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The 2021 Kia K5 is the replacement for the long in the tooth Optima Sedan, which was Kia’s staid four-door with a trunk entry that has long been a staple for many vehicle brands, but now this style is being ignored by American brands. Not so the Asian manufacturers, who see a strong need for what is now considered full-size cars with doors for every seat.
Kia makes six four-door sedans from the small Rio to the sensible Forte up to the Amazing K-900 a large luxury sedan. The K5 fits right there squarely in the middle with only the Cadenza and the K900 above it, though those are the more luxurious rides, the Kia Stinger is the Sports Sedan option. The K5 is an every person’s car, it can be for the business person who needs a solid and comfortable car for travel, and with the 35 mpg that we seemed to get, it is a four-door winner.
What we found is this is a traditional sedan in many senses and will appeal to an older buyer who is looking for the four doors, large trunk, and a center mounted gear shift lever. No dials or buttons or little steering column stick here. A very standard feeling T-shaped gear shift. If you are feeling sporty you can kick it to the side and do some shifting by the stick yourself. But you will not find any paddle shifters which is rare in today’s market.
Inside lots of room and a very clean and well designed and in my eyes a luxurious interior with flat wood accents, and a well laid out dash with a large center dash screen that is actually useful and not too much non-useful items.
Four-doors and five seats mean that it is an easy car to get In and out of, which is key for a demographic that buys sedans. Once inside, you will want to close the those big doors, we found the ridge on the front of all four interior doors by the window controls. Simple, and within easy reach to grasp and pull the door shut. This is a simple solution to trying to stretch and reach to pull a car door close, we give Kia’s engineers Big Kudos for this little touch.
While I found the front seats of the K5 attractively designed, I did not find them comfortable, as their firmness was more hammock than it needs to be. Kia chose cushy for the tushy, instead of a more supportive seat bottom that is nice for a long-distance driving car. The rear bench seat was just fine, though I must admit, I did not spend much time in the back seats.
The dash is clean and modern, the plastic open grained wood trim is quite attractive, and the center display console is easy to operate. I found the traditional T-shaped gear shift comfortable to the touch, and to move from gear to gear, including a swipe left for manual mode. The ease of the electronic parking brake and release when moved into gear, eliminates the release action that is customary on many cars.
The trunk is enormous, the only issue was the trunk opening was that it is narrow. While indeed you can get luggage and other long items in, bulky boxes would not be easy to just drop in the trunk.
The Kia K5 had an elongated flowing shape overall, the massing on the side gives the car a larger full-size appearance. The front features a fish mouth opening for the grill, and that grill is designed with fish scales as the design and menacing thin headlamps on either side, with what look like three bulbs. And the mark of Zorro, a Z-shaped parking and turn signal lamp that wraps from the front to the side of the car. The taillights stream nicely across the upper part of the rear trunk and fender line, giving it plenty of visibility. The roof on our model had a solid black glass appearance, with a generous sized rear exterior sliding sunroof.
This LXS model I drove is powered by a smooth running 1.6-Litre turbo-changed four-cylinder engine that runs on regular gasoline. A more powerful 2.5 Liter engine with dual clutch automatic will be part of the GT trim that is now arriving in dealer showrooms. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. While it was powerful enough, and it provided the 31 plus miles per gallon, I did feel that I would like a little more umph. The gasoline direct injection (GDI) did make a bit more noise than I had expected, and Kia has less sound deadening insulation than some of its other family brands, so there was more clatter than should be heard in an executive sedan.
This is a great car for those who are looking for an executive sedan, do not expect it to provide heart pounding performance. Handling is typical of a front wheel-drive sedan, there is an All-Wheel Drive option, in the GT-Line and LXS Trim which adds a little less than two-grand to the price. This drive train makes the K5 stand out in the marketplace as a world class sedan in this price range.
2021 Kia K5 has a entry LX trim level starting at $23,490 and comes with a solid list of standard features, like an 8-inch touchscreen display, dual-zone automatic temperature control, and remote keyless entry. including a lot of safety features like auto emergency braking, lank keep and following assist tech, high beam assist and electronic stability control.
Move up to the LXS ($24,490) for a tad more luxury, the GT-Line ($25,390) for a sportier trim look, the EX ($27,990) which our tester model was. An even sportier GT ($30,490) is in the pipeline with a 2.5-liter engine, that will answer my desire for a more powerful engine.
The real differences in the trim levels, other than the price, is the options available and selection of colors. And if you want All-Wheel Drive, it is available on just two models. The 2.5-litre engine with dual clutch automatic is only on the top of the line GT.
Those that want solid dependable transportation in an attractive package will find the K5 a good option in a market where many manufacturers are stopping production of such vehicles. The K5 presents a professional appearance without a lot of pomp and circumstance. With a wide variety of options and price points that will fit today’s tight budgets. Add to that the 10-year 100K mile limited powertrain warranty and the 5-year / 60K mile limited basic warranty and Kia Roadside assistance, and you have a solid transportation investment.
Words and images by William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper has long been a follower of automobiles and trucks and has developed a following on his various review channels, Queer4Cars, Automotive Business Report, and The Real DCCarGuy, a new video outlet. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. As well as this channel on YouTube, and his newest outlet The Real DCCarGuy. You will find him in person at the annual Washington DC Auto Show, where he is a VIP Tour Guide.