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The AWD 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line Is a Better-Optimized Optima

While the 2020 Optima had plenty to offer, Kia couldn’t afford to keep its mid-size sedan static. So, for 2021, it’s been heavily refreshed and renamed into the Kia K5. While it’s not without its faults, the K5 has the potential to be a big win for the Korean automaker. Especially, as YouTube team The Straight Pipes detail, the AWD K5 GT-Line.

What does the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line offer?

A gray 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line drives through a city
2021 Kia K5 GT-Line front 3/4 | Kia

The $25,390 GT-Line is the Kia K5’s mid-level trim, below the EX and not-yet-released GT trim. As with the other trims, it comes standard with front-wheel drive. However, unlike the GT, EX, or LX, the GT-Line offers optional AWD, Roadshow reports.

Like the other non-GT trims, the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic. The engine makes 180 hp and 195 lb-ft and was previously an upgrade over the Kia Optima’s base engine, Car and Driver reports.

The red faux-leather interior of the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line
2021 Kia K5 GT-Line interior | Kia

Being the mid-level trim, the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line has some extra standard features over the base LX. Some of them are cosmetic, Motor1 reports, such as the trim-specific grille and bumpers, quad exhaust tips, and rear spoiler. But it also comes with LED foglights, 2nd-row USB charging ports, remote engine start, and red faux leather upholstery.

All K5s have automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision warning. However, the GT-Line adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and offers optional adaptive cruise control.

A close-up of the 2021 Kia K5 EX's touchscreen with the rearview camera displayed
2021 Kia K5 EX touchscreen detail | Kia

The Kia K5 GT-Line, like the other K5s, comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But, if you want the wireless versions of both, you’ll have to stick with the base 8” infotainment touchscreen. The 10.25” screen has better graphics and a newer OS, Autoblog reports, but it has fewer physical controls and lacks the wireless capability. A wireless phone charging ‘pocket,’ though, is an optional extra. And heated mirrors are standard, as they are on every K5.

The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line is more than just a renamed Optima

Kia didn’t just change the Optima’s looks and name when it made the K5, Motor Trend reports. The sedan rides on a new platform that it shares with the new Hyundai Sonata. Not only is it wider, longer, and lower than the outgoing car, but it’s also stiffer and lighter.

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As a result, while the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line isn’t a sports sedan like the Stinger or Genesis G70, it handles surprisingly well, Automobile reports. It’s not exactly fast, Edmunds reports, but neither is it unbearably slow. The automatic shifts smoothly and relatively quickly, and the engine has enough power for highway passing. The ride is comfortable and well-dampened, but it doesn’t leave the sedan wallowing and rolling through the corners.

But arguably the K5’s biggest strength is its style, and The Straight Pipes are very taken by it. The hosts deem it “better than the Optima.” And it’s not just the exterior design that’s sharp, but also the interior.

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True, there are a few hard plastics, and the GT-Line has fake wood trim, rather than the EX’s open-pore wood. Plus, the 10.25” touchscreen’s touch-sensitive controls aren’t quite as good as the 8” screen’s physical ones. But the seats are comfy and well-bolstered, and the dash has plenty of soft-touch plastic. There’s nothing really cheap-feeling.

Overall, the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line isn’t just a worthy successor to the Optima, it’s a better version of that car, Roadshow reports.

How does the competition compare?

2021 Subaru Legacy on a city street
2021 Subaru Legacy | Subaru

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Motor1 and Roadshow both report that the Subaru Legacy and Nissan Altima lack the 2021 Kia K5’s handling poise. The Legacy, though, is slightly cheaper, has standard AWD, and a larger touchscreen. However, by the time you option it to the GT-Line’s level, it’s actually a bit pricier. And while it has a more powerful engine option, MT reports it suffers from noticeable turbo lag.

A red 2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T drives through a rainy city
2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T | Honda

Arguably the Kia K5’s biggest rival, though, is the Honda Accord. MT reports it’s more fun to drive, but it gives up something to the Kia in terms of standard features. The base Accord has a smaller and non-touch infotainment screen, fewer USB ports, and no standard Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. However, the Accord has standard adaptive cruise control. Plus, the Kia K5 doesn’t have a hybrid option like the Optima; the Accord, though, still offers it.

A metallic-gray 2020 Mazda6 in the city
2020 Mazda6 | Mazda

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If you’re looking for a fun-to-drive sedan, there’s also the Mazda6. It’s more expensive than the K5 and doesn’t offer AWD. However, for 2021 Mazda is finally making Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard on all trims, MT reports. And its interior “feels a fancy step above most of its competition,” Roadshow reports.

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