The Kia Optima is so last year. For its 2021 redesign, it gets a new look and a new name: the K5. “K5” is the South Korean naming convention for the Optima, so it’s safe to say that this mid-size sedan isn’t going away so much as it’s moving on. The K5 redesign also takes on a different look compared to Optimas of the past; it’s a little longer and more swept back than previous iterations.
In a time when buyers aren’t as interested in sedans, a lot of automakers are phasing them out or cutting them from lineups altogether. But the K5 brings a lot to the table: style, power and a comfortable ride.
But if you just want the need-to-know facts, here’s what we like (and don’t) about the 2021 Kia K5:
1. Power Packed Into a Small Engine
The K5 has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder under the hood, putting out an impressive 180 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque — a lot of power and torque in a little package.
2. Automatic Transmission
Though the eight-speed automatic transmission itself has some quirks, it’s still an automatic. A lot of the K5’s competitors are working with continuously variable automatics, which aren’t a popular choice among our staff when it comes to drivability.
3. Standard Multimedia
The standard 8-inch touchscreen works with volume and tuning knobs as well as mechanical buttons, which mirror the mechanical buttons, switches and knobs used throughout the K5. The more physical controls make for easy use, especially while driving. This multimedia system also supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard.
4. Comfortable Ride
The K5 isn’t trying to knock your socks off, but it does offer a pretty comfortable drive — not so much road feel that it seems too sporty, but just the right amount.
5. A Welcome Brake
Again: We like that the K5 doesn’t have something. This time, it’s by-wire brakes, which are increasingly common. Instead, the vacuum-boosted brakes in the K5 have a good pedal feel. Input seems pretty equal to output, and it’s easy to modify the level braking power.
6. Roomy Cabin
It’s a mid-level interior for a mid-level car. The materials are nice, though no leather upholstery option is offered. The seats are comfortable and highly adjustable, including the passenger seat, which has a standard height adjustment. The backseat also has good head- and legroom
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Research the 2021 Kia K5
1. Laggy Acceleration
Step on the gas to get more power while you’re already in motion, and it’ll take the K5 a second to do what you need it to do. The problem is that the transmission downshifts before the car accelerates, causing a lag. Sport and Smart driving modes can help this hesitation, but they’ll also hurt in terms of gas mileage.
2. Optional Multimedia
Where the standard 8-inch touchscreen functions well, the optional 10.25-inch touchscreen system is a different story: There’s no tuning knob, and the buttons are capacitive rather than mechanical — plus, the system only works with the wired version of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This could be justified by more screen real estate, but because screens are measured diagonally, this one gets away with being longer and thinner: 9.5 inches by 3.6 inches compared to the standard screen’s 7 inches by 4 inches. Also, Android Auto only takes up two-thirds of this screen rather than being edge-to-edge like on the standard version.
3. Active Sound Design
Active Sound Design augments the engine sound coming through the stereo, which will make your K5 sound rather sporty. However, you’re supposed to be able to change this sound via selectable settings … but every setting sounds the same. Kia says the differences are most noticeable when driving under a heavy load and high rpm, which isn’t how most people drive a sedan.