2021 Kia K5 EX and GT-Line: The Choice is Yours

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It was an interesting 24-hour period as Kia dropped off both a meditative Sapphire Blue 2021 K5 EX and a mystic 2021 Passion Red K5 GT-Line for me to evaluate side by side. Of course, classic rap group Black Sheep and their timeless hit, The Choice is Yours, came to mind as I kept going back and forth on the color scheme. “You can get with this, or you can get with that. I think you’ll get with this, for this is where it’s at.” So, I jumped into the “Matrix” with both the red and blue pill to put equal time behind the wheel of each.

With a starting price of $27,990 for the EX and $25,390 for the GT-Line ($965 destination fee), think of the mid-sized sedan as the little dude in the crew. It’s like a Kia Stinger before the agility and strength training program kicked off. I even see a mix of Hyundai’s new Sonata in the front. But the Shark skin-inspired mesh grille needs more pompousness to pair with the rest of the athletic body and chin spoiler. I think it’s too thin and narrow and the pattern is strange. Kia says the K5’s roster position is above the Forte and below the Cadenza.

The K5’s silhouette is like water, as Bruce Lee poignantly stated. It flows when moving and looks fast when still. LED reflector headlights, an acoustic front windshield, 18” rims, and contrasting black trim components like the mirrors, rear lower bumper, glass roof, rear spoiler (GT-Line), B and C pillars, grille, and the lower front bumper enhance the vehicle’s aspirational influence.

Both K5s get down with a fuel-efficient (27 city and 37 highway MPG) 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, which is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This gives you 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The EX showed 441 miles per tank, which could be theoretically extended to 490 depending on the driving style. The journalist before me must have been in sprint mode mostly. There are no paddle shifters on the sporty flat-bottom steering wheel, so plan to use the manual mode of the aircraft-type shift knob to get the most out of the engine for acceleration. Push the T-shifter forward for up-shifts and pull backward for downshifts. Sport mode stiffens the steering for sure, which adds dynamics to the vehicle’s handling traits. The other Drive Modes are Smart, Normal, and Custom.

The Passion Red hue ($445) is always a beauty to admire on a sporty-looking ride. Kia enhanced the GT-Line appearance with two-toned 18″ sport alloy 5-star rims wrapped in grappling 35/45R18 Pirelli P Zero tires, a slight rear spoiler, unique leatherette seat trim, and artificial air intake vents behind the rear wheels (for styling). The dual integrated hexagonal exhaust covers (both trims) are a nice touch as well. Additionally, the GT-Line FWD Premium Package is a $1,600 option that drops in a panoramic Sunroof (black glass), LED projection lights, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Smart Cruise Control, and a wireless phone charger pad. All-Weather Drive (AWD) is available for consumers who desire elevated traction.

The interior is a value rendition of what you see in the Stinger or Optima. It certainly feels and looks familiar, especially with the 8” or 10.25” exposed touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen hosts the Rear View Camera, apps, audio, and navigation. The seats are marginally bolstered, heated, and ventilated (EX). My EX was also upgraded with the $3,400 EX Premium Package that included the 10.25″ touchscreen with MapCare and a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system. But why the plastic wood layers Kia? This is not the theme of this particular model, in my opinion.

I didn’t have much time to load up with shopping essentials, but the K5 does have a sizeable trunk. I was surprised.  Amazingly, Kia is offering its Drivewise Driver-Assistant Technology as standard on the K5 and includes a boatload of safety prevention mechanisms. Owners will be assured knowing their K5  features Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Following Assist, High Beam Assist, Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, and Driver Attention Warning. Many automakers make you pay in options for these technologies.

2021 K5 EX 1.6T FWD

K5 is offered in four trim levels (LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX) and a furious GT that is coming sometime before December. That variant is equipped with an 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission and a 2.5-liter turbocharged GDI + MPI four-cylinder engine producing 290-horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. Expect bigger brakes and paddle shifters in the GT.

I look forward to the prospect of the valued Kia K5 becoming a driveway norm. It’s refreshing and stylized. It’s not thrilling in terms of performance until the GT touches down, but does offer a little of both to keep the buying contingent appeased.

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