Photos: Kia USA
The 2021 Kia K5 is an all-new midsize sedan in the Kia lineup and replaces the Kia Optima that occupied the Kia midsize lineup for the past two generations. While Kia K5 is leaps and bounds better than the previous Optima in every way, Kia wasn’t satisfied to stop there. With its hot new look inside and out and hot rod turbocharged engine, the K5 sits at the top of the entire midsize sedan segment.
Kia has been killing it lately in the styling department with stand-out winners like the Kia Stinger and Telluride. The winning continues with the 2021 Kia K5 GT in the stunning Sapphire Blue paint of our tester. This car looks sharp from every angle, helped by its aggressively styled front fascia, lower roofline, and fastback styling towards the car’s rear. Unlike the Kia Stinger, the K5 retains a traditional trunk setup vs. a liftback. Kia kept the Optima signature chrome accent from the A-pillar to the rear of the car, and the brightwork breaks up the profile nicely. Dimensionally, the K5 is 2-inches longer overall than its predecessor but doesn’t grow too much in other areas.
The front end of the Kia K5 GT stands out with signature “Heart Beat” amber LED DRLs that flank the shark skin-inspired mesh front grille. The GT gets trim exclusive 19-inch wheels, as well as an exclusive quad-tip rear exhaust. The rear of the K5 features a full-width LED taillight design and subtle black GT badging. A black rear decklid edge spoiler finishes off the sporty look of the K5 GT nicely.
At the heart of the Kia K5 GT is the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 290-horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via the fantastic new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Kia says the K5 GT will do 0-60 in 5.8 seconds, a full tenth of a second faster than the highly regarded hot hatch Volkswagen GTI. Driver selectable modes can help dial the K5 GT in at a more comfort, eco, or sport-oriented experience with the flick of the dial.
The K5 GT also gets a suspension makeover with stiffer springs and bushings tuned specifically for the sporty nature of the GT. While the springs are stiffer, the shocks’ damping is tuned so as not to ever come across as overly harsh, even on rough road surfaces. The steering ratio is quicker, and brake discs are 1.6-inches larger than in the rest of the K5 lineup with larger, GT exclusive brake calipers. The GT-specific 19-inch wheels wear 245-wide Pirelli P Zero all-season performance tires.
My only real complaint with the Kia K5 is that power is sent to the front wheels only. While AWD is available in the more pedestrian 180-horsepower K5 GT-Line or LXS trim, the GT is only available in front-wheel drive.
There’s no fancy limited-slip differential or torque vectoring or any other tricks to help get the power down to the pavement. There is torque steer and plenty of it. This requires careful modulation of the throttle to keep wheelspin and torque steer to a minimum. While the K5 GT is certainly quick in a straight line, the handling lacks the joy in the corners of other AWD or RWD sport sedans. That said, the Kia K5 GT is still one of the best handling FWD midsize sedans on the market today.
The interior design of the 2021 Kia K5 GT is as impressive as its exterior. The cabin is finished with high-quality materials and has sleek aluminum and silver detail finishes throughout. The K5 GT gets a model-specific sport steering wheel with paddle shifters and leatherette seats with red contrast stitching and GT embossed on the front seatbacks. Unfortunately, the sharp all-red interior from the K5 GT-Line is not available with the GT.
Our tester was equipped with the $4,000 GT1 option package, which adds LED headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 10.25-inch touch screen with navigation, a Bose 12-speaker stereo, and smart cruise control. A whole suite of safety features are included, like forward collision avoidance with cyclist detection, highway driving assist, and park distance warnings.
To sum it all up, the 2021 Kia K5 GT is a true midsize sport sedan where beauty and performance go well beyond an appearance package. The K5 GT is a beautiful car from every angle and goes like hell when the fun pedal is applied. Combine that with a fantastic interior and incredible technology stack, and Kia has a knock-out winner on their hands.
The best part about the Kia K5 GT is getting all of this performance and style for a base price of just $30,590 + a $995 destination charge. Even with the must-have GT1 package, the K5 GT tops out at only $34,590 + $995 destination. That is an incredible value for the amount of car you are buying with the fantastic Kia K5 GT. Kia keeps hitting home runs, and we can’t be more excited for them.
Kia provided the 2021 Kia K5 GT to Speed:Sport:Life for a week for the purpose of this review.