• 2021 Kia K5

The 2021 Kia K5 will put the Driving Experience Front and Centre

The Optima gets a redesign so thorough that it gets a new name.

Kunal Dsouza By: Kunal Dsouza June 30, 2020

TORONTO – As automakers pump out new crossover after new crossover trying to satisfy what seems to be a near insatiable thirst for trucklets, the relatively few sedans that remain, quietly go about their business unnoticed.

Part of a rapidly shrinking segment, the traditional sedan’s days appear numbered at first glance but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still relevant. If driving fun still makes it on to your list of wants from a family car then a well-sorted sedan is the best way to achieve that. Younger buyers are also increasingly drawn to a body style that’s different than what their parents drive.

Kia claims to have “an unstoppable passion to craft an exceptional driving experience” and I tend to believe them with products like their excellent Kia Stinger sports sedan.

Today Kia revealed the all-new K5 mid-size sedan that will replace the current Optima. The new alpha-numeric naming convention helps pay homage to past models from the South Korean market according to Kia and because this new sedan has been so thoroughly redesigned a new name was only fitting. Uhh…sure, but real names are still the way to go in my opinion.

Without actually seeing the new K5 in the flesh, first impressions are very positive, with proportions and styling flourishes that don’t border on awkward like the outgoing Optima. The front-end is striking with defined angular elements, a brand-new “tiger face” grille design with “sharkskin” inspired mesh and a sweeping coupe-like silhouette not unlike the Kia Stinger, Honda Accord, and the new Cadillac CT5. Probably its most defining feature are the new “Heartbeat” LED daytime running lights that are said to mimic the shape of a healthy human EKG readout.

2021 Kia K5

2021 Kia K5

The 2021 Kia K5 is longer, lower, and wider than the Optima it replaces. Based on the new N3 platform that also underpins the new Sorento, it is said to offer more space in the cabin, a quieter driving experience through improved sound deadening, a lower centre of gravity, and suspension geometry that’s optimized for sporty handling.

As is de-rigueur these days both engines offered will be turbocharged 4-cylinder gas units.

Three trims will be available to start: LX, EX, and GT-line.

Base LX models get a 1.6-L unit that produces 185 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Available at a later date on the GT trim, a 2.5-L turbo 4 will offer up to 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque and will send its power through a new 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission.

A first for the segment will be a new all-wheel drive option that will give buyers that added peace of mind during rough weather but strangely enough, the Canadian release made no mention on when and even if it would be coming here. Given the popularity of all-wheel drive in this country I’d be surprised it if wasn’t

Kia has really made strides in the interior game offering excellent quality, premium materials, sound ergonomics, and thoughtful features usually only found at higher price points. The new K5 will further this theme while also offering firsts for Kia, like wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto that will help minimize cord clutter. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard while a 10.25-inch unit is optional. It’s worth noting that the wireless phone-mirroring tech will only work with the smaller 8-inch screen.

2021 Kia K5

There’s no shortage of standard safety and driver-assist systems and Kia’s Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) brings with it even more on the new K5. Standard on all trims is Forward Collision Alert, and Forward Collision Avoidance where the car will automatically brake if it detects an imminent collision with another vehicle or object in front and can either minimize the impact severity or avoid it altogether. This can be taken a step further with the available Junction Turning assist that will apply the same strategy when making a left turn into oncoming traffic. Also standard is a driver attention warning system that can send alerts to the driver if the car finds them to be drowsy or inattentive. Standard lane following assist will help keep the vehicle centered in its lane through automatic steering inputs.

As is typical with Kia and other products from the Hyundai group, value is always front and centre and the new K5 seems to continue that tradition. And although Kia is being tight-lipped on pricing I don’t expect more than a modest increase.

More than just value the latest slew of Kias like the aforementioned Stinger, new compact Seltos, and the full-size three-row Telluride have punted themselves onto the world stage with innovative features, styling, and a driving character that doesn’t disappoint. The rate at which their products have improved is truly unprecedented and to top it off Kia was recently given top honours on J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey with the fewest number of reported problems after 90 days of ownership.

The Honda Accord is a benchmark in this segment when it comes to driving pleasure, a spot that in my opinion, it has held for decades. Toyota still sells more Camrys but they’re not as rewarding to drive as an Accord. If Kia’s new K5 delivers on its promise of driving pleasure then this could very well be the Accord’s biggest challenge yet.

Look for the new Kia K5 to arrive in dealer showrooms starting this fall.