By on November 4, 2021

22 Kia K5 front

While hammering away at his keyboard in preparation for publishing this post, it dawned upon your author that The Right Spec for any new vehicle these days is – thanks to the chip shortage and a myriad of other supply problems – whatever resides on the lot. Or at least doesn’t have an exorbitant markup placed on its sticker.

Why are we profiling a family sedan this week? Because there are still swaths of Americans, believe it or not, who’d rather have this type of machine in their driveway than yet another SUV to add to the line of vehicles in the school pick-up line. And as for why the K5, in particular, was selected – well, let’s just say we hope to start an argument in the comments.

Fresh off the boat is the GT model, a trim that endows the K5 line with a 2.5-liter turbo GDI engine good for 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. These are not insignificant numbers, especially when compared to the dishwater 1.6L found in other trims. More importantly? It’s knocking on the door of the 300 horsepower Stinger GT-Line sports sedan and not really that far adrift of a GT1 or GT2 which makes 368 ponies.

Yes, yes – there’s a solid argument to be made about driveline configuration and where all that power is being sent. The K5 GT is only available as a front-wheel-drive machine, with all-wheel drive currently limited to certain trims equipped with the 1.6L engine. The Stinger, of course, shunts all its power to the rear unless the buyer pops for all-wheel drive, which is available with either engine.

The top-rung K5 is offered in a wide array of colors, including the tremendously annoying Sapphire Blue shown here. It is my opinion that the K5 is a much better-looking car than the Stinger (remember the argument we’re predicting in the comments?) with headlights that look like lasers instead of goiters and better side profile proportions. I will maintain, to my dying breath, that Kia made the Stinger’s front doors too short, with the B-pillar rudely intruding on ingress and egress. The K5 does not have this problem, likely thanks to its front-wheel-drive platform.

22 Kia K5

And therein, of course, lies the rub. While the snazziest K5 and entry-level Stinger are close in power numbers, their driven wheels are a world apart. For some, that’s non-negotiable – and we understand that. Your author didn’t pilot a Dodge Charger as his family car for a decade without understanding this concept. However, there’s a $5,000 walk from the K5 GT to the $36,090 Stinger GT-Line, not an insignificant sum.

If the parental units are of a sporting mind and hell-bent on getting another Kia, that price point is attractive after remembering the brand remains famous for including enough features to fill a bucket. The K5 GT gives up little to the Stinger GT-Line in terms of amenities, including the 10.25-inch jumbotron infotainment screen and aggressively bolstered front seats.

It’ll all come down to whether rear-wheel drive is worth an extra five grand. Argue away in the comments.

Please note the prices listed here are in United States dollars and are currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

[Images: Kia]

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28 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2022 Kia K5...”

  • avatar

    I drove this car’s Sonata cousin, and it’s certainly quick. But it comes with a full load of overpowered-FWD-car rowdiness. Therefore, I’d say that on the surface, the RWD Stinger’s the better option.

    But where I live, having a powerful RWD car with performance tires is an excellent way to not go anywhere in anything more than a light dusting of snow. In fact, the “let’s watch my neighbor make his super-loud Mustang 5.0 into a roadblock in an inch of snow while he tries to use all of his old bath towels and blankets to extricate it” show should begin in a couple of weeks or so. Grand.

    No one will confuse the K5 with a Wrangler when it comes to snow capability, but with decent all-season tires, it should be good to go in anything under a foot of snow, and anything over that means you should skip it, stay home, and drink hot apple cider and cinnamon Schnapps.

    This is the part where the winter-tire fanboys start chiming in. And, yes, they’d make a RWD car usable in the winter time. But I don’t have a garage to store the summer tires in, and a good set plus wheels is going to run you a grand, minimum. Add that to the cost of the RWD car.

    I’d stick with the K5. Besides, if you want a Stinger, the one to get is the GT model, with the twin-turbo six. I just don’t see any upside to the 2.0 RWD model for me.

    YMMV, of course.

    • 0 avatar

      The base Stinger is now available with the 2.5T motor which can really pull.

      If sticking with RWD, the 2.5T Stinger may be the one to get (lighter than the 3.3TT or AWD).

    • 0 avatar
      kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh


      “let’s watch my neighbor make his super-loud Mustang 5.0 into a roadblock in an inch of snow while he tries to use all of his old bath towels and blankets to extricate it”

  • avatar

    The more I see the new Optima, the more I appreciate the looks…until I get to the lightbar at the back. It doesn’t quite work for me, but I think I kind of know what they’re going for. This might sound weird, but the rear end of the Sonata might almost fit better because those lights are more angular.

