Kia Sets K5 to Replace Optima

New sedan replaces an established nameplate.


The all-new K5 replaces the outgoing Kia Optima.

The Kia Optima is a midsize sedan and has earned its place in a crowded, albeit shrinking segment. Launched in 2001, the Optima was Kia’s first midsize sedan for the U.S. market. Since then, Kia has rolled out larger models, including the Cadenza and K900 sedans, but the Optima is the volume seller of the three.

We won’t see a 2021 Optima as Kia has decided after four generations to rename this vehicle the K5, what it’s called in other markets, including Korea. The all-new model shares much with the Hyundai Sonata, its corporate stablemate, and will thus bring forth several of the same engineering attributes while maintaining its distinct shape and design embellishments.

2021 Kia K5 Highlights

Longer, wider, and lower than the Optima. Today’s midsize sedans are yesterday’s full-size models. Or at least they’re very close in dimensions. The new K5 sits on a 112.2-inch wheelbase (+1.8 inch) and is 193.1 inches long (+2 inches). It is also 73.2 inches wide (+1.0 inch) and sits 0.8 inches lower to the ground than the Optima. Kia says the suspension geometry is “optimized for sporty handling, responsiveness and stability,” and features an increased tensile strength.

Unique exterior styling. The new K5 borrows elements popular in the Kia Stinger and also found in the Cadenza. The GT-Line and GT trim models feature a shark skin-inspired mesh design on front grille and dual chrome exhaust tip garnish, “heart-beat” daytime running lights and taillights with available LED “dashes” spanning the breadth of the rear deck lid, gloss black applique, and newly designed 16-, 18-, or 19-inch alloy wheels. Incidentally, the 18- and 19-inch wheels are shod within Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Special interior touches. All K5 trims feature an aircraft-type shift knob, a blend of premium and sporty upholstery options including red imitation leather seating, satin chrome metallic and wood-like finishes on the dashboard and door panels, and a panoramic sunroof, depending on the trim.

Two turbocharged engine choices. Four out of the five K5 trims will offer a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The performance numbers are in line with what you’d expect in this segment, at least with a base model. This engine works with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. But if that’s not enough, a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque is what drives the top GT trim. The standard engine works with an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the optional engine is paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.

All-wheel drive is now optional. Unlike the Sonata, the new K5 will offer available all-wheel drive. This is keeping with a trend we’ve seen in recent years where the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry now have optional all-wheel drive. All three follow on the heels of the Subaru Legacy, the only model in the segment with standard all-wheel drive. Previously, both the Chrysler 200 and the Ford Fusion offered all-wheel drive, but both models have since been discontinued.

There are four standard drive modes: normal, smart, sport, and custom with the GT Line receiving a fifth: sport+. Adjusting the modes impacts drivability, including engine, transmission, and steering. In models equipped with all-wheel drive, the mapping extends to that feature as well and brings in a snow mode.

Upgraded tech features. Kia says the K5 will have an 8- or 10.25-inch high-resolution color touchscreen along with split-screen functionality and available satellite radio. The navigation system is server-based with real-time traffic information. As for Bluetooth, two phones can connect simultaneously. The usual UVO telematics suite returns and brings with it further customization to allow each driver to set his/her settings. The Bose audio system with 12 available speakers is something we’d expect in a luxury car. A first for Kia is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility – no need for a cord as the connection is accomplished seamlessly.

The “Drive Wise” suite of safety features. All 2021 K5 models come with standard forward collision warning, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-following assist, and driver attention warning. The list of upgrades includes blind-spot collision avoidance, forward collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Kia K5 Pricing, Availability

Kia will price the 2021 K5 from $23,490 plus a $965 destination charge. Available in five trims, the top-of-the-line GT costs $30,490. Where available, all-wheel drive adds $2,100 to the LXS and $3,700 to the GT, along with other features.

In all, we think the new K5 will aggressively carve a niche for itself in the segment. Its arrival follows the demise of the Buick LaCrosse, which is perhaps the model Kia had in mind when designing this premium midsize four-door sedan.

The K5 is built in West Point, Georgia, alongside the Telluride SUV. It will arrive in U.S. showrooms this fall.


See AlsoThe Kia Seltos is the All-Wheel-Drive Answer to the Kia Soul

Photo copyright Kia Motors.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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