Kia’s Optima replacement has arrived

It’s been almost a decade since Kia introduced the 2011 Optima in the U.S. and the time has come for a generation swap. Call it a model swap, actually, as the new 2021 Kia K5 mid-size saloon is here to take over from where the Optima left off.

Kia will assemble the K5 next to the crisp-looking Telluride SUV at its plant in West Point, Georgia. Before the first cars roll off the production line, let’s look at what customers will be getting from the 2021 K5 sedan.

  • 2021 Kia K5
  • Year:
    2021
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    8AT
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    180
  • Torque @ RPM:
    195
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • Price:
    24000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

2021 Kia K5 - Powertrain

  • 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder: 290 hp and 311 lb-ft
  • Mates with an eight-speed DCT, 0-60 takes 5.8 seconds
  • 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder: 180 hp and 195 lb-ft
  • Mates with an eight-speed automatic
  • All-wheel drive available with 1.6 versions and Snow mode (available in late 2020)
  • Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom drive modes
2021 Kia K5 Drivetrain
- image 916423

Things look pretty straightforward in the engine-gearbox department. The K5 will be offered in two guises.

One’s powered by a 2.5-liter gasoline turbo-four good for 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of twist twinned to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

In this setup, the K5 needs 5.8 seconds to take off from naught to 60 mph.

2021 Kia K5 Drivetrain
- image 916424

The other version is moved by a 1.6-liter gasoline turbo-four rated at 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The mill couples to an eight-speed automatic and as of late 2020, it will be available with an optional all-wheel drive setup that “actively distributes torque between the front and rear wheels” and also sports a Snow mode. Unfortunately, we’re told that there’s no AWD setup in sight for the Kia K5 2.5, at least not for the foreseeable future.

2021 Kia K5 Exterior
- image 916408

For the sake of the argument, the non-hybrid 2021 Kia Optima has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine running on gasoline with 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, so the power gain for the K5 1.6 is of just two horsepower. The Optima starts at $23,390, so we expect the K5 to come with at least a $24,000 starting sticker.

2021 Kia K5 specifications
Type 1.6L Turbo I-4, Gasoline Direct Injection (T-GDI) GAMMA-II 2.5L Turbo I-4, Gasoline Direct Injection + Multi Port Injection (T-GDI + MPI) THETA-III
Displacement (cc) 1,598 cc 2,497 cc
Bore x stroke (mm) 75.6 mm X 89 mm 88.5 mm x 101.5 mm
Compression Ratio 10.5:1 10.5:1
Horsepower 180 HP @ 5,500 rpm 290 HP @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 195 lb.-ft @ 1,500 - 4,500 rpm 311 lb.-ft @ 1,650 - 4,000 rpm
Block Aluminum Aluminum
Head Aluminum Aluminum
Valve System DOHC, four valves / cylinder with Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) DOHC, four valves / cylinder

2021 Kia K5 - Exterior

  • Modernized ‘tiger face’
  • ‘Shark skin’ grille mesh
  • Heart Beat daytime running lights
  • N3 underpinnings
  • 16 to 19 inch wheels, some get Pirelli P-Zero tires
  • 193.1 inches long
  • 73.2 inches wide
  • 56.9 inches tall
  • 112.2-inch wheelbase
2021 Kia K5 Exterior
- image 916416

Kia likes its cars to look nice and the K5 makes no exception. There’s a lot of design goodness baked into the sedan’s body and with the right color options and larger wheels, it’s bound to become a looker. For that, you’ll also have to thank the new ‘tiger face’ styling dominating the front end as well as the slick-looking Heart Beat daytime running lights that add just the right touch of elegance on a rather sporty package.

2021 Kia K5 Exterior
- image 916411

The K5 sits on the N3 architecture, which makes it 193.1 inches long (two inches longer than the outgoing Optima), 73.2 inches wide (one inch over the Optima), and 56.9 inches tall (0.8 inches shorter than the Optima). Wheelbase also takes a 1.8-inch hike and now stretches to 112.2 inches.

2021 Kia K5 - Interior

  • 8-inch or 10.25-inch multimedia display
  • Bose Premium sound system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Wireless smartphone charging (optional)
  • Voice recognition
  • ’Sound of Nature’ ambient calming sounds
  • Red leatherette, satin chrome metallic and wood-like trim decor
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel (GT-Line and GT models only)
2021 Kia K5 Interior
- image 916429
On the inside, the new K5 puts a lot of emphasis on technology.

Besides the 12-speaker Bose Premium sound system, there’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (standard) as well as the option to fit the cabin with a wireless smartphone charging pad. Users can interact with the car’s functions and systems via an 8-inch or a 10.25-inch touchscreen display mounted centrally on the dashboard.

