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Kia Optima Becomes the K5 for 2021

Today it was Kia’s turn to make a splash online, as it revealed the new generation of its Optima sedan. Of particular note for North American consumers, the new model adopts here the same nameplate it already uses internationally: meet the 2021 Kia K5 sedan.

We were previously treated to a preview of the model last October when the company unveiled an image to whet our appetites. Now it was time to find out more about what the model has in store for us.

First, before a brief analysis of the styling, let's mention that the K5 will be offered in three configurations: LX, EX and GT Line. The model will be available as of this fall, and we expect we'll have more details on pricing and equipment as launch date approaches.

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2021 Kia K5 GT Line, profile
Photo: Kia
2021 Kia K5 GT Line, profile

As for the look, Kia’s designers have produced a very nice evolution from the Optima. The comely body of the new version sits on a new platform. The N3 was developed with an eye to increasing safety in the event of a collision, but also with the goal of reducing weight to improve performance. The structure, not surprisingly, will serve other models of the brand. Think of the K5 as the guinea pig.

The result is a sedan with a shorter front overhang, longer wheelbase, lower overall height and coupe styling in back that brings to mind the automaker’s Stinger. Where SUVs have often been referred to as having a high-legged stance, looking at this K5 from the side, one could almost say the opposite.

2021 Kia K5 GT, three-quarters
Photo: Kia
2021 Kia K5 GT, three-quarters

Mechanicals
Under the hood, a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder will be the initial engine offered to buyers from the start; it makes 180 hp and delivers 195 lb-ft of torque, working in combination with a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

A little later in the year, a second engine will make its debut with the model. That 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder will generate up to 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque; in it case the transmission is a new 8-speed, dual-clutch unit.

In addition, all-wheel drive will be available with certain variants. It has become the preferred tool that sedans can use to fight the popularity of SUVs.

2021 Kia K5 GT Line, trunk
Photo: Kia
2021 Kia K5 GT Line, trunk

On board, as expected, the model will present itself as a mini tech lab. Among other things, no more bulky wireless connections. The multimedia system will be presented in two ways, either on an 8-inch screen or on a 10.25-inch screen; the latter has been around in the brand's new models for a little over a year. It is divisible to allow for a wider-ranging and more-personalized information; above all, the company promises it is very user-friendly. As for the wireless connection, it's especially good for the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications, but only with the 8-inch screen. We’re left scratching our heads over that decision.  

Finally, count on a comprehensive lineup of safety and driving aids, especially as you climb up the trim ladder.

2021 Kia K5 GT Line, multimedia screen
Photo: Kia
2021 Kia K5 GT Line, multimedia screen

Conclusion
Kia knows like everyone else that SUVs are supplanting cars, but it is showing commitment to stay in the genre – mainly because it also knows that 1.5 million buyers in the U.S still bought sedans last year.

The K5 does have many intriguing qualities on paper, but its future depends on consumers embracing it.  Time will tell.

We also look forward to the opportunity to test-drive the car and see if those intriguing qualities are just talk or the real thing.

Kia K5 GT Line 2021, avant
Photo: Kia
Kia K5 GT Line 2021, avant
Photos:Kia
2021 Kia K5 pictures