It is bizarre: Simply as midsize sedans fall out of style, there’s by no means been a greater time to purchase one. Phase leaders just like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are the perfect they’ve ever been, to say nothing of trendy options just like the Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6. Kia’s been a longtime participant on this house with its Optima sedan, however it’s poised to make a good greater splash with the launch of that automobile’s substitute. Say whats up to the brand new K5.

Earlier than I get into the nuts and bolts of Kia’s new four-door, let’s speak about that identify. K5 is what the Optima was at all times known as in its dwelling market, South Korea, the place Kia makes use of a Kx naming technique for its sedans (our Forte is called the K3, the Cadenza is the K7, the Okay900 is — you guessed it — the K9). “This new automobile is such a giant departure from the outgoing mannequin that we thought it deserved its personal identify,” a Kia spokesperson tells me. No, this does not essentially imply Kia can be switching to any form of whole-line alphanumeric naming technique within the US, although the identical spokesperson says that is not out of the query if future merchandise “meet this identical excessive commonplace.”

By no means thoughts the identify; similar to the Optima, the K5 is a variety of automobile for the cash and this mannequin makes a powerful assertion proper off the bat. Its design is extra refined than the Hyundai Sonata, although the Kia lacks a few of its kissin’ cousin’s intelligent particulars, together with the Sonata’s daytime operating lights that mix into the chrome trim operating. Nonetheless, the K5 will get a variety of issues proper: Its clamshell hood means there is not any ugly minimize line throughout the nostril, the intense roofline accent wraps down under the rear window and the full-width LED taillights are damaged up into segments of various lengths for some rump-end visible curiosity. It is not good, after all. All the the creases come collectively on the corners of the K5’s face and, to my eyes, it seems to be like somebody carrying poorly fitted pants that bunch up by the crotch, an impression emphasised by the running-light signature that doubles because the flip alerts. Oh, and just about the entire vents are faux, which is a Hyundai/Kia styling development that can’t die quickly sufficient.

In profile, the K5 nearly seems to be prefer it must be a liftback — not not like Kia’s bigger Stinger — however it’s obtained a standard trunk with 16 cubic ft of house. Base LX fashions trip on puny 16-inch wheels, however the uplevel LXS, GT-Line and EX trims get the engaging 18-inchers seen right here. Talking of which, you may discover two totally different K5s pictured within the gallery; the grey automobile is an EX, whereas the pink one is a GT-Line. The latter will get a few distinctive design parts together with LED foglights, bigger (faux) vents on the rear flanks, a small decklid spoiler and a black roof. However do not let these sporty-ish cues idiot you. Beneath the pores and skin, the GT-Line and EX are an identical.

The K5 LX, LXS, GT-Line and EX fashions share the identical powertrain: a 1.6-liter turbocharged I4, with 180 horsepower, 195 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed computerized transmission. Entrance-wheel drive is commonplace, however the LXS and GT-Line could be had with all-wheel drive — a wise transfer, contemplating the Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry are actually additionally provided with this foul-weather functionality.

These taillights are tremendous cool.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

In each the EX and GT-Line, the 1.6T is tuned appropriately. It is neither significantly peppy nor sluggish, with all of its torque delivered from simply 1,500 rpm. Meaning there’s ample energy for around-town driving and the transmission would not need to kick down a number of gears with a view to present enough oomph for passing. This additionally helps the engine run as effectively as potential and, to that finish, the K5 posts glorious EPA-estimated gasoline economic system scores. A base LX ought to return 29 miles per gallon within the metropolis, 38 mpg freeway and 32 mpg mixed, whereas larger-tired LXS, GT-Line and EX variations are barely much less environment friendly, at 27 metropolis, 37 freeway and 31 mixed. Add the aforementioned all-wheel drive and also you’re taking a look at 26 metropolis, 34 freeway and 29 mixed.

A extra highly effective K5 GT will hit the highway later this 12 months with distinctive chassis tuning, 19-inch wheels and — most significantly — a 2.5-liter turbo I4 engine with 290 hp, 311 lb-ft and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Take into account this Kia’s model of the Hyundai Sonata N-Line, a automobile my Roadshow pal Antuan Goodwin drove in prototype type late final 12 months.

