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What’s old is new again – at least in the case of the 2021 Kia K5. The Korean automaker redesigned its midsize sedan, previously known as the Optima, and rebranded it as the K5.

Despite sharing a platform with the Hyundai Sonata, the K5 is more than a Sonata clone. It offers unique styling and an opulent interior. However, you may want to be selective when deciding which model to get.

As with many redesigns, it can be difficult for shoppers to know what they should be looking for. It’s easy to get lost in the bells and whistles between different trim levels and package options.

Sometimes, shoppers overlook the most important things when trying to decode what comes in each trim level. It gets even more complicated for an all-new model like the K5. Thankfully, we’re here to help. 

Why does which trim you buy matter?

A silver 2021 Kia K5 parked on display with a skyscraper in the background
The 2021 Kia K5 on display | Photo via Kia

Trim levels can be tricky, but it’s essential to know the difference between packages and trims. Basically, trim levels are packages of larger or broader equipment for a vehicle that can be added on. 

Trim levels are applied to a broader range of equipment. For example, the 2021 Kia K5 includes different seating options based on the trim level you purchase. Packages are trim-specific and tend to lean toward amenities that the owner can do without. You can’t do without seating. You can do without, such as the heated steering wheel in the K5’s EX Premium Package. 

Unfortunately for the 2021 Kia K5, some of the lower trim packages simply don’t give you enough bang for your buck. 

Did the Korean automaker phone in the K5’s lower trim levels? Let’s take a closer look at what we know.

Value is key when it comes to purchasing the 2021 Kia K5

When undergoing a redesign, you would think brands would put as much effort into making the lower-cost options appealing as the more top-dollar trims. But this may just not be the case for the 2021 Kia K5. 

The base LX model may look appealing due to its $23,490 starting MSRP. However, there’s a lot of extra value to be had without spending too much extra money.

Consumer Reports recommended that car shoppers upgrade to at least the K5’s LXS trim ($24,490 MSRP). We think you should take it a step further than that and go for the GT-Line ($25,390 MSRP.) Here’s a breakdown of each trim so you can see why we prefer the GT-Line for the money spent. 

Blind-spot monitoring is the most significant addition that the LXS offers. And it’s the reason why Consumer Reports recommended it over the base model. This trim also adds a hands-free power trunk, remote start, keyless entry, push-button start, safe exit assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.

These are undoubtedly an insane amount of upgrades for just $1,000 more than the base price. But those who are willing to spend only $900 more will be significantly rewarded.

The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line comes with sportier styling, highlighted by a gloss black rear spoiler and 18-inch sporty alloy wheels. Notably, the K5’s performance doesn’t mirror its athletic design.

Inside, Kia added a flat-bottom sport steering wheel wrapped in leather, which is much more comfortable to the touch. 

Consumer Reports noted how the GT-Line’s 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support is worth the upgrade. It’s comfier and more supportive than the seats on the lower trims, making the GT-Line a better choice for commuters. Plus, its cloth seats are enhanced with leatherette material.

Spend now, save later

There are plenty of reasons to upgrade to the new K5. However, you’ll want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. The best way to do that is to spend a little more upfront. Dropping an extra $1,900 over the base model to get into a 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line may leave you happier in the long run.


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