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It’s a battle between two top all-wheel drive sedans: the 2021 Kia K5 and the 2021 Subaru Legacy. The Legacy has always had AWD, but it wasn’t standard in the U.S. until its second generation. The Kia K5 shares a powertrain and platform with the Hyundai Sonata but comes with all-wheel drive as standard.

How do these two sporty sedans match up? Which model does it better?

The 2021 Kia K5

The latest 2021 Kia K5 has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine under its hood that gets 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to both axles. 

While some don’t feel the K5 is refined enough by today’s standards, others like its vigorous attitude. The team at MotorTrend was divided when it came to the sedan’s powertrain. While one editor felt the engine wasn’t right for the car because of the vibration in the pedals in idle and in the steering wheel, others on the team appreciated the complete driving experience.

With an aggression to match its appearance, the K5 is tuned for a sporty ride. You won’t feel the blows from the road, but the vibration is a constant companion as you drive. 

On the inside, the K5 is striking. The MT team tested the GT-Line model that had a flat-bottom steering wheel and red leather seating. It offers a 10.3-inch touchscreen with a sharp graphical display to navigate the infotainment system. It’s user-friendly and intuitive.

The 2021 Subaru Legacy

The newest Subaru Legacy comes equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which makes it feel entirely different from the Kia K5.

While the Legacy is quick on the initial take, once you get going it’s not as athletic. The MT team pointed out that the engine feels under pressure, the engine noise growling into the cabin in an intrusive way. And the more you push it, the louder it gets.

When it comes to ride quality, the Subaru Legacy is a class act. Its suspension absorbs the road flaws like a champ and its steering is accurate and “playful” according to the MT team. While they found it to be a little klutzy and loud on the road, they found the drive to be solid and satisfying.

Like the K5, the interior of the Legacy has a nice upscale vibe with good materials and tech. Legacy offers an 11.6-inch touchscreen where everything is controlled. The buttons are big enough, but there’s a lot crammed on the screen, making it hard to select what you want without effort. The team appreciated that both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both had a vertical orientation making them easier to use.

The Legacy’s interior doesn’t make as much of an impression as the K5. Still, the generous use of soft vegan leather at the dash, center console, and at the top of the door panels is a nice touch. 

The seats are comfy with good support. There’s a lot of space in the back for adults or kids. There are two USB ports, heated seats, and air vents back there for great passenger convenience.

Is the 2021 Kia K5 or the 2021 Subaru Legacy the better car?

Both the 2021 Kia K5 and the 2021 Subaru Legacy are nice AWD sedans with very different driving dynamics. The Legacy doesn’t feel as strong as the K5 even though it offers great ride quality and overall good value. The Kia offers a sportier, robust driving experience with more punch, a great update on its styling, and all the popular modern tech.

At the end of the day, the 2021 Kia K5 is the winner. While it might not be at the head of the class, it’s much improved and building on recent Kia wins. Overall, it offers a more dynamic driving experience and a better interior.


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