2021 Kia K5 Interior
- image 916435

On top of these, Kia offers voice recognition and ambient calming sounds. On a more material note, customers can opt for red leatherette seat upholstery and an assortment of satin chrome metallic and wood trim bits and bobs. A panoramic sunroof is also on offer, as is the sexy flat-bottomed steering wheel; you can only have the latter on the GT-Line and GT trims, which is a bummer.

The 2021 Kia K5 goes on sale this summer with a lineup marked by four trim levels: LX, LXS, GT-Line, and EX. A GT variant should arrive in fall. No word on pricing yet.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
About the author

Nearly a decade after the 2011 Kia Optima paved the way for one of the auto industry’s most significant growth and achievement stories, Kia Motors America (KMA) is resetting expectations once again with the reveal of the all-new K5 mid-size sedan. Representing one of the biggest leaps forward between generations in recent automotive history, the K5 celebrates this bold new chapter in Kia’s story with an equally bold name to emphasize the mid-size sedan’s revolutionary design, all-new safety and performance enhanced “N3” platform, turbocharged engines, available all-wheel drive1, and high-impact technology. In other words, Kia’s “Give It Everything” philosophy in the U.S. is evident and “alive” in this new machine.

But why try to reimagine the sedan, especially during a time when the market continues to shift towards crossovers and SUVs? Fueled by an unstoppable spirit to push harder and work smarter, Kia was determined to give it everything instead of giving up; completely rethinking the traditional sedan.

Going on sale this summer, the K5 will be available in four trim levels (LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX), with the adrenaline-fueled GT to follow later in the fall.

A Daring, New Design Identity
A catalyst for the further transformation of Kia’s lineup, the K5’s powerful and angular design language represents another chapter of boldness and passion for the brand. The centerpiece is Kia’s modernized “tiger face,” with the wide and thin front grille extending into the headlight and hood structure. From the side, the K5’s low-slung and fastback silhouette confirms the impression it was made to run, highlighted by a chrome garnish that spans the roofline and wraps around the rear glass. A number of other exterior design traits give the K5 an unexpected level of visual impact:

Shark skin-inspired mesh design on front grille and dual chrome exhaust tip garnish (GT-Line, GT)
Signature “Heart Beat” daytime running lights and taillights with available LED “dashes” span the width of the rear deck lid
Gloss black applique on rear glass enhances fastback shape while maintaining sedan functionality and cargo space
Newly designed 16-, 18-, or 19-inch alloy wheels (18- and 19-inch wheels come with sporty Pirelli P-Zero tires)

Harmonizing the open layout of the cockpit is a newly designed infotainment display that seamlessly stretches into the instrument panel, creating a futuristic, three-dimensional layout and driver-centric space. Other interior highlights include:

Aircraft-type shift knob
A mix of premium and sporty upholstery options including red leatherette seating, satin chrome metallic and wood-like finishes on the dashboard and door panels, depending on trim
Panoramic sunroof
Flat-bottom, sport steering wheel (GT-Line, GT)

At the Root of it All
The K5’s new identity starts with the advanced third-generation “N3” platform, which will serve as the foundation for future Kia models. In this application, the platform allows the K5 to sit longer, lower and wider compared to its predecessor, resulting in its aggressive profile and deeper center of gravity for a more exciting driving experience. Additional highlights include:

Increased exterior dimensions in all the right places for a sport sedan look and feel
Length: 193.1 inches (+2 inches over Kia’s outgoing Optima)
Width: 73.2 inches (+1 inch)
Height: 56.9 inches (-0.8 inches)
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches (+1.8 inches)
Suspension geometry optimized for sporty handling, responsiveness and stability
Increased average tensile strength and additional hot stamped parts makes for a solid body in white
Improved sound deadening materials result in a quieter and more premium cabin
Acoustic laminated windshield standard on all K5 trims

More Turbo. More Traction
Kia’s exhilarating and efficient powertrain options unleash the spirit of the everyday driver, with a “turbocharged” lineup that includes a choice of two powerful engines. Kia engineers further pushed the envelope with an available eight-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission for fast and precise gearshifts, plus an available all-wheel drive system for improved traction and capability. More details include:

2.5-liter turbocharged GDI + MPI four-cylinder engine making 290 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with the new 8-speed “wet” Dual Clutch Transmission (GT) goes 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds2
A first for Kia, the in-house developed, 8-speed “wet” DCT helps K5 establish credentials as a sports sedan
1.6-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, managed by an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission (LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX)
Engine adopts Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) functionality. An industry first, this technology results in a performance boost and improvement in efficiency thanks to independent control of the valve duration
Available all-wheel drive3 (AWD) with 1.6T engine provides all-weather capabilities and enhanced driving performance by actively distributing torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driving situations (LXS & GT-Line option). AWD will be available in late 2020 and offered only with 1.6T engine.
The K5’s all-wheel drive system is front-wheel drive based, which is a first for a Kia sedan.
Uses electro-hydraulic system to control AWD coupling for a quicker response and more precise control
“Snow” drive mode4 enhances driver security and all-weather confidence
Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom drive modes adjust settings for engine, transmission, AWD (when equipped) and steering mapping to provide the desired driving experience
GT steps it up with Sport+ mode to enhance driving characteristics

Next Level Technology
New wireless features minimize cord clutter and keep the cockpit clean, while a seamless infotainment display layout and voice command system help keep the driver’s eyes on the road. Some technology and convenience highlights to look out for include:

8- or 10.25-inch high-resolution color touchscreen5
Split-screen functionality and available satellite radio
Available 10.25-inch inch touchscreen adds:
Server-based available navigation system provides real-time traffic data
New multi-connection Bluetooth6 wireless connectivity that lets two phones connect simultaneously
UVO telematics with connected user profiles, allowing different drivers to create the environment they desire with the perfect seat position, outside mirror placement, and favorite radio stations
Bose7 Premium sound system, available with 12 high-performance speakers
Bose Centerpoint technology converts stereo sources into a richer surround-sound experience
Dynamic Speed Compensation analyzes the sound source and automatically adjusts it according to driving speed
Active Sound Design provides a dynamic auditory experience by enhancing the sound of engine acceleration and gear shifts according to the selected drive mode
A first for Kia, wireless Apple CarPlay8 and Android Auto9 cuts the cord on charging cables, meaning drivers can enjoy being connected without being plugged in (wireless functionality not available on 10.25-inch navigation system)
Available wireless smartphone charging10 with drop-in design keeps smartphones at reach and secured inside the charging pad
Reduced charging time with increased charge rates
Added cooling fan
Available natural language voice recognition software recognizes a number commands including “turn on the A/C,” and “heat the steering wheel.”
Newly available Smart Key functions
Remote Engine Start and Climate pre-acclimatizes the cabin before passengers enter the vehicle. The standard dual-zone control system can automatically set cabin temperature to a comfortable 72 degrees from the Smart Key
With hands-free Smart Trunk, access to the rear conveniently pops open when the Smart Key is detected behind the vehicle
Standard Rear Occupant Alert11: Designed to provide a message in the instrument cluster for the driver to “Check rear seats” in order to help prevent leaving the vehicle with a rear passenger left inside; the message appears when the driver door is opened after a rear passenger door has been opened and closed.
“Sound of Nature” ambient system creates a peaceful retreat inside K5 with six calming themes

The “Kia Drive Wise” suite of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS)12 has more to offer, with some of the key features including:

Standard Forward Collision Warning (FCW): Designed to detect a vehicle in front and in certain conditions, can calculate the distance and closing speed, and issues an alert to warn the driver if it senses a potential frontal collision.
Standard Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA): Builds on FCW by assisting the driver in braking to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions if a vehicle or object is detected in front.
Standard FCA-Pedestrian builds on FCW by detecting vehicles, objects and pedestrians in front
Available FCA-Cyclist builds on FCW by detecting vehicles, objects, pedestrians, and cyclists in front
Standard Driver Attention Warning (DAW)13: Senses inattentive driving patterns and sends an audible/visual warning to alert the driver.
Adds Leading Vehicle Departure Alert (LVDA): Alerts driver with a chime when the leading vehicle begins to move forward from a standing position.
Standard Lane Following Assist (LFA): Follows lane markings that the system detects and provides steering inputs to help maintain the vehicle in the center of the lane.
Available Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) – Junction Turning (FCA-JT): Assists the driver in braking to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions when turning left and an oncoming vehicle is approaching.
Available Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA): Under certain conditions, can detect vehicles traveling in the next lane. When a vehicle is “seen” in the blind spot, the vehicle brakes the outer wheel under certain conditions to help return the vehicle to its lane.
Available Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA): Helps detect most approaching cross traffic when in reverse. When approaching cross traffic is detected, the system alerts the driver and applies brakes.
Available Parking Distance Warning-Reverse (PDW-R): Detects certain objects behind the vehicle, issuing an audible warning when an obstruction is detected. The warning tone chimes faster as the vehicle gets closer to the detected object.
Available Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA-R): Uses rear view camera and rear ultrasonic sensors to help detect most pedestrians or nearby obstacles when the vehicle backs out of a parking spot, warning drivers with a chime and can engage brakes to prevent a collision.
Available Navigation Based Smart Cruise Control-Curve (NSCC-C): leverages the navigation system to lower the vehicle’s speed proactively before upcoming curves.
Available Highway Driving Assist (HDA)14: Uses federal highway speed limit information from the navigation system and, under certain conditions, will automatically adjust speed to be within the posted speed limit and maintain distance with the vehicle detected in front.
Available Safe Exit Assist (SEA)15: Can alert the driver or passengers opening their door not to exit the vehicle when the system detects approaching traffic. When detected, a chime sounds. The system can intervene to lock the rear doors when the vehicle is equipped with available Power Child Lock.

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