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2021 Kia K5 is a strong reboot for former Optima sedan Featured

Posted On Sunday, 17 January 2021 23:19 Written by
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The 2021 Kia K5 is a new sedan model that replaces the Optima in Kia's lineup. The 2021 Kia K5 is a new sedan model that replaces the Optima in Kia's lineup. Photo courtesy of Kia

Maintaining a competitive advantage in the ever-changing sedan segment means reinvention from time to time, and Kia has taken that to heart.

After two decades of selling its midsize sedan under the Optima name, the automaker has decided to do a full redesign for 2021 and rebrand the vehicle as the Kia K5 — a more upscale, more powerful alternative better equipped to battle the segment sales leaders.

Highlights of this upgraded and renamed model also include a bolder style, and available all-wheel drive. I recently tested a 2021 Kia K5, and I’m back with a full report.


The exterior design of the K5 features a sleek yet aggressive redesign that is highlighted by sharp-looking headlights and is overall a much bolder look than the Optima offered. It will definitely catch your eye more than most sedan competitors. 

Exterior features include automatic LED reflector headlights, amber LED daytime running lights, power heated outside mirrors, an acoustic front windshield, and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Moving inside, the K5’s interior design is much more high-end than you would expect for the price point. Seating is quite comfortable, roomy in front and rear, and made of high-quality materials. The overall design of the controls for electronics is easy to use and well-organized. And Kia includes some attractive wood inlays to round out the design.

Interior features include dual-zone fully automatic temperature control, adjustable front seats, steering wheel controls, tilt and telescopic steering column and power windows.

Features available at some trim levels include a very nice panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, upgrade to 18-inch wheels, leatherette seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, and a leather steering wheel.

All in all, this is a very strong design inside and out that competes well in the segment and punches above its weight class.


The 2021 Kia K5 comes with new engine options. One option is a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that offers 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A sportier option features a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 290 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft.

Most K5 models are FWD, but AWD options are also available on some trim levels.

The K5’s 0-to-60 time is less than 6 seconds with the more powerful engine option, a very impressive number. And even with the standard engine the K5 is pretty punchy and never sluggish.

As someone who was never wowed by the Optima, I found myself pleasantly surprised that I absolutely enjoyed driving this K5, especially when sport mode was engaged. Beyond power and speed, this is one of the smoothest 2021 rides I've driven so far. It hums down the roadways and road noise is kept to a minimum. Cornering, handling, braking, and responsiveness to driver input are also among the best in class.

Kia has done an excellent job overall in the engine department as part of the K5 brand launch.

Infotainment is a make-or-break feature for many people, who demand a sharp look and high-tech features that work seamlessly. Kia has taken this part of the vehicle seriously, offering an extra-wide 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the K5 that offered one of the best experiences I've had in recent vehicles.

Both the touch and voice commands for the system work extremely well for navigation, music and phone. Even to people who are not technologically savvy, there should be a very short learning curve. It also has a sharper look and design compared to other systems.

Connecting a phone to the vehicle is easy, and music streaming sounds great through the vehicle's sound system. The K5 comes with a free 3-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, multiple USB ports, and a very cool wireless phone charger that is nicely hidden in the center console area.

The K5 also features push-button start and remote start capability, as well as compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for phone mirroring.

Kia also does a tremendous job providing safety features in the K5.

For starters, there’s a bevy of air bags throughout the vehicle to keep you safe, plus 

electronic stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The highlight is Kia’s Drivewise driver-assist technology, which includes:
— Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, including Pedestrian Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist
— Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist
— Safe Exit Assist
— Lane Keep Assist & Lane Following Assist
— Driver Attention Warning
— Leading Vehicle Departure Alert

Another helpful feature is the Rear Occupant Alert, reminding you to look behind you so no one is forgotten when you exit the vehicle.

I was a big fan of the rearview camera, which included dynamic guidelines, for parking situations.

One optional package on some models is the Premium Package ($3,400), which gets you the larger infotainment screen (10.25 inches vs. the standard 8-inch screen), navigation, Bose premium audio, and other safety features including:
— Forward Collision Avoidance Assist-Cyclist
— Forward Collision Avoidance Assist-Junction Turning
— Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go
— Highway Driving Assist
— Safe Exit Assist with Power Child Lock
— Parking Collision Avoidance-Rear

While not all of this is standard, there’s enough included that you will feel very safe even if you don’t opt for all the bells and whistles in the optional packages.

The official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Kia K5 are 27 city/37 highway/31 combined. In my experience, driving mostly in sport mode, my test vehicle achieved just 23 mpg. If you drive the K5 more gently, you can more effectively reach the official numbers, which are decent for the segment, but not the best you’ll find in the midsize sedan realm.


The 2021 Kia K5 I tested was priced at $32,355. Its base price starts about $24K.

This is about average for the segment (which also features the Honda Accord, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata and others), and a decent price considering you get a high-class vehicle without delving into the luxury class.

Warranties are also very strong, another factor to consider for overall vehicle ownership costs. Kia offers a 10 Year/100,000 Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty, 5 Year/60,000 Mile Limited Basic Warranty, and 5 Year/60,000 Mile Roadside Assistance.


The redesigned and renamed 2021 Kia K5 has the goods to emerge as a sleeper pick in the midsize sedan category. While it will have a long and difficult road to reaching sales levels of the segment leaders, savvy buyers seeking a stylish, modern, tech-savvy and well-designed vehicle that drives wonderfully may find themselves unexpectedly smitten with this vehicle over the more often-mentioned midsize offerings. Definitely worth a test drive for anyone looking at vehicles in this segment.

===== can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Kia K5 
  • Price as tested: $32,355 (starts around $24K)
  • Best feature: Smooth driving experience, quality design inside and out, sharp technology
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Sedan buyers looking for a brand-new, modern, high-class and comfortable vehicle for an affordable price.
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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