It’s Here! The Definitive 2021 Kia K5 Buyer’s Guide

by Jul 28, 2020All News, Kia, USA0 comments

Kia K5

Rarely if ever do we see cars on dealer lots so soon after an automotive debut, but that’s exactly the position we are in with the all-new Kia K5, a car that has seen an impressive amount of media attention but which is in a declining market segment. Can the K5 turn things around for midsize sedan sales? With this buyer’s guide, you’ll be in a better place to do your part to fight the crossover craze and bring back the sedan.

First off, I want to confirm that, yes, the rumors are true, and there are some features missing from the US-spec K5. We unfortunately don’t get the fully digital instrument cluster or the rotary transmission selector. Also, we don’t get a full leather option, at least not yet. It seems like some of these decisions were made to keep cost down, but we definitely wouldn’t object to a higher trim model that incorporates all the goodies for just a little bit more money. Really, what’s the harm?

Now that I’ve got the bad news out of the way, there is so much to love about the new K5 that you might just be willing to forgive Kia and put one in your driveway anyway. From the available AWD to the standard LED headlights to the available red interior and 290 horsepower GT trim, there’s a lot to talk about.

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT in Sapphire Blue

A note about the prices in this buyer’s guide:

In this buyer’s guide, I’m always including destination charges, because who wants to find out later that there’s an extra $1,000 you have to pay. On the other hand, I can’t include tax, title, and license because that’s going to differ greatly based on where you buy your K5. If you’re a halfway decent negotiator, you should be able to get out the door around the prices listed in this guide.

Kia K5 LX – Penny Pinchers Rejoice – $24,455

Picture caption: Kia K5 LX in Passion Red Tint Coat

The base model of the Kia K5 in the US surprises with a fairly high level of standard features for a competitive price. For the base price listed above, you must choose an exterior color of Everlasting Silver, which is a slightly darker gray than you might imagine by the name of the color, or Ebony Black. You can also opt for Glacial White Pearl or Passion Red Tint Coat for $445 extra, increasing the price for those colors to $24,900.

From a performance perspective, the LX offers a 1.6L turbocharged four cylinder engine mated to a standard 8-speed automatic, and comes in front-wheel-drive only. The engine puts out 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, similar to other applications of the Hyundai and Kia 1.6 turbo engine.

The K5 LX comes standard with amber LED daytime running lights which double as turn signals in the signature heartbeat shape of the K5, and standard LED headlights and high beams. However, the taillights are traditional bulbs and don’t offer the dotted LED strip across the trunk as in more expensive models. Lower trim K5s like the LX have a wide tiger nose grille that extends all the way to the outer edges of the headlights, whereas GT-Line and GT trims receive a sportier grille that isn’t quite as wide and looks more aggressive. The front bumper also receives smaller, yet still functional side air intakes with no integrated fog lights, and a simple lower grille with painted inserts that curve upwards on the sides of the lower grille.

At the back, the K5 LX has matte black lower rear bumper with a piece of silver trim that may look like the car’s exhausts, but which is just decorative trim. And the side rear vents are less aggressive and more obviously fake than higher trim levels of the K5. The LX receives simple five-spoke 16” alloy wheels in a dark gray color that’s almost black.

Picture caption: Kia K5 LX base model interior in black cloth

On the inside, the K5 LX is only available in a black cloth interior with painted gray trim on the dashboard. However, you still receive aluminum-look accents around the air vents, cupholders, door handles, and switchgear, which looks decidedly upmarket even in the base model car. Also standard are convenience features like dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto hold system that stops the car from moving at traffic lights even when you take your foot off the brake, and an electronic parking brake.

From an infotainment perspective, you receive an 8” touchscreen system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth streaming. In the gauge cluster you receive a 4.2” color display which allows you a large amount of control over all the car’s systems.

A suite of safety systems is standard as in other Kia models, including active forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, leading vehicle departure alert, lane keeping assist, lane following assist, high beam assist, hill start assist, and tire pressure monitoring which shows you your instant tire pressure for all four tires.

