Video: Here’s What Makes The All-Wheel Drive Nissan Altima AWD and Kia K5 Great Alternatives To Crossovers

Sometimes you need to break away from the pack, and that means buying a sedan

Nissan Altima AWD vs Kia K5 AWD

The AWD Nissan Altima and Kia K5 are similarly priced, provide excellent traction and great driving dynamics.

Compared to their equivalent crossovers like the Rogue or Sportage, the Nissan Altima and Kia K5 AWD offer a more involving drive. Not everyone likes to sit up high, driving what is essentially, a tall wagon. Sure, crossovers are still selling like hotcakes, in fact, they are only second to pickup trucks in North America. Still, despite the popularity of crossovers and SUVs, midsize sedans still sell very well.

Despite the huge pandemic hit to automakers’ sales in 2020, nearly a million midsize sedans were sold in North America.

The Nissan Altima and Kia K5 represent unique alternatives to many midsize sedans and crossovers. They have all-wheel drive (AWD) options and are both more efficient than their crossover cousins. What’s most striking is how good they drive compared to most crossovers. Something as simple as a changing lanes, merging on a highway, or driving on a challenging road is much more rewarding in these sedans (for the most part).

Honestly, other than ground clearance, interior space and some off-road ability (depending on the vehicle) the feel and ease of driving these cars is better. I especially enjoy driving the K5, which is the GT-Line, as it is sporty to drive and has a youthful character about it.

Nissan Altima AWD vs Kia K5 AWD
Nissan’s new Altima brings the goods in the tech and comfort department, while adopting a matured look honed by the past couple generations. (Photo: Nissan)

2021 Nissan Altima Platinum AWD

Equipped with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower, the Altima makes a sufficient 178 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s smooth, but not very sporty. The optional AWD system is very effective on slippery surfaces, but still allows the car to be efficient. There is a turbocharged engine available for the Altima, but not with AWD.

As equipped, the 2021 Nissan Altima (which starts at $26,850 for an SV with AWD) gets 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. Our luxury level Nissan Altima Platinum AWD has a starting MSRP of $34,150. In all honesty, it rides and feels like more luxurious vehicle than the Kia, while still providing competent handling.

Nissan Altima AWD vs Kia K5 AWD
Kia set out to drastically overhaul the old Optima, and this K5 is a solid and fun result. (Photo: Kia)

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD

With a powertrain that runs throughout the line, the Kia’s turbocharged 180 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine makes 195 lbs-feet of torque. It comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission which provides smooth, fairly quick shifts. The GT-Line gives you sporty wheels, an excellent multicolor interior and sporty trim. It is not to be confused with the K5 GT, which is a completely different vehicle.

The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD gets 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. Our sporty Kia K-5 GT-Line AWD has a base price of $29,090, and our MSRP was $31,300. The K5 is quicker, more responsive and more youthful than the Altima, but its ride is a little bit harsher.

On the snow

One final point I wanted to make: both vehicles handle snow quite well. I had just enough time with the Kia on slushy highways and a nasty back-road to get the idea that its quite capable. Like the Altima, it automatically sends power to the rear wheels when front slippage is detected. It’s immediate, seamless and worked well despite the street-biased tires.

The Nissan Altima AWD felt even more planted. I’ve driven several Altima AWD variants in snow, ice and on slippery terrain. I find the AWD system to be one of the best out there. For people who need occasional traction assistance, it is a great all-weather solution. I’ve had no issues, despite hundreds of miles of testing.

Check out more on both cars in the video below: