2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven - story fullscreen Fullscreen

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven

Is the K5 GT a true sports sedan? We spent a week with it to find out!

LISTEN 10:11

When Kia change the name of the Optima to K5, it was more than just a name change. With that new designation came a sportier sedan with a simple and attractive interior, and a pair of engines that put you one two different sides of the same fence: Economy or Performance. After driving the GT-Line AWD, we felt like we were wanting more. It looked faster, but it was essentially the same car as the standard K5 with AWD and sportier looks. So, does the K5 GT scratch that it? Well, it really does, but it certainly has it flaws, the most important of which is, arguably, the lack of AWD – something can actually be dangerous for unskilled drivers or those not used to having 300-horsepower at their disposal. Keep reading to learn, why?

  • 2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven
  • Year:
    2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    290
  • Torque @ RPM:
    311
  • Displacement:
    2.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.2 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Kia K5 GT Powertrain, Performance, and Capability

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Drivetrain
- image 1007787

The Kia K5 GT is the go-faster version of the K5. While all other models come with a 180-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-four, the GT comes with a turbocharged 2.5-liter beast of a four-cylinder that’s, quite honestly, almost too powerful for the fwd chassis that supports it. Unlike the GT-Line, the GT can’t be had with AWD and your only transmission offering is an eight-speed auto. Don’t worry, that transmission handles the power and shifts very nice, but that’s just the beginning of what you need to know.

How Much Power Does the Kia K5 GT Have?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Drivetrain
- image 1007786

The Kia K5 Gt’s 2.5-liter inline-four delivers 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, figures that pretty much push the limit of what a FWD sedan can comfortably handle. It’s cousin, the Sonata N-Line is powered by the very same engine and delivers the very same amount of power, while the next-best competitor (excluding the more expensive luxury cars, of course) is the Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that’s good for 236 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque.

How Fast is the Kia K5 GT?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007785

The Kia K5 GT is impressively fast, with the sprint to 60 mph coming in just 5.2 seconds. We verified this speed at Top speed headquarters, and Car & Driver got the same result when they tested the GT as well. Oddly enough, the GT’s cousin, the Sonata N-Line, actually makes the same sprint in 5.0 seconds, or two seconds faster, however this sprint was recorded with a skilled driver at the helm and may not be as likely in the real world. The Altima SR VC-T brings up the rear again with the sprint to 60 mph taking 5.8 seconds, which is still admirable, but far behind what the Hyundai and Kia pair offer.

What Is The Kia K5 GT’s Top Speed?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007819
Kia K5 GT – The Range-Topping Sedan With an Attitude

The Kia K5 GT has a top speed of 155 mph, which puts in on par with most of the German luxury sedans out there, but as above the Sonata N-Line and the Altima VC-T, which both top out at 140 mph.

Does the Kia K5 GT Get Good Fuel Economy?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007817

The Kia K5 GT manages 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined, which isn’t bad for a car with nearly 300 horsepower at its disposal, but it’s still a little short of what the lower K5 models offer. The Sonata N-Line has identical fuel economy ratings, with exception of on the highway where it scores 33 mpg. As for the Altima VC-T, the deficit in power is made up by better economy, which comes in at 25 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined.

Kia K5 GT vs competitors - fuel economy
City  Highway Combined
Kia K5 GT 24 32 27
Hyundai Sonata N-Line 23 33 27
Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo 25 34 29

What’s It Like to Drive The Kia K5 GT?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Interior
- image 1007805

There’s no denying that the Kia K5 GT is a peppy four-door sedan that can fulfill your need to move quickly on the weekend and haul the fam damnly around during the week. However, it does have some inherent flaws that, for some reason, Hyundai isn’t addressing. The most important flaw is the lack of AWD. As I said before, 290 horsepower pretty much pushes the limits of what a FWD sedan can handle due to the shift of weight from front to rear under heavy acceleration. Because of this, in modes with that disable traction control – like sport mode – you’ll be able to do some pretty wicked burnouts if you drop the hammer. That’s fun and all, but we also experience some extreme wheel spin on wet roads when we tried to accelerate fast from about 40 mph. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, but without traction control and on wet roads, the GT can lose traction, and it can lose it quick. That said, the engine is very responsive and there’s little lag between the time you hit the gas and the time you go, however, you will feel that it takes a second or so for the traction control to kick in even when it is engaged.

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Interior
- image 1007799

The transmission is a big win, though, and shouldn’t be ignored. We’re still prefer three pedals, but the K5 GT’s eight-speed DCT is crisp and silky smooth, with rev-matched downshifts that are downright perfect. We even enjoyed using the paddle shifters for once, which is something that we usually just write off as a gimmick in place for certain people to play with when they are bored behind the wheel. The brakes evoke a nice sense of confidence under heavy use, but Kia could have done more to strengthen the suspension. It’s not that the car drives bad, but it could be a lot more restrained in terms of body roll in heavier bends at speed. It reminds me of the days when I spend all my money on engine upgrades and forgot the suspension, honestly. Overall, it’s a fun car to drive, but a bit gimmicky too, and it does take some time getting used to.

