You (Don't) Know My Name: Say Goodbye to Kia Optima, Hello to K5

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
you dont know my name say goodbye to kia optima hello to k5

A rumor that began spreading last year seems to be borne out. Those whispers, which grew in volume after company executives failed to downplay the suggestion, hinted that Kia’s midsize Optima could see a name change for the 2021 model year.

Following its Hyundai Sonata sibling by a year, the radically redesigned midsizer could be the automaker’s last attempt to woo the American public and solidify its standing in the shrinking segment. At this point in the game, will a name change help at all? Maybe the better question is: would it hurt?

First noticed by Motor Trend, the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy listings added a new entry this week: the 2021 Kia K5.

In the brand’s home country of South Korea, the Optima name is unknown. There, K5 replaced the Lotze nameplate for the third-gen model. North America and other regions get the familiar Optima name, though the earliest generations of the model went another direction in Canada and Europe (Magentis). Still, for the U.S., “Optima” has been Kia’s answer to Sonata since the model’s arrival in 2000.

Until now, it seems.

For whatever reason, Kia seems determined to place all of its midsizers under the same John Hancock. The EPA listing reveals something else, too. All-wheel drive.

While the Sonata makes do with traditional front-drive to go with its new engines and polarizing styling, the [s]Optima[/s] K5 is shown bearing AWD and a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. An eight-speed automatic channels the power. This is likely the first of many configurations to see an EPA rating, as it’s unlikely Kia would opt to leave traditional FWD buyers in the lurch (if you’re curious, the model’s fuel efficiency comes in at 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined).

Looking quite fetching in its new clothes, the K5 revealed for the Korean market last year goes a long way to memory-hole the lackluster current-gen model, which was seen as a tepid step down from the third-gen model that appeared in 2010. Go big or go home, Hyundai Motor Group’s reasoning seems to say.

Get noticed, or give up for good.

It shouldn’t be long before Kia Motors debuts the U.S.-market K5 for American buyers, likely staging the launch online.

[Images: Kia]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 21, 2020

    Once upon a time there were G5, G6 and G8. Do you remember the brand name? Kia apparently will declare soon that it makes fine (premium) automobiles. Korean Mazda.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on May 22, 2020

    Maybe it's good they went to K5, because this doesn't look nearly as good as the original Optima.

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.
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