The reign of the Kia Optima has finally come to an end, but the car itself isn’t going away. It has been renamed the 2021 Kia K5 to match its sporty new design. It has aggressive new exterior styling as well as an upgraded powertrain.
The Optima was one of the most well-rounded midsize sedans on the market, but the K5 promises to be even better. In addition to being more powerful than its predecessor, it’s also cheaper than rivals like the Honda Accord. The Kia K5 also has a brand-new engine option that can produce nearly 300 hp.
The 2021 Kia K5 features updated technology
Currently, the Kia K5 is only available with one engine choice. It’s a turbo 1.6-liter four-cylinder that can make up to 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This engine was previously optional for the Kia Optima, but it didn’t produce as much horsepower.
This engine used to be paired with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic, but the dual-clutch element is absent for the K5’s transmission. The K5 can either have four-wheel or all-wheel drive. The upgraded engine also allows the Kia K5 to produce fewer emissions than in previous years.
How do these numbers compare to the Kia Optima?
In terms of horsepower, the Kia Optima’s base engine was actually more powerful. However, most critics found that it wasn’t as fun to drive as the turbo engines. It’s a 2.4-liter four-cylinder capable of 185 hp. It also comes with a six-speed manual transmission, which is arguably more engaging when it comes to making sporty maneuvers.
The Kia Optima also has a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder reserved for the highest trim. It can produce up to 245 hp and comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Kia K5 will have a more powerful engine option in just a few months.
The 2021 Kia K5 GT
The top-performing GT trim will house a 2.5-liter turbo-four that’s rated for 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It’s set to be paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, but it’s only available with front-wheel drive. The Kia K5 also comes with summer tires to enhance its handling capabilities.
Additionally, all Kia K5 models will have the same drive mode settings present in the Kia Optima. Drivers can shift between Normal, Sport, and Smart modes. Drivers can create their own drive modes using the Custom setting.
The inside of the Kia Optima looks pretty classy, but it’s still filled with a lot of plastic materials, according to Edmunds. The Kia K5 is definitely a lot better, with brand new faux-wood accents and even a bigger touchscreen in the GT-Line trim. The more expensive models also come with plush synthetic leather seats that can be heated and ventilated.
The Kia K5 has plenty of desirable features, including impressive voice recognition and smartphone integration. Even the cloth seats in the base model felt comfortable and roomy enough to accommodate passengers of all heights. The sloping roofline at the rear may make entry and exit a little cumbersome, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
How well does it drive?
Since the GT hasn’t been released yet, MotorTrend didn’t have the opportunity to test-drive it. However, testers did take a ride inside 2021 K5 models equipped with the 1.6-liter turbo-four. It doesn’t feel overly speedy, but it still does a good job passing other cars on the interstate.
The MotorTrend staff were also impressed with the transmission, saying it shifted smoothly and without any issues. The suspension absorbs almost every imperfection under the wheels and there’s barely any road or wind noise. Overall, driving the 2021 Kia K5 is very enjoyable, but thrill-seekers may want to hold out for the GT model.