Sedans & Coupes

Is the 2021 Kia K5 GT Really a Sport Sedan?

While the 2021 K5 (née Optima) may be stylish, the Kia sedan doesn’t quite have the performance to match. The GT-Line model goes some way to rectifying that, but it still missing something compared to rivals like the Honda Accord. However, Kia offers one more K5 trim above the GT-Line: the 2021 K5 GT. And recently, YouTube team Throttle House set out to determine if it’s truly a sport sedan.

The Kia K5 GT is fast enough to out-run some BMWs

A blue 2021 Kia K5 GT on a racetrack at sunset
2021 Kia K5 GT | Kia

The differences between the 2021 Kia K5 GT and GT-Line trims are somewhat like the differences between BMW’s M Performance and M Sport cars. Namely, while the GT-Line has a dash of added sportiness, the GT goes the extra mile.

A significant percentage of that comes from GT’s engine. While the other Kia K5 models have 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the K5 GT has a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 290 hp and 311 lb-ft and comes exclusively with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and FWD.

The rear 3/4 view of a blue 2021 Kia K5 GT driving over a city bridge
2021 Kia K5 GT rear 3/4 | Kia

With all that, the 2021 Kia K5 GT goes 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, Car and Driver reports. That’s faster than a BMW 330i, The Drive reports. Plus, the K5 GT has more power than the Honda Accord 2.0T has, and more torque than the V6-equipped Camry, MotorTrend reports.

More power, though, isn’t the only thing the 2021 Kia K5 GT offers. Compared to the GT-Line, it has bigger brakes, quicker steering, and sportier suspension, Autoweek reports. The sedan also comes with launch control and quad exhaust tips as well as wider wheels and tires, Autoblog reports.

The red-trimmed black front seats and dashboard of the 2021 Kia K5 GT
2021 Kia K5 GT interior | Kia

The 2021 Kia K5 GT also compares well to BMW’s entry-level sports sedan when it comes to features, The Drive reports. You get heated front seats, an 8” touchscreen, a wireless charging pad, and a whole host of ADAS features, including lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning, Roadshow reports. Plus, with the optional GT1 Package, the K5 GT gets ventilated front seats, a 10.25” touchscreen with navigation, adaptive cruise control, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, a heated steering wheel, and parking assist.

Does the 2021 Kia K5 GT deserve the ‘sport sedan’ title?

In GT-Line form, the K5 is a great sedan, but not necessarily a sport one. It rides well and handles admirably, Automobile reports, but isn’t quite on the Accord’s level. And it’s even slightly behind its platform-cousin, the Hyundai Sonata N Line, in that regard, MT reports. But what about the 2021 Kia K5 GT?

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In a straight line, the Kia K5 GT generates impressive numbers. But, as Throttle House discovered, they come with a caveat. Unlike the GT-Line, the GT doesn’t offer AWD. And while the Civic Type R can handle 300-odd horsepower going to its front wheels, the Kia can’t. That’s because, unlike the CTR, the Kia K5 GT lacks a limited-slip differential.

Car and Driver discovered this while measuring the sedan’s 5-60 mph time. At 5.5 seconds, it’s a close match to its 0-60 mph time. That’s normally a good thing, but in this case, it also indicates that the GT struggles to deal with wheelspin.

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The wheelspin and torque steer don’t completely ruin the Kia K5 GT, though. Especially in Sport Plus Mode, the sedan has well-weighted and precise steering. The steering is also surprisingly communicative, The Drive reports. And as long as you’re careful, the K5 GT doesn’t understeer through the corners.

However, Throttle House found that the Accord Sport rides better. And while the Kia K5 GT is faster than the 330i in a straight line, the BMW is “a more fundamentally sound sports sedan,” Autoblog reports. But, by that admission, that means the K5 GT is part of the same sport sedan segment, though it’s not at the top.

Should you consider it over the competition?

A blue 2021 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD driving down a highway road
2021 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD| Kia

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The 2021 Kia K5 GT starts at $30,590; the GT1 Package adds $4000 to that. But while it comes with a lot of tech and speed for the money, the K5 GT’s price tag raises another question. Specifically, why not get the Kia Stinger GT?

Admittedly, in base form, the 2021 Kia Stinger GT only has 255 hp. Plus, with a $33,090 base price, it’s only slightly cheaper than a GT1-equipped K5 GT. However, the 2022 model is getting a 300-hp base trim, Motor1 reports. And, more importantly, Car and Driver reports that the Stinger handles and rides better than the K5 GT. Plus, while it comes standard in RWD form, it’s available with AWD.

A white 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line takes a corner on a desert road
2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line | Hyundai

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And if you want a K5 GT with a bit more speed, there’s always the Hyundai Sonata N Line. It has the same powertrain and suspension upgrades but offers optional summer tires. And with them, it stops and accelerates better, Car and Driver reports.

To be clear, as a budget sport sedan, the 2021 Kia K5 GT is fun to drive. But it’s not quite at the top of the list.

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