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Optimal Upgrade: The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line front 3/4 view

Ten years ago, on the old TireKicker site, we raved about the all-new Kia Optima. It was a major step forward in style and content at a competitive price in the family sedan segment.

Five years ago, I suggested that Kia's trajectory might be flattening a bit with the '16 Optima. Nothing to worry about---it's the sign of a mature product.

When it came time to replace the Optima, Kia simply decided to regain the curve by launching an all-new rocket.

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line rear 3/4 view

The K5 is clearly influenced by Kia's halo car, the Stinger, with similarly swoopy and aggressive styling.

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line hood up

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line engine

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line engine detail

Under the hood---well, that depends on which of the five trim levels of the K5 you choose. The first four, LX, LXS, our tester, the GT-Line, and the EX bring a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 195 pounds per foot of torque. It's hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 in seven seconds and an EPA fuel economy estimate of 27 miles per gallon city, 37 highway.

Choose the fifth option---the GT---and things get really quick really quick. The engine gets swapped for a 2.5-liter turbo four with 290 horsepower, 311 pounds per foot of torque and 0-60 runs at about 5.8 seconds. The transmission is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Regardless of engine, the K5 is a willing participant in sporting behavior, attacking winding roads with relish.

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line trunk open

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line rear seat

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line front seats

The base price of the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line is $25,390. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, an acoustic windshield, a complete suite of driver assist technology features and an eight-inch touchscreen audio system.

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line instrument panel

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line steering wheel and gauge cluster

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line gauge cluster

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line infotainment and HVAC

The only extra-cost option on our tester was the GT-Line FWD Premium Package (panoramic sunroof, LED projection headlights, forward collision avoidance-assist, smart cruise control with stop and go, a wireless phone charger and LED overhead lighting) for $1,600.

With $965 inland freight and handling, the as-tested price of the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line is $27,955.

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line front view

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line side view

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line rear view

Go back and read that price again. Less than $28,000 for a great-handling sport sedan with some serious style and feature content. The 2020 Toyota Corolla I reviewed on the old TireKicker site a little over a year ago cost $1,200 more. The 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line is an astonishingly entertaining car and an astonishingly good value.


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