Sedans & Coupes

2021 Kia K5 vs. VW Passat: Does the Newbie Come Out on Top?

There was once a time when the midsize sedan reigned supreme. But with the rise in popularity of the compact SUV, the sedan segment began to lose its luster. However, this doesn’t mean you should count these versatile vehicles out when shopping for your next car. The 2021 Kia K5 and 2021 Volkswagen Passat are worth considering. 

Even while the sedan is seeing a small decline, the 2021 Kia K5 is a rising star. Its entry into the market has caused many to take notice, and it is undoubtedly on the radar of many gearheads for the coming year. Meanwhile, Volkswagen killed the Passat in the U.S. The German manufacturer plans to end production of the sedan in favor of SUVs by the end of the decade.

Whether the K5 is actually a new car is a matter of semantics, as it is essentially a renamed Optima. Regardless, many shoppers will see the Passat as a mainstay among midsize sedans, while the K5 will be somewhat of a question mark.

So which car should stay and which should go when it comes to the 2021 Kia K5 and the 2021 Volkswagen Passat? The answer might just surprise you. 

What we love about the 2021 Kia K5

A blue 2021 Kia K5 parked on display
The 2021 Kia K5 | Photo via Kia

Who doesn’t like options when shopping for their next car? Kia provides plenty of choices regarding the K5, as it has five trim levels and a pair of powertrain options. Volkswagen can’t say the same about the Passat, as it has three trims and a single engine.

The 2021 Kia K5’s standard 180-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is vastly more fuel-efficient than the Passat. It achieves an EPA-estimated 32 MPG city/highway combined to the Passat’s 28 MPG combined. 

Meanwhile, the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder on the 2021 Kia K5 GT kicks everything up a notch. This powerplant is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it generates 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. Notably, the K5 also offers an optional all-wheel-drive system on its LXS and GT-Line trims. This feature is not available on any 2021 Volkswagen Passat.

What we love about the 2021 Volkswagen Passat

A silver Volkswagen Passat on display at an autoshow
A Volkswagen Passat on display | Photo by Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

RELATED: Is the 2020 Volkswagen Passat Just a Really Big Jetta?

The VW Passat can’t keep up with the K5. Its 174-liter 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine doesn’t offer the best gas mileage, and it can’t keep up with the high-octane performance of the 2021 Kia K5 GT. However, there’s a whole lot more to a car than performance.

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat boasts a near-luxury interior that drivers will love. Its spacious cabin is home to a leather-wrapped steering wheel and comfortable cloth seats. It also comes standard with satellite radio and adaptive cruise control, a couple of features only found on higher trims of the 2021 Kia K5.

Moving up one level to the Passat SE affords you leatherette upholstery and front seats with lumbar support. The Kia K5 only utilizes cloth seats on the majority of its trim levels.

The final verdict

RELATED: Is the 2021 Kia K5 Just a Hyundai Sonata Clone?

As with many things in life, the price can be a deciding factor. Both of these models are quite affordable, but the 2021 Kia K5 is about $500 cheaper, as it has a starting MSRP of $23,490. This helps Kia’s midsize sedan gain a considerable edge over its German counterpart. Shoppers can either enjoy the savings or feel free to move up a trim level to gain features like push-button start, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The 2021 Kia K5’s industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty is just the cherry on top.