Consumers in search of an entertaining midsize sedan will doubtless wish to look forward to the GT. The usual K5 fashions supply strong on-road manners, however they are not what I would name sporty — not that they should be. The K5 will spend the vast majority of its life on commuter responsibility and it is properly tuned for that objective. The steering is gentle (if a tad overboosted) within the automobile’s default drive setting, however should you dial up Sport, a noticeable — and appreciated — little bit of weight is added to the wheel’s motion. Physique motions are clean and managed and the K5 handles corners with extra poise than an Altima, Camry or Legacy. I am additionally glad to report that the US-spec K5’s brakes are simple to modulate, with progressive preliminary chew — significantly better than what my different pal Andrew Krok skilled in an early Korean-spec mannequin in Seoul final 12 months.

The K5 EX will get snug leather-based upholstery and open-pore wooden on the sprint.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

General, the K5 falls someplace in the course of the category so far as driving dynamics and engagement are involved. The Honda Accord and Mazda6 are extra enjoyable, however I would quite drive the Kia than a Nissan Altima or the aged and irrelevant Chevrolet Malibu, a automobile I fortunately will not have to speak about for for much longer.

The place the K5 actually units itself other than the category is inside. Like its Sonata company sibling, the Kia K5 has a trendy cabin that is downright luxurious in increased trims. In my EX tester, delicate leatherette seats are met with nice-looking wooden on the sprint and the entire switchgear seems to be and feels nice. Yeah, there are just a few questionably low-cost bits of plastic trim on the transmission tunnel and door playing cards, however it’s nothing too egregious. Weirdly, although, the digital gear selector dial seen within the Korean-spec K5 is not accessible right here — you get an ordinary PRNDL shifter, however given the inherent ease-of-use issue, that is not a criticism.

Entrance passengers have loads of headroom and the K5 feels open and ethereal, even with the panoramic sunroof shade closed. The rear seats are simply OK, the sloping roofline means taller people might want to duck to get in or out and the again is not as spacious as a number of the K5’s rivals. The upward slope of the beltline and fastback-style rear window hurts visibility, too, although most individuals simply depend on the usual backup cameras lately.

You undoubtedly need the 10.2-inch multimedia display, even when it means sacrificing wi-fi smartphone connectivity.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The K5 provides plenty of multimedia tech, however there’s one massive head-scratcher: The usual Eight-inch UVO touchscreen infotainment setup options wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However if you would like the bigger 10.2-inch display with its higher graphics and extra options, you are caught with a wired connection for the smartphone-mirroring tech. Kia acknowledges that that is odd, although the corporate is not providing any form of clarification. Moreover, Kia says there are not any plans to replace the 10.2-inch expertise to incorporate wi-fi connectivity. So it goes. Fortunately, regardless of the display dimension, UVO is tremendous responsive and simple to navigate, plus there’s an non-compulsory wi-fi charging pad that is housed in a handy little slot simply forward of the middle console.

Driver-assistance tech is in equally excessive provide, although many of the great things is just accessible by way of choice packages on increased trims. Ahead-collision warning, lane-keeping help and computerized excessive beams are commonplace, however you may need to step as much as the LXS to get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. On the GT-Line, a Premium Bundle will get you adaptive cruise management, however it would not embrace lane-keep help. For that, it’s important to get the EX with its Premium Bundle, which unlocks Kia’s Freeway Driving Assistant, bundling full-speed adaptive cruise management with lane-centering tech to make freeway commuting rather a lot simpler.

The K5 is among the higher midsize sedans on sale at the moment.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

A base 2021 Kia K5 LX is available in at $24,445 together with $965 for vacation spot, whereas a totally loaded, front-wheel-drive EX like my tester rings up for $32,355. The GT-Line I additionally sampled, in the meantime, is available in round $28,000. Throughout the board, the K5 is competitively priced inside its class — even the forthcoming GT will high out just below $36,000 with all the choice bins checked.

The 2021 Kia K5 is not the perfect at anyone factor, however it does every part a midsize sedan ought to. The Mazda6 is extra enjoyable to drive, the Accord is extra refined and the Hyundai Sonata provides a bit bit extra in the best way of trick tech. However as a totally baked package deal, the K5 is a giant step ahead for Kia — an optimized Optima, if you’ll — and that makes it one more compelling choice on this more and more missed class.

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