Picture caption: Kia K5 LX rear seat without adjustable headrests, middle armrest, or rear cupholders

Things you don’t get on lower trims of the K5 that you may miss include push-button start, charging ports in the rear seats, rear cupholders, adjustable rear headrests, 60/40 split folding rear seat option (the whole bench folds down as one piece), power adjustable driver’s seat, blind spot monitoring, and SiriusXM.

And only the LX receives the auto stop-start system for its engine. All other K5 models don’t come with this feature, which saves gas but tends to annoy drivers by turning the engine off when idling, often when it’s least convenient.

Kia K5 LXS – More Convenience Features and Optional AWD for Not Much More Coin – $25,455

Picture caption: Kia K5 LXS with AWD in Glacial White Pearl

The K5 LXS adds $1,000 to the LX’s price, but opens up some additional options and features, as well as being the lowest trim level to offer AWD. The powertrain remains the same on the LXS

While Everlasting Silver and Ebony Black continue as exterior color options at no extra cost, the LXS also allows you to opt for Gravity Gray (dark gray) and Crystal Beige (bronze-ish gold) as additional no-cost color options that aren’t available for the LX. Glacial White Pearl and Passion Red Tint Coat continue to be $445 options pricing these colors of the LXS at $25,900. From the outside, the only difference between the LX and the LXS other than the badge, is a gloss black trim on the lower rear bumper, rather than the matte black on the LX.

While the engine options are the same on the LXS, you can choose from front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive for an additional $2,100. Opting for all-wheel-drive also gets you heated front seats, as Kia assumes that you need AWD for those colder months. This brings AWD-equipped K5 LXS models with a premium paint color to exactly $28,000.

Picture caption: Kia K5 LXS with Sand Cloth interior

On the inside of the LXS, you can still get black cloth seats, or if you choose the white, beige, or black exterior colors, you can opt for Sand Cloth (beige) seats instead at no additional cost, which considerably lightens the colors in the cabin. The LXS also adds a smart key which includes standard remote start on the key fob, and a push-button start system. Rear passengers will also appreciate the LXS because they’ll get adjustable outboard headrests and a rear center armrest with cupholders. The rear bench has a 60/40 split design in the LXS so you can balance between passenger and cargo volume, not available on the LX. And the LXS adds a few more safety features, like active blind-spot avoidance, active rear cross-traffic avoidance, and safe exit assist for all doors. This alerts you if you’re about to open your door into traffic when parked on the side of the road.

Kia K5 GT-Line – A Sporty Look Inside and Out, But Don’t Expect Matching Performance – $26,355

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT-Line with AWD in Wolf Gray

The GT-Line has the same 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder as the LX, LXS, and EX, but offers a similar sporty experience as the K5 GT to add some appeal to the K5 lineup. It’s available in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive, and has a couple of different option packages to choose from.

The GT-Line is available in two colors at no extra cost, those being Ebony Black and the striking Sapphire Blue exterior color. Other colors available for $445 extra include Glacial White Pearl, Passion Red Tint Coat, and the GT and GT-Line exclusive Wolf Gray color, which is a less metallic primer-colored gray. It’s lighter than the Ceramic Silver color from the Stinger, and is only shared with the Telluride Nightfall Edition in the Kia lineup. The $445 paint option brings the K5 GT-Line to $26,800. The GT-Line also receives the GT front bumper, which includes a sportier upper grille that doesn’t continue as widely as the LX, LXS, and EX with a shark-tooth inspired pattern in the grille. The lower grille is also unique and extends into the side vents, which combine LED front fog lights with the functional vents for aerodynamics.

There’s also a unique rear bumper that contains sportier fake side vents in gloss black, a body-colored license plate area, and a lower gloss-black rear diffuser with dual rectangular exhaust tips and aerodynamic fins. While the headlights are the same LED units in the LX and LXS, the taillights on the GT-Line feature LED brake lights and that dashed red line with heartbeat ends across the trunk that’s an up-and-coming Kia signature. The trunklid also features a gloss black lip spoiler similar to the one on the Forte GT. There are additional gloss black elements on the car, such as the sharkfin antenna and side mirrors, which also integrate LED turn signals into the mirrors, unlike lower trims.

The GT-Line also gets unique 18” alloy wheels, painted black with some bright features around the rim.

