX is more similar to the base LX version: 16-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights. And depending on your trim, you can get LED fog lights and even a panoramic sunroof.
The EX and GT models are also heavier than the base model. The EX, for instance, weighs 3,228 pounds while the LX version weighs 3,115 lbs.
When it comes to color, the K5 has enough range in its palette to satisfy most buyers. The GT-Line goes a step further by offering exclusive colors: Sapphire Blue and Wolf Gray. In any case, the K5 looks great in any color you pick; even the subdued ones.
The cabin design looks more like a German luxury sedan than anything else, even though the quality is not on the same level. However, it easily trades blows with—and even outdoes—the interiors of other sedans in its price range.
The EX has synthetic leather while its door and dashboard have wood trim. It also has rear air conditioning vents, heated or ventilated front seats and wireless phone charging. As for the GT-Line, it comes with black synthetic leather that has sporty red accents and paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
In terms of space, it can seat 5 people, though the rear middle-seat is treated as an afterthought—something common in most sedans, to be fair.
The roofline has been lowered, but so have the seat cushions, so headroom isn’t a problem. Rear legroom is an upgrade over the Optima, though it still can’t match up to the Honda Accord.
When it comes to features, the base LX has remote keyless entry, driver attention warning, lane keeping assist and dual-zone automatic climate control. The EX and GT models add in power-adjustable seats, synthetic leather upholstery, safe exist assist, rear parking sensors and more.
The EX is powered by a 1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas engine. The GT, meanwhile, comes with a 2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas engine with an output of 290 hp and 311 pound-feet of torque. The GT also has a “wet” dual-clutch transmission that Kia promises will shift faster and smoother than the other models.
Handling-wise, the K5 is impressively quiet at highway speeds, and it’s comfortable over speed bumps.
Both the EX and GT models have lots of body roll, though. The GT also has a Sport + Mode that adds weight to steering, but it’s still light compared to other sporty cars.
The K5 isn’t the fastest sedan, but then again, it doesn’t need to be—well, except for the GT-Line, which should at least be trading blows with the competition. However, the models are comfortable to drive. Over the highway, in particular, they are an absolute blast.
The Kia K5 is a noticeable enough upgrade to warrant the name change. The Optima was decent enough, but the K5 does enough things better that it’s in another class completely. This is an admirable effort from Kia, and the competition should pay attention.