Weekend Wheels: Kia’s new K5 is full of surprises

We all love surprises and delights. Case in point, guacamole. Looks nasty, actually tastes great. Especially with peach salsa. 

Someone tells you a new $24,000 Kia is one of the sharpest-looking sedans you can buy right now, and then you actually see one on the road? Another surprise and delight. 

To my admittedly soft-focus eyes, Kia designers have hit one out of the park with the 2021 K5 family four-door. This thing looks sportier than Tom Brady in mid-throw, more athletic than Naomi Osaka in the Aussie Open. 

I love the head-rotating combo of snarly, front-end, swoopy fastback roofline, and sleek, low-to-the-blacktop stance. Throw in a black-glass roof and sporty 18-inch machine-finish alloys, and this new K5 is a beauty-pageant shoo-in.

This is the successor to Kia’s much-loved and strong-selling Optima sedan. And while some commentators have bemoaned Kia’s decision to give up such a storied brand name for an alpha-numerical replacement, I’m all for it.

After all, if BMW wins adoration for its M5, Cadillac does well with its CT5, and Audi’s best-seller is its Q5, why not a Kia K5? Me, I always wondered why Kia should name a car after a battery? Or a healthcare provider?

Of course the other huge component of the K5’s appeal is its quite astonishing value for money. 

The remarkably well-equipped K5 EX model I’ve been driving stickers at just $27,990. And for that you get such baubles as a panoramic glass sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charger, remote start, rear-view camera, and Syn Tex leatherette upholstery that looks more like leather than leather. 

Splurge an extra $3,400 for the Premium Package and you get 12-speaker Bose sound, a 10-inch touchscreen with navigation, forward and rear collision avoidance, and LED rear lights. Plus, plus, plus. Out the door for $32,355. 

Five K5 models are on offer, kicking off with the cheap-as-chips $23,590 LX and topping out with the feisty 290-horse turbocharged GT from just $30,590. 

Our EX comes with Kia’s 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder under that shapely hood. While 180-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque doesn’t sound too thrilling, the quick-shifting, super-responsive 8-speed automatic gets the best out of the four-banger. 

Away from the stoplight, performance initially feels sluggish until the turbo gets with the program. Then acceleration comes on strong. On the highway, it’s a delight, as there’s no shortage of punch for zipping past slower traffic. 

Through the curves or freeway on-ramp, the front-drive K5 handles itself with confidence, with low-roll cornering, nicely weighted, precise steering, and lots of grip. 

And the car is impressively refined, with little engine noise or tire roar. It rides oh-so-smoothly, too, adding to the expensive, upscale feel. 

Talking of upscale, the use of materials inside, like genuine leather for the steering wheel, open-pore wood for the dash, and lots of satin-finished trim, gives the cabin a true premium aura. 

Legroom front and rear is stretch-out plentiful, the front seats supportive and comfy with lots of adjustment, and the trunk is huge, becoming even spacier with the split-folding rear seat folded flat. 

While that fastback roofline shaves headroom in the rear, the standard panoramic glass sunroof, which stretches over the rear seat, fills the cabin with light.

If there’s one more surprise and delight with the K5, it has to be Kia’s still-impressive 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and five years of roadside assistance. 

While these days, the majority of new-vehicle buyers are being wooed by the versatility of SUVs — and with the Telluride, Sorento, Sportage and Niro, Kia offers some of the best — the sporty sedan isn’t dead yet.

This new K5 is a true delight to drive and live with. And a great value. Go try one out for size; I know you’ll be surprised and delighted.

Test-drive the 2021 Kia K5 at Century Kia of Tampa, Crown Kia of St. Pete, Lokey Kia of Clearwater and Courtesy Kia of Brandon.

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