KIA K5 GT-Line AWD is the new kid in the block, or is it? We all know KIA Optima, which was a strong contender in the mid-size sedan segment for many years. KIA decided to change the name Optima, with the K5. The newest generation KIA K5 is still a strong contender, but now with a much better design and overall features. We have tested many mid-size sedans last year, and let’s see how K5 will find a place for itself in its segment.
Sedans may not be a hot-seller like SUVs, but there is still some sort of loyalty. It may have much flatter sales curve compared to Crossovers and SUVs, but still, there is potential. Kia and many other brands see that potential, that’s why they keep investing on Sedan platforms. KIA K5 is the latest refreshed model in this segment, and just by looking from the outside, there is a huge difference between the K5 and the old Optima.
Exterior and Interior
Unlike a few years ago, KIA is not following other brands in terms of interior and exterior design. In fact, today they get so much better, and K5 is the latest proof for that. It looks amazing from the outside, and most importantly it is completely unique design. LED Headlights and orange daytime running lights make the car look very upscale. Our tester had the premium gray colour, which is called Wolf Gray, but it’s widely known as “Nardo” Gray. As this is the GT-line version, which is not the sportiest, but just a sporty looking one, it has more aggressive body lines including different rims, sportier front and rear bumpers.
Speaking of rear bumpers, the rear design is also a great match with the overall design, it has one big piece of taillight in the rear, and body lines go all around the vehicle. It -unfortunately- has fake exhaust tips, which we hope they change soon. It also comes with fake vents in the rear, which are non-functional and make the car look less premium. Other than that, we have no problem with how it looks, it just needs few changes especially in the rear.
The interior design of the KIA K5 is definitely a step-up, compared to previous generation Optima. Granted, Optima was never a bad choice, but it lacks character in terms of overall design language. This is not the case with the latest K5. It has a lot of different materials used all over the cabin. Chrome, wood, piano black, leather, soft-touch plastics – which make the K5’s interior a great place. You still have physical buttons for essential features, which we appreciate that you don’t have to rely on electronics.
As always, KIA/Hyundai vehicles are known for having a great infotainment system, and K5 is no exception when it comes to the technology department. It is very easy to use, the screen is big and the resolution is great. It comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. However, KIA decided not to use a digital gauge cluster in the K5 GT-Line. Granted, there is no problem with the analog cluster, and the digital screen in the middle is very easy to use, but I think at this point, it should have been fully digital, and they should have integrated a blind-spot camera in it.
Because of the flowy silhouette and aggressive body lines, K5 is slightly suffering when it comes to trunk space. It is not the largest entry in the mid-size segment, and it has surprisingly good legroom in the rear. It is not the best in terms of rear headroom, but at the end of the day, this is not an SUV. K5 comes with 16.7 cubic feet – 472L of cargo space in the trunk which is average in the mid-size segment. However, the trunk opening is small, so don’t expect to put very large items back there.
Engine and Drivetrain
Model name wording might be confusing with KIA and Hyundai model lineup, but this “GT-Line” is not the sportiest option. Our tester had the 1.6L Turbocharged Direct Injection engine that produces 182 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. KIA and Hyundai have been using this engine in their model lineup for a long time because it is a proven platform. There is almost no turbo lag, it almost feels like a naturally aspirated engine. Because of the additional weight of the All-Wheel Drive and overall size, it is not the peppiest one in this class.
One thing that we were not expecting is how loud the injector ticking noise is especially when the engine is cold. This is a direct-injection engine and they tend to be louder than older port fuel injection engines, however, there are more refined engines in the market. What we really like about the K5 is that they don’t use CVT transmission, unlike many entries in this segment. It comes with 8-speed torque converted automatic transmission which is made in-house. Overall, the engine and transmission are a great match and it is focused more on comfort than sportiness.
KIA K5 with the 1.6T engine and 8-speed automatic transmission is an easy car to live with. The engine has lots of torque down low rpm, but the torque curve drops at higher rpms. Like the rest of driving dynamics, it is comfort-oriented which makes it a great daily driver. It is also good on gas for an AWD mid-size sedan, we were averaging around 10.0L / 100 km.
Driving Impressions and Features
Overall driving impressions are positive with few flaws, which is also applicable for other KIA vehicles. First and foremost, we know that the K5 GT-Line is the sporty-looking trim and not a dedicated sports sedan. However, the way it looks does not represent how it rides at all. It is mainly focused on-road comfort and smoothness. However, like most KIA vehicles, you cannot fully disable traction/stability control, which means it won’t allow you to have fun in the snow or any kind of loose surface. It is, unfortunately, missing the character, which we are hoping to find that in the upcoming GT version.
We had a chance to test the AWD system in snowy Toronto weather, and we are very impressed with how capable it is. Like many entries in this segment, the engine is placed horizontally which means the AWD system is front-wheel biased, but it is barely noticeable in harsh conditions. As this is not a crossover, ride height is limited that means this is not the car you would want to take to deep snow or muddy conditions.
Feature-wise, we were expecting some critical features as we used to see all of them in other entries in this segment. Some important features are auto start-stop and a head-up display. This car would have felt more premium and upscale if these features were available like some other mid-size sedans. On the positive side, it comes with great Adaptive Cruise Control, like many KIA vehicles. On the highway, it allows you to leave your hands longer than the competition and we found it a very impressive feature. If you are driving on the highway all the time, this would make your life much easier.
Pricing and the Verdict
In today’s world of SUV/Crossover craziness, it is no secret that the mid-size sedan segment is trying to survive in North America. Some brands brought the All-Wheel Drive option to the table, which helped a lot. KIA decided to join the Sedan AWD club with the latest K5 by replacing the old Optima platform, and we believe this is a huge step up in terms of overall quality and design. There are some missed opportunities in terms of having premium features in the mid-size segment, but compared to old gen Optima, K5 is much more competitive in the mid-size sedan segment.
KIA K5 starts at just below the C$30,000 CAD threshold, and GT-Line is priced at C$35,995 which is a great deal considering it comes with many convenient features, an all-wheel drive, a totally new platform with a 1.6 turbocharged engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. When it comes to All Wheel Drive mid-size sedans, we don’t have many choices, and KIA’s latest K5 AWD GT-line is definitely worth considering if you are not looking for a crossover but need an all-wheel drive.
For more details, please visit KIA’s website.
Article & Photos – Dan Gunay