On the inside, the K5 GT-Line features driver and passenger one-touch auto up/down windows, a 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, and a D-cut leather-wrapped steering wheel with the GT-Line logo at the bottom. Seating is a black cloth/leatherette combination with the GT-Line logo also stitched in white on the leatherette portion of the front seats. The seats and other interior trim also feature white stitching to match, and the headliner is black to keep with the sporty image. The GT-Line also adds two USB chargers in the rear console so rear passengers can charge their devices, something that’s not offered in the LX and LXS. Note that the GT-Line also does not receive the auto engine start-stop feature, and that’s good for the sports-oriented trim level in my opinion.

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT-Line Premium Packagewith GT-Line stitched logo on black leatherette/cloth combination seats

The GT-Line also offers a GT-Line Premium Package, which adds $1,600 to the K5 GT-Line’s price to bring the MSRP to a total of $28,400 if you choose one of the premium paint colors. That Premium Package upgrades the K5 GT-Line to a more advanced LED headlight, which instead of the reflector-style with four LED areas, two for low beam, two for high beam, in the regular K5, transitions to three lens-style LEDs that cover both the low and high beams. The Premium Package also features a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, which opens almost the entire roof to the sky. All interior lighting is also converted to LED, which in the back means that you get two smaller LED lights on either side of the panoramic sunroof, rather than the single unit in the middle of the ceiling on models without the panoramic sunroof. Other Premium Package features include the drop-in Qi wireless charger between the front seats, full smart cruise control, and an addition to the forward collision avoidance that can detect cyclists and can understand when you’re turning and inform you if someone is coming through the space you’re about to turn through to avoid accidents in intersections.

If you opt for the Premium Package, you can also add AWD to your GT-Line, for an extra $2,100. In the GT-Line, adding AWD also adds both heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Adding AWD to the Premium Package brings the MSRP of the GT-Line to $30,500 if you choose a premium paint color.

There is also an additional GT-Line AWD Special Edition Package that can be added on for another $800, bringing the maximum MSRP for a K5 GT-Line to $31,300. This package is only available in the Wolf Gray exterior color, but adds a unique red leatherette interior with black accents and piping and black stitched GT-Line badging on the seats. The red leatherette extends also to the center armrest in the front and the door armrests throughout the car and contrasts well with the black dashboard and headliner.

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT-Line with Special Edition Package and red leatherette seating

The Special Edition Package also upgrades the infotainment screen to a 10.25” unit that allows multiple devices to be connected at once, as well as built-in navigation with voice recognition. Note that the 10.25” unit does not allow wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That navigation system is also used to inform the smart cruise control system of upcoming curves in the road so as to reduce speed in case the system is set too high for the curve. It also includes Highway Driving Assist, a new feature from Kia that better understands lane dynamics on the highway to keep you centered in your lane and a safe distance behind the car in front when using smart cruise control.

Kia K5 EX – The Lap of Luxury, Minus the AWD – $28,955

Picture caption: Kia K5 EX Premium Package in Everlasting Silver

The EX trim of the Kia K5 offers a step up in terms of convenience and luxury amenities, really showing off what Kia is capable of in this department. For some reason, Kia decided to leave the all-wheel-drive system off the menu for the EX trim.

Available at no extra cost in Everlasting Silver, Gravity Gray (dark gray), Sapphire Blue, Crystal Beige, and Ebony Black, the K5 EX features the same exterior body treatment as the LXS. You can pay $445 for Glacial White Pearl or Passion Red Tint Coat, bringing the MSRP to $29,400. The EX features the same wheels as the GT-Line, but they are painted dark gray instead of black for the EX. The sharkfin antenna is painted gloss black for the EX, just as in the GT-Line.

Most of the luxury features on the EX can be seen on the interior. Inside, you can choose from three different colors of leatherette, all at no extra cost. Black leatherette is standard on all exterior colors, but you can also choose a sand (beige) leatherette with matching lower dashboard and interior door trim, which is only available on Glacial White Pearl, Gravity Gray, Crystal Beige, and Ebony Black. Also probably the most unique interior color of the K5 is the Ash Blue leatherette, which is a very light, almost baby blue that’s only available on Glacial White Pearl, Everlasting Silver, Gravity Gray, and Ebony Black K5s. This unusual color extends to the front center armrest and the door armrests on each door. The lower dash and door trim with the Ash Blue interior color contrasts in black, but the headliner is a lighter cream color that appears to clash with the seats, and in my opinion would really require a black headliner to work in this case.

