2021 Kia K5 offers all the luxury at way below luxury prices
CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer
The average price of a new car topped $40,000 during 2021. That’s a pile of pocket change, especially for a guy who still thinks of that as the price of a nice Mercedes or Corvette. While that shows my brain still lives in the 1990s, Kia is able to deliver a stylish and spirited sedan for 25 percent less than average — but way above par.
It’s called the K5 EX.
2021 Kia K5 EX
Five-passenger, FWD sedan
Powertrain: 1.6-liter T4, 8-speed auto
Output: 180hp/195 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 18-inch/18-inch alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Driving
Fuel economy: 27/37 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: West Point, Ga.
Base/As-tested price: $23,690/32,355
It’s a sexy little devil, channeling swagger from the more exotic Stinger sport sedan. Check the wide, angry grille, chiseled lower facia, strings of LED headlights and orange zig-zag driving lamps that give the car a sinister glow. Sculpted bodysides stretch over 18-inch wheels.
There’s a hint of Porsche in the fastback roofline, subtle spoiler and wide, thin tail lamps. Formality in the rear window line plays against a flamboyant swath of chrome to convey fun and comfort.
The interior’s wood, leather and aluminum are faux, but you’d never know it — even if you caress your fingers over them. The style works beautifully with the large touchscreen that flanks the instrument cluster and connects devices to the Bose audio system through Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Charge wirelessly in the console.
The details could have come from a dream car, but luxuries like heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and dual panel sunroof are very real.
The suite of safety tech hails from advanced luxury cars. Forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross path detection, blind spot warning and active lane keep assist protect from all angles. Add to that a driver attention alert and rear occupant detection, and the car keeps everybody’s attention.
Adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality and lane-centering steering provide blissful cruising. Side exit assist uses blind spot sensors to prevent passengers from stepping into traffic. Kia clearly cares about safety.
GT versions of the K5 are available with 290 horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, but our car came with the base 1.6-liter turbo-four that conjures 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque — all delivered to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Even in base form, the engine is smooth and peppy, perfectly matched to the smooth shifting transmission. Without optional AWD, fuel economy rates a near-hybrid 27/37-MPG city/highway.
Some may think the suspension is too firm, but I do not. Engineers dialed in the right balance between crisp handling and the ability to absorb rough city streets or railroad tracks. Nothing squeaks, creaks or rattles as the car elicits only a damped “thump-thump” as it crosses expansion joints. It’s about perfect on the highway
where it can soak up long miles without fatigue.
Though its price would indicate otherwise, nothing about the K5 EX is below par. A base K5 starts at just $23,690 and shares our car’s powertrain. But lay on the luxury, and you’ll see our car’s $32,355 sticker. And every inch and every motion feels like it should cost thousands more.
Competitors include the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Chevy Malibu.