Kia tests sedan slump with sporty K5

The roomy, midsize K5 adds style to Kia line.  (Bud Wells photos)

The car-building bosses at Kia from South Korea, perhaps heady from the sales successes with their Telluride and Seltos SUV crossovers in the past year, are taking aim at the midsize sedan market with the 2021 K5. Around 30 grand in price, it replaces the Optima, which has been in the Kia lineup for 20 years.

The Seltos is a popular, new subcompact crossover for Kia.

Kia, cognizant of the continued decline in U.S. sales of sedans, believes adding the new one makes sense with the company’s announcement that it is discontinuing sales here of its two large sedans, the Cadenza and K900.

This leaves Kia’s lineup with the new K5, the Rio, Soul, Forte and Stinger, the Sedona minivan, SUV crossovers Telluride, Seltos, Sorento and Sportage, and Niro hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric.

The K5 is much more sporty-looking than the Optima it replaced; it sits lower, is 2 inches longer and shows off a thin and wide front grille that plays into the modern headlights, which are emphasized with daytime running lights.

The sleekly styled roofline and large rear window extend far back to eliminate all but a hint of rear deck. This adds roominess to the four-door model, which offers 16 cubic feet of trunk space.

Even the exterior color of the review model (K5 GT-Line AWD) is appealing; it’s wolf gray, a hue made famous in the U.S. years ago by the Fordson tractor.

Highlighting performance are a 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and new 8-speed automatic transmission. The small 4 develops 180 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft. of torque, and with the 8-speed tranny includes a “snow” mode, which I tested in snowy weather. Reduced wheelspin was noticeable. Other modes include normal, comfort and sport.

I started the K5 in my garage on a cold morning; while idling it for a few seconds I heard the most relaxing sound, somewhat like a babbling brook. It was the Sound of Nature ambient system offering six peaceful themes. What I heard was rainy day, others are calm sea waves, lively forest, snowy village, warm fireplace and open-air café.

The 8-inch touchscreen display mixes audio, navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB multimedia and charging ports.

The well-equipped K5 review model carries a sticker price of $31,300 and includes forward-collision avoidance, blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keep assist and leading vehicle departure alert.

The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD specifications:

  • Midsize sedan
  • Sticker price $31,300
  • 5-passenger capacity
  • Wheelbase 112.2 inches
  • Length 193.1 inches
  • Width 73.2 inches
  • Height 56.9 inches
  • Track 63.7 front, 64 rear
  • Ground clearance 5.3 inches
  • Curb weight 3,322 pounds
  • Engine 1.6-liter turbo 4
  • Horsepower 180
  • Torque 195 lb.-ft.
  • Transmission 8-speed auto
  • Mode all-wheel drive
  • EPA 26/34 mpg
  • Test mileage 28.2 mpg
  • Fuel tank 15.8 gallons
  • Grade regular unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Tires Pirelli P245/35R18
  • Assembly West Point, Ga.
  • Also available GT 2.5 turbo