    Also, that blue is pretty nice to mine eyes.

  • avatar

    I still need to be convinced that H/K can deliver suspension and steering tuning of Honda quality in a big front-driver, but I’d happily drive this and an Accord 2.0T back-to-back to find out.

    The RWD competition (including the Stinger) is more expensive for the same level of amenities and less interior room. Up to each buyer whether banishing torque steer and some wheelspin is worth those sacrifices.

    • 0 avatar

      “The RWD competition (including the Stinger) is more expensive for the same level of amenities and less interior room. Up to each buyer whether banishing torque steer and some wheelspin is worth those sacrifices.”

      I haven’t had much seat time in anything really new, but from all accounts interior rooms sucks in everything no matter the driveline.

    • 0 avatar

      Lucky for you, I did drive the Sonata N line and the Accord 2.0T back to back.

      The Sonata is definitely a bit quicker, and more overtly “sporty”, but it never lets you forget that it’s an overpowered FWD sedan – there’s quite a bit of torque steer that you don’t get in the Accord. It reminded me a lot of the old Pontiac Bonneville SSEI.

      The Sonata has a genuinely cool interior and more stuff (including a pano roof and upgraded sound), but the Accord has more restrained styling that will probably wear better over time, and it’s a touch cheaper. Handling was solid with both cars.

      I preferred the Accord.

      • 0 avatar


        Other Honda advantages:
        1 better resale
        2 better quality
        3 higher prestige.
        4 superior driving dynamics as stated. real superior

        no brainer really

        • 0 avatar


          I was leasing, so 1-2 really didn’t matter all that much. You could argue that Hondas have better residuals, but Hyundai always puts cash on the hood; when the numbers were ran, it was basically a wash.

          3) was a big whatever for me. I was trading a “prestige” car (an Audi) and it was turning into a money pit, as prestige cars tend to do. If I go that route again, I’ll lease a new one versus buying a used one cheap.

          4) I didn’t find the Accord to be all that superior in terms of driving dynamics – just different. Both cars had their upsides. The Accord was a solid performer all around. The Hyundai was more of a hot rod, and that can be fun too.

          Still, if I hadn’t gone the way I did (, I’d have opted for the Accord. It ended up being my second choice.

          • 0 avatar


            Respect. Solid comparo.

            I m prejudiced. My 4 Honda s exceeded all my expectations. Huge resale. Zero quality problems. My brothers Sonata -65,000 miles -5 years old-
            1 Failed rear hub sensor something a bob.
            2 No spare > yielded a 4 hour flat tire horror show.
            3 Trunk release button above rear tag > rubber crumbled into nothingness leaving bare switch.
            4 chromed bezels / interior fringe flaked off in many places.
            5 Interior wear – on the 5 year old car that looked like a 10 year old car.
            6 others – I could go on. But you get my point

            When you have outstanding experience with Honda / toyota / subaru, why would you ever try a brand with above and history of unrefined driving dynamics.
            I know people love them. I dont. I ll go away now.

          • 0 avatar



            Hondas are a kind of can’t-miss car buying proposition. But I’ve had good experience with Hyundai – my kid has one, my ex had several, and they’ve all been solid.

        • 0 avatar

          “Other Honda advantages:…”

          Really on a case by case basis.

          For instance, the Telluride has better resale and “quality” (CR’s reliability rating) than the Pilot; also drives better than the Pilot.

          Looks like the new Carnival will also have better resale than the Odyssey, and based on the Odysseys loooong record of recalls, likely reliability as well.

          Kia has ranked higher than Honda in the reliability surveys.

          Not much in the way of driving dynamics between the 2 (the K5 GT does need stickier tires, tho).

          Motor Trend went on about how the Sonata N-Line (which has better tires) handled the twisty canyon roads in their review.

          But for both, HMG needs to add an LSD.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for sharing your experience.

        I just learned that the pano roof in a sedan makes more difference than I would have thought, given the low ceiling. My Bolt threw a diagnostic message about the battery over the weekend, so I took it in for diagnosis (sadly, not battery replacement yet) on Tuesday. They needed it for two days because their EV expert was backed up, so they gave me a rental. The rental was a bog-standard Malibu LT 1.5T, except that it had the pano roof option. Opening the shade on that roof felt REALLY nice and made much more of a difference than it does in my pano roof-equipped Highlander.

        (The Bolt battery tested within spec, but they updated the software on both the battery controller and the BCM for me.)

        • 0 avatar

          My old A3 had the pano roof as well. They’re great until you have to fix them.

