Don’t Call It An Optima: Is The New 2021 Kia K5 The BEST New Sedan To Buy? Let’s Find Out!

Kia's midsize sedan gets a comprehensive makeover

The Kia Optima is dead.

All right, technically it isn’t, but the nameplate that’s been kicking around in the U.S. for two decades has gone from Kia’s next-generation sedan. Meet the 2021 Kia K5, which is hitting the American market after first debuting in South Korea. As you would expect from a ground-up redesign, the K5 brings a new platform, new styling and new powertrains, but has it actually improved? In this first drive buddy review, Roman and Tommy look at two different flavors of Kia’s newest Camry competitor to find out.

Don't Call It An Optima: Is The New 2021 Kia K5 The BEST New Sedan To Buy? Let's Find Out!
[Photos: Kia]

This time around, Kia sent us the 2021 K5 EX in Gravity Grey, as well as the sportier-looking GT-Line in Passion Red. Both pack the same 1.6-liter turbocharged “Smartstream” engine with 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. In this new generation, Kia’s midsize sedan receives an upgrade to an eight-speed automatic transmission, instead of the seven-speed dual-clutch unit in the old turbocharged Optima. If you’re looking for performance, there is a 2021 Kia K5 GT coming, with a 290 horsepower 2.5-liter turbo engine mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. That car won’t be available until November, so the 1.6-liter is the only engine available for now. The new K5 rides on the new “N3” platform that’s longer, lower and wider than the car it replaces.

As more sedans are getting all-wheel drive options, so too will the 2021 Kia K5 later this year. The hot GT model will only come in front-wheel drive, though.

Taking a more aggressive approach

On the styling front, the 2021 Kia K5 takes more of an “in your face” stance than the smoother, more anonymous contours of the old Optima. The new car takes on a fastback-like stance, with a concave grille profile and running lights that cut back into the fenders. Around back, a new taillight cluster stretches across the trunk, with dashed LEDs all the way across. While it does have that fastback design, the trunk still manages a roomy 16.0 cubic feet, which is more cavernous than a Toyota Camry.

Inside, the 2021 Kia K5 sports an interior familiar to those who have driven the Optima, although with thoughtful updates and a more advanced infotainment system. The mid-range GT-Line trim packs a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen unit, while the EX offers a 10.25-inch infotainment system with Bose premium audio as part of a $3,400 EX Premium Package.

Don't Call It An Optima: Is The New 2021 Kia K5 The BEST New Sedan To Buy? Let's Find Out!
The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line brings a sportier interior as well, with a flat-bottom steering wheel.

As for standard equipment, even the base LX trims come with Kia’s “DriveWise” driver assistance features. Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist, a Driver Attention Warning and even a Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, which will flash a message to the driver and sound a chime when a vehicle in front of the K5 pulls away, is standard across the entire model lineup.

Pricing for the 2021 Kia K5 starts at $24,185, which is right in line with its two main rivals: the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Our GT-Line, as equipped, came out to $28,400, while the EX manages a more expensive $32,355 price tag. Remove the EX Premium Package, however, and these two cars are priced about the same. But are either worth buying, or should you lease, rent or forget about them? Check out the video above to find out!

Stay tuned for more on the 2021 Kia K5 coming soon.