2021 Kia K5: Pour One Out for the Optima, Then Forget

2021 kia k5 pour one out for the optima then forget

The name Americans have come to associate with Kia’s midsize family sedan is dead, but you probably knew that already. Hopefully you’ve recovered.

On Tuesday, Kia pulled the wraps off the U.S.-market K5, the automaker’s replacement for the long-running Optima (which carried the Magentis name in Canada until 2010). Riding atop a third-generation N3 platform, the midsizer grows in length, wheelbase, and width, while slouching closer to the road.

For the coming model year, Kia also saw fit to equip the newly renamed model with a more potent uplevel engine and all-wheel drive, but the liftback you might think exists behind the backseat is all in your head.

It’s a sedan, period. Don’t let the sloping, fastback-style roof line fool you.

Two inches longer than before, one inch wider, and 1.8 inches lengthier in wheelbase, the K5’s roof sits eight-tenths of an inch closer to the ground. The bland exterior of its Optima predecessor has given way to a chiseled skin with slender headlamps and a far bolder version of Kia’s corporate Tiger-nose grille. The sedan’s greenhouse now comes topped with a metallic strip that flows down the C-pillar to the trunklid.

Out back, Kia could be accused of getting too busy with its fascia game, though in this day and age it’s perhaps a better option than not getting noticed at all. And full-width taillight arrays are so in right now.

With a stiffer body and a suspension setup redesigned for improved handling, Kia aims to put the K5 on the radar of those looking for a sporty-ish front-driver at a reasonable price. The former Optima, while a breath of fresh air, design-wise, upon its 2011 launch, lost something in its subsequent generation. Naturally, Camry and Accord stepped in to collect what midsize buyers remained in the segment.

Two engines are on offer: a turbocharged 1.6-liter (180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, up 2 hp from before) found in base LX, LXS, GT-Line, and EX trims, mated to an eight speed automatic. Last year’s base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is gone. Meanwhile, the LXS and GT-Line can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

Move up to the range-topping GT and Hyundai Motor Group’s new turbocharged 2.5-liter appears, making 290 hp and 311 lb-ft. A “wet” dual-clutch with eight forward speeds is the only available transmission with this engine. In this guise, Kia has something to potentially persuade buyers to reconsider a possible Toyota or Honda purchase.

Inside, you’ll find a revised cabin that telegraphs its newly discovered refinement at every opportunity, as well as sport in GT-Line or GT guise (flat-bottom steering wheel? Check. Red piping? Ditto). The infotainment screen never measures less than 8 inches, with a 10.25-inch surface found on upper trims. That screen, however, can’t be had with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Elsewhere on the tech front, standard kit includes a host of safety aids. Among them, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, rear seat reminder, and forward collision warning. As you’ve probably assumed, optional safety aids span the gamut.

Expect pricing to be released closer to the model’s late summer on-sale date, though readers who might be tempted into considering a GT should know their ride won’t appear in showrooms until the fall.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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  • MKizzy MKizzy on Jul 01, 2020

    The K5 is sharp. However, why won't these automakers just take the plunge and design their sedans with a proper hatch? Buick's half-baked attempt of an overpriced and under-equipped Regal should not be the last time we see a sportback on these shores.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jul 07, 2020

    Why would they make it lower to the ground in a CUV crazed taller is better world? I'm also surprised they aren't offering the 191 HP 2.5 seeing as they spent the money developing it for the one Sonata application.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.