          I do miss it, though.

          I was at my local Chevy dealer last Sunday to eyeball a Corvette (which did not disappoint), and they had five or six Bolts that were apparently buybacks.

          • 0 avatar

            I love the car and can’t imagine trying to get a buyback at this stage. I guess if you’d really rather have a Tesla it’d be a reasonable option.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, the Veloster-N won Road & Track’s Performance Car of the Year for 2020 and the i20N just won Top Gear’s PCotY for 2021.

      Problem is not whether HMG can do it, but rather they “dumb” things down too much for the non-N cars.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve read those sorts of reviews of the N cars, but I have yet to drive a mainstream H/K product personally where I was totally satisfied with the suspension and steering, even relative to the class. When I drive one it will probably change my feelings a bit.

    • 0 avatar

      “The RWD competition (including the Stinger) is more expensive for the same level of amenities and less interior room.”

      A big asterisk on that is that here as everywhere else the good motor is behind a paywall in the most loaded trim which, along with the $7,000 markup, comes with a sunroof in lieu of any headroom. Of course they do the exact same thing with the Stinger but its bad motor is already the K5’s good one.

  • avatar

    IMO, the two killer apps on the Stinger are RWD and the hatch. The interior room is fine for my 5’10” manlet height (and shuttling my same size or shorter friends/family) but I know some of you are straight out of Brobdingnag so YMMV.

    I don’t have any quarrel with the K5 but if I wanted a FWD mid-size car I’d get a Camry because I like them more.

    • 0 avatar

      If I had the Stinger, I’d have to do the AWD version – I’m not screwing around with winter tires and wheels on a car that costs that much.

      I agree the Camry with the V-6 is a nice piece, but back in the spring when I was looking, I couldn’t find one that was within a reasonable driving distance of Denver. The ones I did find had that ridiculous black roof and I wasn’t driving a hundred miles to check one out. The XSE looks a lot better, but it also pushes forty grand.

  • avatar

    “Fresh off the boat is the GT model…”
    I thought most K5’s were made in Georgia, but maybe the GT isn’t.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    A suggestion for The Right Spec series: Can we please have the MSRP of “the right spec” vehicle?

    In this case, lots of words have been spent comparing the K5 to the Stinger, and the Stinger’s price is given (yet it’s not the subject of this story), so we’re left to calculate the price of the K5 as $31k.

    Assuming my math is right, $31k is significantly lower than average ASP today, and my guess is that many buyers may choose the K5 simply because it is cheaper than most CUV/SUV offerings out there.

    Given my station in life, I’m down to a minivan and a liftback (both with great utility), and not sure I want to return to a sedan that can’t haul much except 4-5 people.

  • avatar

    I’ve taken a short test drive in the K5 GT, and I liked it, but it’s much more force than finesse–essentially a FWD muscle car with no LSD. I’ve also driven a Stinger, albeit the old 2.0T version with AWD, not the current 2.5T. Even with the lackluster 2.0T, I thought it was great.

    And so, between the two, I’d get the Stinger. You just can’t beat the rear-biased AWD dynamics, plus it has the hatch, and its slightly tidier dimensions would be better in our small townhouse garage. Yes, it costs more, but if I’m spending extra for a performance sedan, the Stinger would be worth it.

    For me, the “right-spec” K5 would be the FWD GT-Line, because it’s very well-equipped for its price and has stellar fuel economy. I could see getting one of these as a stopgap before moving to an electric in a few years.

  • avatar

    To me the right spec would include a car with the infotainment properly integrated in the dash, like the previous gen had.

  • avatar

    A K5 GT may, in theory be cheaper than a Stinger GT-Line, however the very few K5 GTs I’ve seen for sale are being offered for way more than MSRP.

    K5 GT prices are all over the place, I just saw one at MSRP ($32K) while the most expensive one was $45K. OTOH a 22 Stinger GT-Line sells between $37K and $41K. There are even a couple AWD Stingers offered for less than $40K…

    This is a no brainer, I’d rather have the Stinger

  • avatar

    Who has a garage? I keep three sets of mounted Winter tires in my subterranean mancave, cleverly stowed underneath 5′ x 16′ slot car layout. All season tires are ideal for no season known to mankind.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    If you buy a KIA that isn’t a Telluride, you are a fool. In fact if you buy any product of any type that isn’t a Telluride, you are a fool.

  • avatar

    Handsome machine, reminds me of that Lincoln sedan and an Audi, looks more pricey than it is. The blue paint is “annoying?” What a strange description for a colour.

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