by Jay Traugott
The Optima name has officially been retired. In its place, we have the all-new 2021 Kia K5, a mid-size sedan that picks up right where the Optima left off with bold and striking exterior and interior designs. It also rides on a new platform shared with its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Sonata.
Kia knows the sedan market is not what it once was in the US, but it refuses to abandon the segment entirely. It just needs to be reimagined over the traditional three-box designs of yesteryear. Fortunately, Kia has become a design powerhouse in the auto industry. It was ready to take up the challenge.
The outgoing Optima is a very good-looking vehicle, but Kia wanted to disrupt the midsize sedan segment with something very different than what the competition has to offer. Combined with excellent engine options, plenty of standard safety equipment, and driver-assist systems, the new K5 is more than ready to take on the segment leaders.
Kia has become known for its "tiger face" front end, which has been modernized for the 2021 K5. Take note of its wide and thin front grille that extends into the headlight and hood. The side silhouette is also quite something thanks to its fastback styling, with inspiration coming from the Kia Stinger.
The K5 boasts LED headlights and taillights with unique "Heart Beat" daytime running lights, while wheel sizes range from 16- to 19-inches. Pirelli P-Zero tires are optional on 18- and 19-inch wheels. The GT-Line and GT trims feature a shark skin-inspired mesh design on the front grille as well as dual chrome exhaust tips.
Compared to the outgoing Optima, the K5 is 2 inches longer and 1 inch wider, but its height is slightly shorter. The wheelbase is also 1.8 inches longer. How was this made possible? The new N3 platform. Not only did it allow designers to take some interesting design changes, but also gives the sedan a lower center of gravity.
Kia's ability to design outstanding interiors continues. The K5 comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen with an optional 10.25-inch unit. Each features split-screen functionality and optional satellite radio. However, the larger screen tacks on server-based navigation and multi-connection Bluetooth. Other options include a 12-speaker Bose sound system, voice recognition software, and wireless charging. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also first-time features for the brand. Buyers can select various upholstery and dashboard trim options, as well as a panoramic sunroof.
Dual-zone automatic climate control comes standard as does the "Sound of Nature" ambient system with six calming themes to help settle the mind. A flat-bottom steering is optional for the sportier GT and GT-Line trims.
The Kia Drive Suite of advanced driver-assist safety features is standard fare, which includes systems such as forward collision assist, collision avoidance assist, lane following assist, and driver attention warning. Buyers who are even more safety conscious have the option of selecting systems such as rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision avoidance, navigation-based smart cruise control, and highway driver assist.
The K5 comes powered by a pair of turbocharged engines. The base unit is a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder producing a respectable 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is standard for the LX, LXS, GT-Line, and EX trims.
The K5 GT, however, has a 2.5-liter turbo-four with 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It's linked to a brand new eight-speed wet dual-clutch gearbox which helps to give the K5 GT a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds. AWD will be available later this year for the LXS and GT-Line trims only.
There are four driving modes, Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom, for all trims, though the top-of-the-line GT gains Sport+ for an even more enthusiast-like driving experience.
The American-built 2021 Kia K5 will face off against some formidable competition. The Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mazda6, and even its own corporate cousin, the Hyundai Sonata, are its main rivals. The Ford Fusion is being discontinued and, rumor has it, the Chevrolet Malibu is on borrowed time.
Kia has not announced an official on-sale date or pricing, but it's reasonable to assume the K5 will be in dealerships before the end of the year. Pricing shouldn't be drastically different than that of the outgoing Kia Optima, which begins at just under $24,000 and ranges to about $33,000.