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While the current Kia slogan is “Give It Everything,” not long ago it was the “Power to Surprise.”

And today the company apparently delivered on both as it introduced an all-new midsize sedan, the K5.

2021 Kia K5

The 2021 Kia K5. Heartbeat DRLs, shark skin mesh grille. This is a midsize sedan? (Images: Kia Motors America)

The surprising part: That car would have ordinarily been named the Optima.

But Bill Peffer, vice president of Sales Operations for Kia Motors America, explained that because with this car they’d decided to “re-imagine the midsize sedan,” they figured a new name was in order.

Realize that it was the 2011 Optima that helped begin Kia’s heightened visibility in the U.S. market.

That team is nothing if not willing to take risks when it comes to better establishing their brand—even if it means letting go of a name, something that OEMs are traditionally loathe to do.

K5 interior

Note the bolsters on the seats—as much an indicator this is meant to be driven quickly as the red stitching.

As for the everything:

There are two available engines, both turbocharged:

  • 1.6-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine producing 180 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque
  • 2.5-liter turbocharged GDI + MPI four-cylinder engine producing 290 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque

There are two transmissions: an eight-speed automatic and a Kia-developed eight-speed wet dual clutch transmission.

There is an available all-wheel drive system. It uses an electrohydraulic system to control AWD coupling for quick response, shifting torque between the front and rear wheels as required.

From the driver assistance perspective, there are standard:

  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA)
  • Standard FCA-Pedestrian (FCA with the ability to detect vehicles, objects and pedestrians in front)
  • Standard Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
  • Lane Following Assist (LFA)

And there is an array of optional functions including navigation-based smart cruise control-curve (which can lower the vehicle’s speed before entering a curve) and highway driving assist, which uses navigation data and information from the federal highway speed limit database to adjust a vehicle’s speed accordingly.

K5 taillamps

Note the attention to detail in the taillamps.

Inside there are 8- or 10.25-inch high res color touchscreens. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as available wireless smartphone charging. There’s an available 12-speaker Bose audio system.

The K5 is based on a new platform, the N3, which, according to KMA’s head of design Tom Kearns, allowed the design team to lower the height of the vehicle, reduce the front overhang, elongate the hood, and lengthen the wheelbase.

The K5 is 193.1 inches long (+2 inches over the Optima), 73.2 inches wide (+1 inch), 56.9 inches high (-0.8 inches), and has a 112.2-inch wheelbase (+1.8 inches).

While the Tiger-nose grille has long been a signature element of the front end of Kia models, this has a new execution with a wide, thin front grille that features a shark-skin like mesh design.

2021 Kia K5

Longer, lower, wider. The K5 is predicated on design, performance and technology.

Maybe it is telling of the times when people are focused on things related to health, but Kearns said the DRL is a lamp that is meant to resemble a healthy heartbeat EKG signature, which is repeated for the taillamps.

Peffer noted that last year there were some 1.5-million sedans sold in the U.S. Kia wants to increase its share of that, of course.

And he made an interesting, important, point: “Younger buyers want something different.” That is, if they grew up in the backseat of a crossover, odds are when they’re able to buy a vehicle it isn’t going to have a high H-point.


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