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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

The Mid-size Sedan is Not Dead

Kia aims to “disrupt and inspire the mid-size sedan market” with the all-new Kia K5, replacing the aging Optima sedan. Infusing DNA from their performance Stinger hatchback, the K5 leans into the new sporting nature of the new Kia brand identity.

Contrary to popular belief, the mid-size sedan is not dead. No, in fact it is still the holder of the best selling car in the United States continuously for 32 years, dating back to 1989 when the Honda Accord took the title from the compact Ford Escort. Within those 32 years of mid-size heyday, the Accord took the trophy of best selling car 4 years, the Ford Taurus 5 years, and the Toyota Camry a whopping 23 years, including the last 19 consecutive years.

It is quite clear that the SUV/crossover craze is quickly picking up steam in America making 2020 the lowest reported sales year for the best selling car in the States since 1989, dipping below 300,000 units. However, 2020 only had two crossovers besting the Toyota Camry for units moved (the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V). The popularity of the crossover is stealing market share away from the popular mid-size segment, causing major brands such as Ford and Chevy to exit the market altogether, killing off their Fusion and Malibu sedans, respectively. Both vehicles have very beautiful design themes and are perhaps some of the best-looking passenger cars to come out of America since the heyday of the 1950s, '60s & early '70s.

No, Kia and parent company Hyundai have no intentions of exiting the mid-size sedan game any time soon. The K5 is Kia’s newest entry into the mid-size segment, replacing the Optima on our shores to align with their naming and marketing structure from the rest of the world. While other players are retooling to make more crossovers, Kia plans to eat up the market share vacated by its fallen adversaries. Kia’s marketing department declares that the K5 is set to "disrupt and inspire the mid-size sedan segment,” and after driving a 2021 K5 GT-Line borrowed from our friends at Peltier Kia Tyler, we tend to think they are on to something.

“But why try to reimagine the sedan, especially during a time when the market continues to shift towards crossovers and SUVs? Fueled by an unstoppable spirit to push harder and work smarter, Kia was determined to give it everything instead of giving up; completely rethinking the traditional sedan.”

While it seems that the growing niche in the SUV/crossover world is rugged designs declaring off-road intentions, passenger cars seem to be embracing the flair for sportiness and race-inspired touches. Who would have figured that we would see red seats in a mid-size family sedan? Our K5 GT-Line sedan stickered for a pleasant $30,655, a welcome departure from the inflated retails of their taller crossover siblings. A similarly equipped Sorento SUV would cost you nearly $5k more for an identical interior volume of 121.3 cubic feet. Sure, you get more vehicle, including a 3rd row of seats, but you also sacrifice sportiness with its higher center of gravity and the added weight means lower fuel economy numbers. But hey, at least you feel better because you are sitting higher, right?

We feel like the example we were loaned for an all-too-short weekend test was a perfect example of how we might spec a K5 if we were shopping for our family. Sure, the Stinger DNA runs deeper in the full-fledged GT model; with its 2.5-liter turbo GDI 4-cylnder engine making 290 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with the new 8-speed “wet” dual clutch transmission the GT will rocket you from 0-60 mph in a Kia-claimed 5.8 seconds. However, we really appreciated the sporty design touches, stolen from the GT, for our GT-Line example, which still “made due” with the 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder found in the rest of the lineup; making 180 HP and 195 lb.-ft. of torque and mated to an all-new 8-speed automatic. This smaller engine had more than enough pep for our sedan when cruising around town and is the only engine available with Kia’s “all weather drive” system (the GT must settle for putting its power down through the front wheels only).

Yes, we feel that the added power you would get from the GT model does not quite make up for the sacrifices made in traction, though we are yet to sample the GT model. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the power output display on the driver information screen while we zipped around corners on some of our favorite driving roads. The AWD system, a first for a Kia sedan, delivered the power precisely where it needed to be as we rounded corners and crested hills. This system, only available on the 1.6L equipped LXS or GT-Line trims, uses an electro-hydraulic system to control AWD coupling for a quicker response and more precise control and actively distributes torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driving situations. “Snow” drive mode enhances driver security and all-weather confidence. Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom drive modes adjust settings for engine, transmission, AWD, and steering mapping to provide the desired driving experience

Adding to the sporting nature of the K5 are wider, lower, and longer dimensions than the Optima it replaces. The new performance enhanced “N3” platform increased length by 2 inches to 193.1 in. overall and the wheelbase was stretched almost as much at 1.8 in. to 112.2 inches. The vehicle height was lowered by 0.8 inches to 56.9 inches and the width was increased by an inch to 73.2 inches, reminding me of all the “WideTrack Grand Prix commercials from the late '90s. Suspension geometry optimized for sporty handling, responsiveness, and stability. Increased average tensile strength and additional hot stamped parts makes for a solid body that can be felt when the road begins to twist.

