2021 Kia K5 GT-Line

The K5 is well insulated, quiet and the suspension absorbs all but the harshest of road conditions.
The K5 is well insulated, quiet and the suspension absorbs all but the harshest of road conditions.

by Jon Pangindian | January 27, 2021


At a time when midsize sedan sales have been going south and other players have started to bail on the segment, Kia has made a bold move in dropping the Optima name when introducing their battler of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord – talk about confidence in their new product! Kia has knocked it out of the park with the Telluride and Seltos, but do they have enough steam in the engine to make a proper sedan? We got behind the wheel of the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line to see if it has the goods to match the best in the segment,

Playing it safe with any sedan is not going to help in this market. In order to compete against the crossover onslaught and remain relevant, sedan-makers really need to bring their A-game as it relates to design, technology, and practicality if they want any shot whatsoever at a piece of the pie. For the most part, Kia has accomplished just that.

Right off the bat, this is one of the best looking sedans on sale right now and has overtaken the Mazda6 in the non-luxury segment. The signature grill used on Kia products in the past looks extremely aggressive this time around as it almost extends across the entire fascia. The daytime running lights take a zig zag approach, which fits perfectly with the slim LED headlights.  The aggressively designed front bumper and hood that bulges in all the right ways.

While some manufacturers tend to ignore the rest of the car after making a great front end, Kia has extended this design all around. The roof line swoops to provide a coupe-like design similar to Kia’s own Stinger, and the tail lights consist of LED strips right across.This looks absolutely stunning at night and truly makes the car stand out. The rear diffuser and faux dual exhaust tips round out the sporty intentions of the K5.

Inside the K5 GT-Line, drivers are treated to standard synthetic leather seats that look good but only come in black, so those looking for alternate colors will be disappointed. With the exception of the fake wood trim, piano black and metal trim around the vents and across the dash mean drivers will see more black throughout the interior. Everything is ergonomically placed and well within reach. This is a good interior but it’s nowhere close to the near-luxury quality that can be seen in the Mazda6.

The standard infotainment screen on the K5 reaches eight inches while the GT-Line gets an upgraded 10.25-inch screen that also includes navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard fare, though oddly enough, the two lower trim models get wireless integration while the GT-Line needs a wired connection. A wireless phone charger is included and is neatly tucked away by the center armrest. It provides cooling vents and accommodates large phones like my Samsung S20 Ultra.

The K5 could have had more storage space between both front seats, however Kia resisted going to a shift by wire push button shifter for the eight-speed automatic. It uses a traditional shifter instead of the push buttons found on the Hyundai Sonata which shares the same platform. Entry and exit is decent, however the roofline caused me to hit my head several times during my test week.

Overall, the seats are comfortable yet the driving position is rather high, notable from my tall frame. We observed surprisingly excellent leg and headroom in the rear, especially when considering the raked roofline on this model. Trunk access is surprisingly generous, with a wide and low opening for easy access. Cargo capacity here is rated at 434-liters.

A 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder is the sole engine available, and is also the same application seen in other Kia and Hyundai products such as the Seltos, Sonata and Kona. It’s no tire burner with 180 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 195 lb-ft. of torque at 1,500RPM. An eight-speed automatic is well suited to the car, and the K5 can sprint to 100km/h in the low seven-second range. It’s worth mentioning that all-wheel-drive is standard on the GT-Line as well as the two lower trim levels – the K5’s sister, the Hyundai Sonata is front-drive only with this powertrain.

The K5 is well insulated, quiet and the suspension absorbs all but the harshest of road conditions. It’s only when the car is really pushed does some body roll make itself present. This isn’t quite a sports sedan and those looking for a more spirited experience will be better suited to the full GT model expected next year. The steering is quick and light but there’s next to no on-center feel; switching into Sport mode adds some artificial weight to the wheel.

After a week’s worth of testing including plenty of remote-start warm ups, we achieved a very respectable 9.0L/100km. Kia Canada rates the K5 at 9.2L/100km city and a very frugal 6.9L/100km highway. As expected for the segment, the K5 only requires 87-octane regular fuel. An active safety suite including Smart Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Park Distance Warning and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance is on board, and Canadians will be thankful for the heated windshield and washer nozzles.

Even with several key players abandoning this segment, the ones that remain have been extremely competitive and in fact, some of the best midsize sedans that have come to market are currently on sale.  Kia did not expect this segment to be a cake walk and from what they introduced, the K5 is more than up to the task at hand.

The engine does leave much to be desired especially with the AWD system bogging down its performance, but that will be rectified with a bigger turbocharged four-cylinder on the upcoming GT, and Kia could gain some Toyota Camry or Honda Accord customers by offering a front-drive version in the Canadian market. As it stands, the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line is a very handsome sedan inside and out, and has the all-weather capability to do well in the Canadian market.

See Also:

2020 Toyota Camry XLE AWD

2020 Mazda6 Signature

2020 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Jon Pangindian

Staff Writer

An experienced detailer and diehard car guy, Jon brings a creative eye to his new vehicle road tests. Aside from writing, Jon spends most of his time tinkering with new detailing products and experimenting with ceramic coatings.

Current Toy: ’13 650i Gran Coupé