Kia K5 GT Interior Design

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Interior
- image 1007796

The Interior of the K5 GT feels like a combination of Stinger DNA, typical Kia DNA, and a few bits stolen from the Germans. Before I dive too deep into that, let me just point out that the K5 GT’s cabin is very nice for a car in the low-$30,0000 range. The perforated sports seats are very supportive and comfortable, while most of the rest of the cabin lacks the usual “Kia rattles” or cheap feel that you experience with cheaper models. The Flat-bottom steering wheel is an unnecessary nice touch that does help to give the impression that you’re in a sports car, but the design of the infotainment display howe how it aligns with the semi-digital instrument cluster makes me feel like Kia wanted to copy Mercedes’ MBUX system but didn’t want to spend the money to make it happen. The way it’s all oriented toward the drive is nice, of course, and we’re glad that there’s a real gear shifter, but a more unique design or, at the very least, a digital instrument cluster would have been nice.

How Spacious is the Kia K5 GT?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Interior
- image 1007810

As far as passenger space in the K5 is concerned, you’ll find that the cabin is about equal to that of the competition. Most figures fall into the average category, but the K5 does beat out the competition in a majority of areas. As far as we’re concerned the front and rear were both comfortable and spacious enough for adults, however, you shouldn’t try to cram three full-grown mean in the rear, as it will be a tight fit. Check out the table below to see all the interior specs and how the K5 stacks up against the Sonata and the Altima

Kia K5 GT vs competitors - interior dimensions
Kia K5 GT Hyundai Sonata N-Line Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo
Front Headroom 38.4 Inches 40.0 Inches 38 Inches
Front Shoulder Room 58 Inches 57.9 Inches 58.2 Inches
Front Hip Room 56.6 Inches 54.6 Inches 54.7 Inches
Front Leg Room 46.1 Inches 46.1 Inches 43.8 Inches
Rear Headroom 37.4 Inches 38.4 Inches 36.7 Inches
Rear Shoulder Room 56.1 Inches 56.1 Inches 57.1 Inches
Rear Hip Room 56.6 Inches 54.4 Inches 54.5 Inches
Rear Leg Room 35.2 Inches 34.8 Inches 35.2 Inches

How Much Cargo Room Does the Kia K5 GT Have?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Interior
- image 1007792

The Kia K5 GT isn’t a cargo hog, but it can haul around up to 16 cubic-feet of cargo, which puts it just below the Sonata N-Line at 16.3 cubic-feet and slightly above the Altima VC-T at 15.4 cubic-feet.

Kia K5 GT Exterior Design

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007827

The Kia K5 GT’s exterior design moves beyond sporty and goes straight to aggressive. One could argue that it’s even more aggressive than the Kia Stinger, and that’s saying something. The front end is dominated by aggressive curves and grille that screams I’ll eat you while the hood seems to hover above the front end with very muscular lines. Of course, this is still a K5 at its core, so the side profile isn’t really all that different from the lesser models outside of the black mirrors and different side skirts. Around back, the K5 GT is enhanced with a new diffuser-like element and the dual, twin-outlet exhaust pipes. The chrome stripe that links the front, roof, and rear end together give the car a futuristic and luxurious appearance.

How Big Is the Kia G5 GT?

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007831

The Kia K5 measures 193.1 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 56.9 inches tall. These figures make it almost the same size as the Altima and Sonata, but just a bit longer. It rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase – that’s 0.4-inches longer than the Sontata and one inch longer than the Altima. With the wheels pushed deeper into the corners, the K5 actually handles a little better, something that’s also aided by the longer front and rear tracks at 63.7 and 64 inches, respectively. Check out the full exterior dimensions comparison below:

Kia K5 GT vs competitors - exterior dimensions
Kia K5 GT Hyundai Sonata N-Line Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo
Length 193.1 Inches 192.9 Inches 192.9 Inches
Width 73.2 Inches 73.2 Inches 72.9 Inches
Height 56.9 Inches 56.9 Inches 56.8 Inches
Wheelbase 112.2 Inches 111.8 Inches 111.2 Inches
Front Track 64.3 Inches 63.5 nches 62.8 Inches
Rear Track 64.6 Inches 63.8 Inches 63.9 Inches
Curb Weight 3,534 LBS 3,336 LBS 3425 LBS

Kia K5 GT Pricing

2021 Kia K5 GT - Driven Exterior
- image 1007784

The Kia K5 GT is priced reasonably well at $30,590, so it’s quite a bargain for a car with close to 300 ponies. Pricing for the K5 starts out at $23,690 while the Sonata starts out at $23,600 and climbs as high as $33,500 and the Altima ranges between $24,300 and $35,180.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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