2021 Kia K5: A midsize ringer for Stinger

The fastback-styled 2021 K5 midsize sedan has been technologically elevated with a range of driver-assist features, turbocharged four-cylinder engines, eight-speed automatic transmissions and, for the first time, optional all-wheel drive. (Kia)

On sale this summer, the new sedan will replace the Optima

Kia Motors America announced June 30 via virtual media reveal that the replacement for its midsize Optima sedan will be the K5, going on sale later this summer. The fastback-styled sedan will be sold with a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder engines, eight-speed automatic transmissions and, for the first time, an option for all-wheel drive.

The K5 is such a dramatic departure [from Optima] that we had to give it a new name, said Kia’s vice president of sales Bill Peffer in the virtual reveal.

The front seats are six-way manually adjustable on all models, with optional 10-way power-adjusted seats. A K5 GT is shown. (Kia)

Peffer acknowledged the difficulties of bringing out a new sedan with a new name in a country dominated by new SUV choices as the world steps delicately through a coronavirus pandemic. But he is focused on the 1.5 million midsize sedans that were sold last year.

“So although this year hasn’t exactly gone the way anyone has expected, Kia is moving ahead with six new and refreshed vehicle introductions by the end of 2020,” said Peffer.

Distinctive features include the aircraft-type shifter and a flat-bottom steering wheel. (Kia)

Kia already has six SUVs from subcompact to large and has no plans to abandon sedans. The K5 is hoped to be enough of a disruptor for younger buyers to take a look.

“From our perspective, the winners in this segment will be the vehicles that stand out, demand attention and evoke emotion,” Peffer said. “What we are starting to see is that younger buyers want something different. They are not interested in driving the SUVs of their parents’ generation. Sporty, modern and bold, K5 isn’t a vehicle you buy just because it is practical. It is a vehicle you aspire to own, and drive.”

Kia has long used alpha-numeric nameplates in its Korean market, including the K9 (for the K900 large sedan in the U.S.) and the K5, which has been on sale there since late 2019. The nameplate will be used for all markets going forward, except China.

The optional 10.25-inch high-resolution color touch screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that connect wirelessly. (Kia)

Elements and attitude

Sold initially in four trim levels (LX, LXS, GT-Line and EX), a high-performance GT will arrive this fall.

It is built on the new “N3” platform (in its third generation), which will underpin future Kia models. The substantially stiffer architecture allowed the K5 to sit lower and wider with a reduced front overhang, lengthened wheelbase and a longer hood.

“Sporty, modern and bold, K5 isn’t a vehicle you buy just because it is practical. It is a vehicle you aspire to own, and drive.”

Bill Peffer, Kia Motors America vice president of sales.

Compared to the outgoing Optima, the K5 is 2 inches longer (193.1 inches), an inch wider (73.2 in.) with an 0.8-inch lower roofline and a wheelbase stretched 1.8 inches to 112.2 in.

Headroom is a little taller at 40.2 inches (without the panoramic sunroof) with long front legroom of 46.1 inches. Back seat headroom stayed the same at 37.8 inches but rear legroom was cut by 0.4 inch to 35.2 inches. Cargo capacity is slightly larger at 16 cubic feet.

Compared to the outgoing Optima, the K5 sits lower and wider with a reduced front overhang, lengthened wheelbase and a longer hood. (Kia)

Peaceful retreat

Kia says “silence equals luxury” and wrapped the K5 in more soundproofing for a premium experience, including an acoustic laminated windshield on all models. Along with the quiet cabin, Kia offers the “Sound of Nature” ambient system, which “creates a peaceful retreat inside K5 with six calming themes.”

All models have an 8-inch or optional 10.25-inch (shown) high-resolution color touch screen with split-screen functionality. The 10.25-inch system includes server-based navigation with real-time traffic data and multi-connection Bluetooth wireless connectivity that lets two phones connect simultaneously.

“Heart Beat” daytime running lights and LED taillight “dashes” are unique to K5. (Kia)

Kia’s UVO telematics features connected user profiles to allow different drivers to set their preferred seat position, side mirror placement and favorite radio stations.

Powertrains

The standard engine is a 180-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine producing 195 foot-pounds of torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm. The new eight-speed automatic transmission will have driver-selectable performance modes of normal, smart, sport and custom.

The optional 290-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged and direct-injection engine has 311 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,650-4.000 rpm, and will be standard with the GT. This engine is paired with a new eight-speed “wet” dual clutch (automated manual) transmission. The GT will have a Sport-plus mode for performance, making the K5 capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.8 seconds, Kia says.

The 2.5-liter engine uses continuously variable valve duration (CVVD), an industry first. CVVD gives a performance boost and improves efficiency because of independent control of the valve duration, Kia says.

The available all-wheel drive system, with Snow mode, will actively distribute torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driving situations, Kia said. Available in late 2020, the system uses electro-hydraulics for a quicker response and control of AWD coupling.

Back seat headroom stayed the same at 37.8 inches but rear legroom was cut by 0.4 inch to 35.2 inches. (Kia)

Fuel economy

The base LX model with 1.6-liter engine has the top fuel economy ratings of 29/38/32 followed by the rest of the 1.6 line at 27/37/31 mpg. Mileage ratings for the GT were not available, but regular unleaded fuel is recommended for both engines.

Curb weights for front-drive models range from 3,115-3,228 pounds. GT or AWD specifications were not yet available.

All 1.6T models have four-wheel disc brakes with 12-inch ventilated rotors front and 11.2-inch sold rotors rear. The GT will have 13.6-inch ventilated front rotors and 12.8-inch sold rotors rear.

Alloy wheels are available in 16-, 18- or 19-inches. (Kia)

Safety

The “Kia Drive Wise” suite of advanced driver-assistance systems includes such standard technologies as:

Forward Collision Warning: 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.

Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist: 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.

Lane Following Assist: Follows lane markings that the system detects and provides steering inputs to help maintain the vehicle in the center of the lane.

Optional driver-assist features include:

FCA-Cyclist: Will detect vehicles, objects, pedestrians and cyclists in front.

Leading Vehicle Departure Alert: Alerts driver with a chime when the leading vehicle begins to move forward from a standing position.

Forward Collision Avoidance Assist – Junction Turning: When turning left and an oncoming vehicle is approaching, the system assists the driver in braking to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions.

Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist: Under certain conditions, the system 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.

Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist: Helps detect most approaching cross traffic when in reverse. When approaching cross traffic is detected, the system alerts the driver and applies brakes.

Parking Distance Warning-Reverse: 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.

Parking Collision Avoidance Assist: Uses the rearview 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.

Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control – Curve: leverages the navigation system to lower the vehicle’s speed proactively before upcoming curves.

Highway Driving Assist: 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.

Trunk capacity is slightly larger at 16 cubic feet. (Kia)

U.S. built

Built in West Point, Ga., K5 pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date. The current 2020 Optima has starting prices that range from $24,355-$32,190. The Optima also is available as a gasoline-electric hybrid ($32,000) and as a plug-in hybrid electric, $37,000. No mention was made of hybrid systems for the K5.

markmaynard@cox.net

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