As we mentioned before, the GT-Line gets the aggressive looks from the GT, even if it doesn’t get the extra power. We appreciated the dark wheels and grille, as well as the special color combination of the Wolf Gray exterior paint and the red SynTex seating inside, a GT-Line exclusive. Though, it is hard for us to overlook the fake “exhaust” in the rear bumper (the real exhaust is a hidden, single tailpipe on the passenger side), we would love the GT-Line to have something more like the GT’s quad exhaust. The overall design is unique and very athletic for its class. The nose shows off Kia’s modernized “tiger face,” with the wide and thin front grille extending into the headlight and hood structure, as well as the shark skin-inspired mesh design of our GT-Line tester. We were a fan of the signature “Heart Beat” daytime running lights and taillights with available LED “dashes” spanning the width of the rear trunk lid. Speaking of the trunk, visual trickery helps accentuate the long hood, short trunk proportions of a true sports car. The chrome strip that starts at the rearview mirrors travels up and over the side glass and plunges down onto the deck lid; surrounding gloss black plastic that gives the illusion of a larger swatch of rear window. It hides the proportions of the trunk well, giving the illusion of a hatchback more in line with an Audi A7 or stable-mate Kia Stinger, than its main rival, Toyota Camry.

Moving inside is a cabin that makes you feel as if you are in a a driver’s car. With its aircraft-type shift knob, flat-bottom steering wheel (exclusive to the GT-Line & GT), and driver-centric layout you know you are piloting something special. Our tester had the standard, analogue gauges with 8-inch infotainment screen, and we appreciated both in their simplicity. Kia’s first application of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cuts the cord on charging cables but is exclusive to the 8-inch infotainment unit and mysteriously absent from the larger 10.25 in. unit. We sampled a 10.25 in. unit with the Premium Bose audio in a Sorento SUV and noted that CarPlay was allocated the same screen real estate as the 8 in. unit but featured a customizable side panel to take up the remaining space on the larger screen in which you could cycle between map info, time, weather, or compass with altitude readouts.

Materials are premium everywhere you look or touch in the front row, though rear passengers were greeted with downgraded door plastics and a lack of rear vents on our GT-Line trim. For more comfort in the rear, buyers will need to trade up to the EX or GT trims. Looking up, our tester wowed occupants with its large panoramic sunroof. The sunshade is one of the fastest opening and closing units we have seen, though the switchgear to operate it all left some to be desired. The entire setup is operated by a single switch that can be pressed to open the shade and the roof to a vent position, or it can be pulled back in one of two stages to either open just the shade or the glass roof as well. The first few times we attempted to open just the shade, we were greeted by the glass roof opening as well to allow the rain from outside in, oops. Sound levels inside were also nicely muted, thanks in part to the acoustic laminated windshield standard on all K5 trims. We noticed the engine having almost a diesel-like clatter when the hood was up but could hardly hear it while sitting inside.

Entering the cabin was easy thanks to Kia’s smart key. Proximity sensors paired with a lock/unlock button on both front doors made getting in and out easy without the need to remove the key from your pocket, which is a shame because we think the Kia key fob is the slickest in the business. Locking the vehicle from the key fob is an action like setting off a detonator with its side mounted buttons. We think this design will also help the longevity of the buttons. Also, a slick feature of the smart key is the trunk access with hands-free Smart Trunk; access to the rear conveniently pops open when the Smart Key is detected behind the vehicle.

Rear seat room was plentiful, though the center seat was intruded upon by a large center-tunnel in the footwell and a bump protruding down from the ceiling. Legroom was more than adequate for both outboard seats, more than enough for a forward or rear-facing child seat. Standard Rear Occupant Alert: Designed to provide a message in the instrument cluster for the driver to “Check rear seats” in order to help prevent leaving the vehicle with a rear passenger left inside. The message appears when the driver door is opened after a rear passenger door has been opened and closed.

The switchgear inside was simple and straightforward. Our dual-zone climate system kept both front-seat passengers comfy, as did the heated seats. The steering wheel featured radio controls, hands-free calling controls, as well as cruise and driver information center controls. Our model featured adaptive cruise with full stop/go functionality as well as all of Kia’s “Drive Wise” suite of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) including:

• Standard Forward Collision Warning (FCW): Designed to detect a vehicle in front and in certain conditions, can calculate the distance and closing speed, and issues an alert to warn the driver if it senses a potential frontal collision.

• Standard Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA): Builds on FCW by assisting the driver in braking to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions if a vehicle or object is detected in front.

• Standard FCA-Pedestrian builds on FCW by detecting vehicles, objects and pedestrians in front

• Available FCA-Cyclist builds on FCW by detecting vehicles, objects, pedestrians, and cyclists in front

• Standard Driver Attention Warning (DAW)13: Senses inattentive driving patterns and sends an audible/visual warning to alert the driver.

• Adds Leading Vehicle Departure Alert (LVDA): Alerts driver with a chime when the leading vehicle begins to move forward from a standing position.

• Standard Lane Following Assist (LFA): Follows lane markings that the system detects and provides steering inputs to help maintain the vehicle in the center of the lane.

