Kia K5 vs. Kia Optima: Only 1 Will Give You This Performance Feature

The Kia K5 is fresh for the 2021 model year, and it has quickly become one of the most exciting sedans on the market. It’s got enough space to haul a moderately-sized family, and drivers can choose between two peppy engine options. While it might be similar in appearance to the Hyundai Sonata, the K5 is a remodeled Kia Optima.

The Optima has roughly the same interior and performance appeal, but its exterior styling is more reserved. Additionally, the K5 has one useful feature that you can’t get on any Optima trim. It’s just one of the reasons why MotorTrend recommends a new Kia K5 over a pre-owned Kia Optima.

The Kia K5 can have AWD

The 2022 Kia K5 midsize sedan in blue
The 2022 Kia K5 midsize sedan | Kia America

Although all-wheel drive (AWD) is getting more popular in the compact car class, most sedans only come with standard front-wheel drive (FWD), including the Kia Optima. However, you can option AWD on both the K5 LXS and GT-Line trims. The Kia K5 LXS is a premium version of the base LX, with extra safety and comfort features.

The Kia K5 GT-Line has upgraded upholstery and some extra tech features, including a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen. An optional package scores you a panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel, and even more advanced driver’s aids. Both AWD models also come with standard heated seats, making them perfect companions during the colder months.

Is the Kia Optima still a good car?

The Kia Optima’s base engine is slightly more powerful than the Kia K5’s. The standard Optima engine produces up to 185 horsepower, while the K5 has a turbocharged inline-four engine that only reaches 180 horsepower. Both of them aren’t terribly quick on the highway, but the turbocharged option is predictably more zippy at lower speeds.

The Kia Optima comes with two optional turbocharged engines, the most powerful of which can produce 245 horsepower. The Kia K5 only has one optional engine, but it’s far more powerful with 290 horsepower on tap. In MotorTrend’s testing, the Kia K5 GT was a full second faster than the Optima GX.

However, MotorTrend recommends the Optima GX more than the K5 GT for its smoother performance at lower speeds. The K5 GT comes standard with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, which can be clumsy in stop-and-go traffic. A fully-loaded certified pre-owned (CPO) Kia Optima GX will likely be cheaper than a Kia K5 GT.

The Kia Optima is also available as either a hybrid or PHEV. The Optima Hybrid produces up to 190 horsepower and gets 40/45 mpg on the city/highway. The Kia Optima PHEV gets 12 extra horsepower and up to 28 miles of all-electric range. Neither car comes with optional performance-minded engines, but they ride smoothly and have the same spacious interior as the standard Optima.

Which Kia is better for you?

As far as the interior goes, both cabins are loaded with premium materials, even on the lower trims. The Kia K5 and Optima can seat up to five riders, with generous stretch-out space in both rows. The top-tier K5 models only offer synthetic leatherette instead of genuine leather like the Optima, but there’s no detectable loss of support.

However, every Kia K5 comes with more standard technology than its respective Optima twin. Drivers can also take advantage of available ambient lighting, heated and ventilated seats, and a Bose stereo system. K5 models with the standard infotainment interface also come with wireless smartphone integration. Like the Optima, the K5 boasts many standard safety features and favorable crash test scores.

A CPO 2020 Kia Optima is an excellent option if you’re on a budget and looking for a roomy sedan. However, the refreshed Kia K5 trounces it in both performance and available technology. AWD also makes the Kia K5 more capable (and therefore a better car all-around) than the Optima.

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