The K5’s main strength remains its feature-rich cabin and attractive exterior design.
The all new Kia K5 is the spiritual successor to the Kia Optima, which was one of the cars that put Kia on the map. It was well equipped with a sleek and sporty design which made it highly attractive when the Accord and Camry were simply mundane. The newly rebranded model was released in 2020; however this is the 2021 Kia K5 GT, which is the range topping version.
The Kia K5 has a gorgeous design with aggressive and sporty cues. Kia has always referred to its aggressive grille design to the “Tiger Face”. It packs a meticulously designed grille with a “shark skin” inspired pattern. The fastback-like silhouette is highlighted by a chrome accent, and the front and rear bumper are sculpted to add to the aggressive design. The 19-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips with the vented rear bumpers give followers a hint of the performance it packs.
The interior is equally thoughtful to the exterior. It’s designed around a wide dash characterized by cleanliness for a modern look. The infotainment display is stretched with a continuous design connecting to the digital cluster. The aim is to have a futuristic design that is driver centric. It’s finished in chrome metallic details and faux wood surfaces making the interior a refreshing combination instead of mundane monotone affair.
A flat bottom steering wheel reinforces the sporty nature of the GT trim. A range topping model is not complete without a panoramic sunroof, which makes the cabin extra airy. The only downfall of the interior is the lack of real leather surfaces, however the faux leather used on the seats and all touch points is of excellent quality. The seats are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, with red accent piping and perforated inserts for both heating and cooling.
The infotainment system is a vibrant 10.25-inch touchscreen with split screen functionality. Not only is there Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both can be used wirelessly for a fuss free interior. The combination of physical controls and touchscreen functionality makes using the system easy. A 12.3 inch LCD instrument cluster is also vibrant making the K5’s cabin look premium.
Safety tech is also in abundance for the K5, casting a large safety net. Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance system (ADAS) includes key features such as forward collision warning and avoidance, and standard attention warning to keep drivers focused on the road. Lane Following Assist with radar cruise control combines for a near-perfect assisted driving experience.
The big difference for the K5 GT versus the “lesser” K5 models is the powertrain. The GT has a 2.5-liter turbocharged GDI engine producing 290 horsepower at 5,800RPM and a muscular 311 lb-ft. of torque from 1,650 to 4,000RPM. The ultrawide torque curve makes the K5 very quick and reactive in city driving. The eight-speed dual clutch transmission means shifts are quick and smooth on acceleration. However, the transmission is the downfall of the K5 as it’s hopelessly unrefined.
The dual-clutch unit stutters with clutch slip during slower crawls. The paddles are good for upshifts, but down shifting are extremely rough and felt like a poorly executed rev-match on downshift by a manual beginner every time with no exception. If you keep the transmission in “D” and just cruise on the highway, the K5 is a beast. The torque curve and gearing is a match made in heaven, keeping the car in the right torque range to overtake with ease and keep highways speeds.
The ride is well damped for the highway driving as well; the K5 feels rock solid and stable. It’s when we took the K5 to the twisty bits that it fell flat on its face. Another huge omission for the K5 is the lack of all-wheel-drive with the bigger engine; the 290-hp completely overwhelms the front-drive platform. The sensitive throttle in “Sport” mode causes the K5 to understeer immediately with any liberal throttle input. It’s worth mentioning that the K5 GT-Line with the smaller engine is available with all-wheel-drive.
The 2021 Kia K5 starts at $29,595 in LX trim. Our tester is the GT trim at $39,995, with a $250 colour premium for the Pacific Blue. The Honda Accord Touring with the 2.0-liter engine is priced at $41,770. It’s a higher price but the package is much more balanced and well-rounded, albeit less flashy. The Nissan Altima tops out at $35,498, which is actually a better comparison to the K5 GT-Line instead with a less-powerful engine and all-wheel-drive. And then you have the K5’s sister car, the Sonata N-Line, which is a bit cheaper and comes with Nappa leather seating.
The K5’s main strength remains its feature-rich cabin and attractive exterior design. It may not check all the boxes like the Honda Accord, but it double-checks some key ones. There is nothing in the segment that is as stylish and can eat up the highway miles with authority like the new 2021 Kia K5 GT.