2021 Kia K5 EX Review By Cliff Leppke Kia rolls into 2021 with a newly minted midsize sedan—the K5, which replaces the Optima. It shares the Hyundai Sonata’s “N3” platform but has its own sort-of-Stinger vibe. Pick from one of two turbo mills. I drove the entry-level 180-hp 1.6-liter engine with eight speed automatic transmission and the Premium EX package. It’s well equipped; the MSRP is $32,355. While styling is its virtue or vice, I’ll move our exploration of the tricked-out K5 to its 10.25-inch touchscreen, forward collision avoidance with junction turning assist, two power front seats with lumbar, cruise control with stop and go, highway driving assist (lane following), heated and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charger, heated steering wheel, electronic parking brake with auto hold and 18-inch alloy wheels. Pizzas don’t have this many toppings. The engine gets the short shrift, though. It’s downright rude. It conspired to make my usual backroad bombing route a detour into growls and grunts neither sporting nor alluring. Plus, there’s too much wheel spin at launch. Showoff. Yet there’s not enough oomph for uphill merging onto the highways. Sport mode sometimes lets the engine rev too high for too long. Shod with 18-inch tires, the K5 responded crisply with good steering heft, although the steering wheel’s clockspring emitted “This Old House” sawing noises. Good for a home improvement show, lousy for a car. Wisconsin’s rocky road textures upset the car’s composure, even tossed in off course. This behavior wasn’t alarming, however. It drifts wide when cornering a safe mainstream sedan trait. Its jazzy styling is fresh. The front’s boomerang, EKG pulse lamps, would give Virgil Exner with his dart-like Forward Look a coronary. Kia simply zigs and zags better than those 1950s dreamboats. A snazzy Sapphire Blue hood extends forward uninterrupted toward a dragon scale, (Kia calls it shark skin) concave grille. Bright accents flow atop the greenhouse. And there’s a curious short deck treatment straight out of the VW CC stylebook—a black applique on the rear lid makes the backlight seem longer. It’s surrounded by bright trim. You do sit a tad lower in this car, though, a sporting position, which I liked. Instrumentation echoes a Mercedes’ with what looks like a large rectangular panel. It and the infotainment screen are problematic. For example, there are too many icons crammed into the trip/info screen. The curious touchscreen graphics resemble neon signage as the radio frequency display. I found it difficult to operate while driving, as bumps cause my fingers to slide across its glossy surface. You must touch “radio” multiple times to cycle through bands. Touch points (tuning arrows) are too small, plus the dedicated spots on the screen’s sides lack divots. It’s a sleek showroom standout that doesn’t pan out in daily use. Tuning knob please! The “natural” voice interface didn’t understand my vocals. Sometimes it went into “points of interest” when uttering an address. Other times it preferred to send me 50 blocks astray. Chalk that up to skimpy address-screen info. Driver controls, such as the T-shaped shift lever, work well. Kia mounts glossy plastic fins on the armrests near the window controls. These serve as pulls—handy because the doors open nearly 90 degrees. Twisting a rotary knob lets you select drive modes and unlit finned toggles on the steering wheel are simple to use. Some interior decorations sparkle including the dashboard’s metal scuff plate-like vent garnish. In contrast, obvious overhead plugs, unhemmed headliner at the C pillars and electrical-tape wrapped trunk-lid wiring mar the luxo effect. Yet, you get a carpeted parcel shelf and deck lid bottom. Kia’s shelf-like plastic wood trim comes from the same plastic-tree forest as Subaru. It wraps Audi-like toward the rear doors. The K5 is economical at the pump. I saw 32.5 mpg. Its EPA numbers are 27 mpg city, 37 highway and 31 combined. This Kia’s front cross traffic alert with braking should reduce forward mishaps. It also beeps when the vehicle in front of you moves forward and you don’t. Kia says there’s a GT version with 290 horsepower and optional AWD. Perhaps a different driveline might make this looker a mover too.