Has Kia been Stung?
Kia announced yesterday a major overhaul of their mid-size sedan and perhaps, in the process, hinted that their Stinger sports sedan may be short-lived.
Meet the K5, Kia's replacement to the now-dead Optima mid-size sedan. Those of you who are fans of the podcast know that K5 means something quite different to me and many Americans into off-road vehicles. To many, the K5 was a Blazer. A full-size body-on-frame SUV from the 70's and 80's made by Chevrolet. It appears Chevy has not kept the rights to the K5 moniker in the states, paving the way for Kia to rename and replace the Optima sedan with its overseas nameplate.
Built as a ground-up redesign of the Optima it replaces, this K5 is a twin to the new-for-2020 Hyundai Sonata sedan. Hyundai and Kia have been on a bit of a roll recently with respect to sales momentum and styling, and this vehicle is no exception. The new Sonata did not shy away from bold design choices, and neither does Kia with a few interesting choices sure to set this car apart from a crowded (but thinning) pack of competitors.
Take for instance Kia's new take on the ever-so-popular rear taillight LED light strip. This new signature rear element should not be mistaken for other vehicles with the same design (I am thinking almost any new Porsche or even Dodge Charger) who typically have a flowing, sweeping single LED strip across the back, spanning from taillight to taillight. Kia instead opts to send a dotted line sweeping across the trunk lid of the K5, giving a unique look.
Another interesting element viewed from the rear builds on a funky design from the Optima, and that is the curving, sweeping line of chromed trim cascading down the C-pillar of the car and wrapping underneath the rear window (think Jeep Compass). This has been Kia's answer to the popular floating roof design element that has permeated the industry of late, and it is a very tastefully executed alternative.
Last of the interesting design elements that I will mention is the light signature in the front of this car. Kia has dubbed this little zig-zag of an LED light strip the "heartbeat" (again with the old Chevy references, "Heartbeat of America" anyone?) design, meant to evoke the path of a line on an ECG, it can be recognized as distinctly Kia any time, day or night as it traces around the standard LED headlights.
The K5 will come in 6 different trim levels, ranging from the Base LX with 1.6T turbo 4-cylinder engine all the way up to the top-trim in GT guise, (We are a little fond of those two letters here at Garage Talk) sporting a 2.5 liter turbo 4-cylinder and 290hp.
This will not be a replacement for the not-so-popular, but well-loved-by-enthusiasts Stinger GT2, but it does have some sporty aspirations. Speaking of the Stinger, sales have not been great on that car, allowing some to find 2-year-old models brand new on dealer lots for a significant discount, looking at you Doug DeMuro... Gear Heads such as myself can only hope and pray that Hyundai/Kia continue to invest in sporty sedans (and coupes) as the entire market goes crazy for crossovers.
We have not driven this car yet, but certainly have plans to as soon as possible, and look forward to seeing how much fun Kia can inject into a good-looking mid-size sedan, even if it is a front-wheel-drive machine.
Kia will be offering AWD as an option on the 2021 K5, however it will only come on the mid-grade LXS 1.6T and GT-Line 1.6T trims, both of which rely solely on the 180 HP 1.6L turbo four. For those of you looking for extra traction, it will come at the expense of power and fun.
All models will come with an 8 speed automatic, but the top dog GT trim will feature Hyundai's new wet dual-clutch transmission first seen in the Veloster N-Line hatchback. The performance increases of this DCT make a manual ALMOST obsolete...manuals are still the most entertaining option #SaveTheManuals.
Expect fuel economy to start at 29/38/32 city/highway/combined for the base model, no word yet on the GT's economy.
Similar to the exterior design, the interior is bold and modern. I am a HUGE fan of the optional red leatherette seats in the GT Line model shown above. I love when there are options for color! (I was sad when Cadillac dropped the purple leather option on the XT5 crossover.)
Features of the K5 interior include wireless phone charging with wireless Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, a new norm for the tech-minded automobile, flat-bottomed performance steering wheel for GT Line and GT models, 10-way power seats with driver seat memory, heated and ventilated seats, dual-zone climate controls, 8-inch or optional 10.25 inch touchscreen display.
Safety tech abounds as well. Kia is on the forefront of driver safety, and you will not be disappointed here: Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance, Parking Distance Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Smart Cruise with Stop and Go functionality, advanced Navigation-Based Smart Cruise with Stop and Go is available on the top trims, Lane Follow Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Attention Warning, and High Beam Assist, to name a few.
We look forward to our first drive of this mainstream family vehicle, and hope to get one dressed up in GT trim to give you our hones impressions. Until that time, you can click through all the pictures above, or look at the spreadsheet of options and specifications linked below. We think Kia has got a nice daily driver on thier hands with this one, we just hope and pray their Stinger hasn't fallen off in the meantime.
Until next time, bye!