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2021 Kia K5 Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Redesigned and renamed midsize sedan replacing the Optima
  • Shares a platform and engineering with Hyundai Sonata
  • Available with turbocharged, performance, and hybrid powertrains
  • All-wheel drive is now available
  • Next-generation infotainment system with improved voice recognition
  • Full roster of standard and available driving assistance technologies
  • On sale in North America by the end of 2020

Introduction

Kia is redesigning the Optima for 2021 and, in the process, gives the midsize sedan a new name. Called the 2021 Kia K5, the car features rakish styling, a high-tech interior, the latest in safety equipment, and plenty of performance measured in terms of both acceleration and efficiency.

2021 Kia K5 GT front view

Introduced in South Korea, the new Kia K5 will be sold all around the world and arrives in North America during the second half of 2020.

Exterior Features

Longer, wider, and lower than the Optima it replaces, the 2021 Kia K5 boasts new LED “heartbeat” daytime running light signatures front and rear. Expect this look to proliferate throughout the company’s lineup as vehicles are refreshed or redesigned.

2021 Kia K5 GT rear view

In front, the latest evolution of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille leads the way, a look first seen on the redesigned 2021 Sorento. Additionally, the new K5 features a dramatic new fastback design that makes the car appear to have a rear liftgate similar to the Stinger. In reality, the K5 offers a roomy trunk.

The Kia K5 shares its platform and engineering with the recently redesigned Hyundai Sonata. Where the Sonata’s body sides swell between the wheel arches, Kia adopts a subtle “Coke bottle” tapering of the door skins for a leaner look. Chrome sweeps up from the base of each windshield pillar around the top of the side windows and then down and around the back glass in a continuous loop.

Wheel sizes range from 16 inches to 19 inches in diameter, the biggest aluminum alloy design bolted to the racy 2021 Kia K5 GT, which has a sportier appearance with a bolder front bumper and a rear bumper incorporating racy vents and a diffuser panel with clearly defined strakes. Dual trapezoidal exhaust outlets complete the K5 GT’s sport sedan look.

Interior Features

If the Kia K5’s exterior is wild, the interior is fairly mild. Designed to simple and minimalistic horizontal themes, the goal with the K5’s cabin is to present a sense of roominess and calm. There’s even an available Mood Lighting system and, in some global markets, a Sound of Nature audio system playing what Kia characterizes as “natural soundscapes” to help soothe frazzled nerves.

2021 Kia K5 interior and dashboard view

Cloth, simulated leather, and genuine leather are available in single- and two-tone cabin color schemes. Trim and accents are rendered in polished metallic, simulated wood, and gloss black depending on the model, and a new 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display and 10.25-inch widescreen infotainment display are available.

Optional Features

In addition to nicer wheels, leather, digital gauges, and an upgraded infotainment system with navigation, the 2021 Kia K5 optional equipment list offers wireless smartphone charging, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. Most likely, ventilated front seats will also be on the options list, and Kia plans to offer numerous convenience, infotainment, and safety-related technologies, some of which are outlined below.

Under the Hood

A wide range of powertrains will accompany the 2021 Kia K5 on its journey to North America.

Standard in lower trim levels, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder good for 191 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque powers the K5’s front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission.

For improved responsiveness and efficiency, a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder delivers 178 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, the latter spread across a broad rev range and available from just 1,500 rpm. Translated, that means this engine feels more energetic in the driving situations most people encounter on a daily basis.

The 2021 Kia K5 GT gets a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with new dual fuel-injection technology and a next-generation thermal management system for maximum engine cooling. Kia says it makes 286 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque, which scoots the car to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. A new 8-speed wet double-clutch transmission is exclusive to the GT, helping to ensure maximum performance and driving enjoyment.

Drive Mode Select offers five driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, and Custom. All-wheel drive is a new option for the 2021 K5, making the car more appealing to cold-weather dwellers. Kia also confirms that hybrids will return to the lineup.

Safety

Kia plans to equip the new K5 with all of its latest advanced driving assist systems (ADAS). Highlights include:

  • adaptive cruise control that can incorporate information about the route ahead from the navigation system
  • front and rear collision warning
  • automatic front and rear emergency braking
  • blind spot warning with active intervention
  • lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance
  • rear cross-traffic warning

Kia’s Level 2 semi-autonomous Highway Driving Assist with lane following assistance will also be available, automatically maintaining a safe distance from vehicles ahead while keeping the K5 centered in its lane. In current applications, HDA requires the driver to keep his or her hands on the steering wheel.

Additional safety technology includes a driver attention monitor, a surround view camera, and a camera-based Blind View Monitor that works on both sides of the car, depicting a video feed of what’s in the K5’s blind spots within the digital instrumentation.

Technology

The more you spend on the new Kia K5, the more technology you’ll receive. Most noticeably, this includes a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display, an 8-inch head-up display that shows data on a glass panel within the driver’s line of sight, and a 10.25-inch widescreen infotainment system with navigation. 

Kia says that its new voice recognition technology allows the driver to control the stereo, climate system, power windows, and even the heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel using voice commands. Audiophiles will want the available 12-speaker Bose premium surround sound system. 

As is true of its Hyundai Sonata sibling, the new Kia K5 is available with Remote Smart Parking Assist. This technology allows the K5’s owner to stand outside of the vehicle and use the remote keyfob to move the car forward and back in a straight line.

Hyundai also offers a digital key option for the Sonata that transforms the owner’s smartphone into a car key used to unlock, start, and drive the car. This technology is a likely upgrade for the Kia K5, too.

Kia’s global public relations department is the source of the information in this article, with some speculation on the part of the author. It was accurate as of May 21, 2020 but may have changed since that date.