• Available Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) – Junction Turning (FCA-JT): Assists the driver in braking to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions when turning left and an oncoming vehicle is approaching.

• Available Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA): Under certain conditions, can detect vehicles traveling in the next lane. When a vehicle is “seen” in the blind spot, the vehicle brakes the outer wheel under certain conditions to help return the vehicle to its lane.

• Available Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA): Helps detect most approaching cross traffic when in reverse. When approaching cross traffic is detected, the system alerts the driver and applies brakes.

• Available Parking Distance Warning-Reverse (PDW-R): Detects certain objects behind the vehicle, issuing an audible warning when an obstruction is detected. The warning tone chimes faster as the vehicle gets closer to the detected object.

• Available Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA-R): Uses rear view camera and rear ultrasonic sensors to help detect most pedestrians or nearby obstacles when the vehicle backs out of a parking spot, warning drivers with a chime and can engage brakes to prevent a collision.

• The “Kia Available Navigation Based Smart Cruise Control-Curve (NSCC-C): leverages the navigation system to lower the vehicle’s speed proactively before upcoming curves.

• Available Highway Driving Assist (HDA)14: Uses federal highway speed limit information from the navigation system and, under certain conditions, will automatically adjust speed to be within the posted speed limit and maintain distance with the vehicle detected in front.

• Available Safe Exit Assist (SEA)15: Can alert the driver or passengers opening their door not to exit the vehicle when the system detects approaching traffic. When detected, a chime sounds. The system can intervene to lock the rear doors when the vehicle is equipped with available Power Child Lock.

All in all, we found ourselves asking, “Do you really need an SUV? CUV?” When it comes to practicality, space, economy, and initial investment, the K5 beats out a CUV everywhere but the upright driving position, but then the K5 shines as a fun driver’s car when the curves in the road beg to be carved. We liked the aggressive styling and unique features of the GT-Line, with the added safety and dynamics of the AWD. After spending a weekend with the K5, we can see the appeal to buck the trend of buying an SUV/CUV in favor of something more fun and sporty. Kia has “disrupt[ed] and inspire[ed] the mid-size sedan market” and made a compelling case to stay in the mid-size market with this family sedan.

Cory’s love of cars came at a time of great change in his young life. At the age of 9 his family moved 200+ miles away from the only home he knew. During the first few months of life in a new town, a certain green pony car caught his eye and just begged the question that had to be answered, “what kind of car is that?!?”The answer led to much research in the pre-internet world. Within the first summer, an entire 29 year history of the Chevy Camaro had been gathered and obsessed over. There was no going back, he was hooked.

Flash forward 16 years and that kid finally had his dream car, an anniversary edition no less. While that car may be gone from his life, the passion it created and stirred certainly did not. After working years in the retail industry it became apparent it was time for something new, something that brought that passion back to life.

Our brand-new dealership and professionally trained team are dedicated to making your new car search a simple process, and our new friendly sales staff is here to assist you every step of the way throughout your new car journey. We treat our customers like family at our Kia showroom, and we are committed to providing courtesy customer service for all who come through our doors. The Peltier Auto Group is a name you can trust when driving home a new Kia or receiving timely auto service in the areas of Jacksonville and Whitehouse, TX.

As a Kia dealer, we stock a great selection of new Kia models. Come compare and test drive models like the new Kia Stinger and Kia Telluride! We also have CarFax® backed used cars, trucks, and SUVs for sale near Lindale, TX, and locating the match to your driving style for the East Texas roads and highways is simple when you learn from our team. We provide our customers with all the details to their next vehicle, and you can even take out your next car for a test drive! With our in-house auto financing team, we also work hard to make sure you can drive home with an affordable monthly car payment as well.

As the newest addition to the Peltier Auto Group, Peltier Kia Tyler delivers a certified service team that caters to all your car repairs and service needs. Kick back in our state-of-the-art customer lounge and get some computer work done with our complimentary Wi-Fi, gourmet coffee and snack bar, and watch your favorite shows on our HD TV. Our new Kia service team provides all the essential vehicle maintenance needs like oil changes, steering alignments, brake repairs, and more, along with a great selection of Kia service specials to help you save money on routine maintenance.

Our newly renovated service department has all the tools and equipment needed for your vehicle and we now offer complimentary shuttle service that runs every half hour and allows scheduled pickups within 20 miles from our store. Keep in mind that if your vehicle servicing lasts longer than 2 hours, we'll give you a complimentary loaner car for the day.

We can't wait to serve our guests, so stop by Peltier Kia Tyler and shop with our expert teams or schedule your next road test by calling our sales desk to set up a time and date with your preferred Kia model. We hope to see you soon!

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Kia Motors America continues to top quality surveys and is recognized as one of the 100 Best Global Brands. Kia serves as the "Official Automotive Partner" of the NBA and offers a complete range of vehicles sold through a network of nearly 750 dealers in the U.S., including cars and SUVs proudly assembled in West Point, Georgia.*

*The Telluride, Sorento and K5 are assembled in the United States from U.S. and globally sourced parts.

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