Picture caption: Kia K5 EX Premium Package with Ash Blue leatherette

The EX trim gets a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade and full interior LED lighting standard, and also features three-stage heated and ventilated front seats, rear climate control vents, and simulated open-pore woodgrain accents on the dashboard and the door trim. It also includes SiriusXM (I am not sure why you can’t get this in any lower trim levels), UVO link functionality, drop-in wireless phone charging, and an extra USB charging outlet in the center console. It also adds rear parking sensors.

The K5 EX also has an optional Premium Package which costs an extra $3,400, bringing the price of the fully loaded K5 EX up to $32,800 if you opt for a premium paint color. The Premium Package includes rear LED taillights with the dashed LED line through the trunklid, as well as LED turn signals on the side mirrors. It also provides the larger 10.25” touchscreen with voice recognition, navigation, navigation-assisted smart cruise control, highway driving assist, and multi-device Bluetooth connectivity. The infotainment system is connected to a powerful 12-speaker Bose audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier. The Premium Package also adds a heated steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support and integrated memory system that will remember 2 different driver’s preferences, and extra safety features like safe exit assist, active collision avoidance in reverse, and advanced forward collision avoidance including cyclist monitoring and intersection turning assistance. There’s also a unique feature of power rear child-safety door locks which you can activate at any time as the driver to prevent children from exiting the rear of the vehicle from the inside.

Kia K5 GT – Real Performance To Back Up the Sporty Image – $31,455

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT1 in Sapphire Blue with quad exhausts

The top-of-the-line Kia K5 is, for now, the K5 GT, which will be available a little later in the year, probably waiting on the availability of that new 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s standard fare in the GT model. This 2.5L engine comes with 290 horsepower and an impressive 311 lb-ft torque that’s said to allow a 0-60mph time of just 5.8 seconds. That engine is connected to the front wheels via an 8-speed wet type dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters, and has a specially designed sport suspension and black brake calipers with a red “GT” badge emblazoned on them. However, the GT is not available with AWD.

It is, however, available at no extra cost in Sapphire Blue and Ebony Black, or, as in the other trim levels, you can add $445 to get Glacial White Pearl, Wolf Gray, or Passion Red Tint Coat, for a total cost of $31,900. Of course, this comes with the same sporty exterior trim as the GT-Line, with a few additional goodies. For one, the rear bumper features quad rear exhausts reminiscent of the Stinger GT, and for another, it receives unique 19” GT-style wheels.

On the inside, the K5 GT receives full black leatherette seating with red piping and stitching. There’s also red stitching in the door panels, and a sporty leather-wrapped, D-cut steering wheel with a “GT” badge at the bottom is ready for action. The steering is an electric motor driven steering system unique to the GT. Full LED interior lighting and an extra USB charging port in the center console round out the additions on the K5 GT interior. The panoramic sunroof is also standard.

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT black leatherette interior with red stitched GT badge

As you might imagine, you can add even more to the K5 GT in the form of the GT1 package, which is a $4,000 option that brings the K5’s price up to a high of $35,900. The GT1 package includes the full LED headlights similar to the GT-Line Premium Package, as well as a host of interior features.

Those features include three-stage ventilated seats (heated seats are already included in the GT), a heated steering wheel, leather-wrapped gear shift handle, and the 10.25” touchscreen upgrade with navigation, multi-device Bluetooth streaming, voice recognition, and smart cruise control features discussed on the GT-Line and EX. It also includes SiriusXM and the 12-speaker Bose audio system, and all the available safety features: safe exit assist, power rear child-safety door locks, rear parking sensors and active collision avoidance when reversing or turning in an intersection.

Picture caption: Kia K5 GT interior closeup

Noticeably absent from the GT1 package are full leather seating, 360-degree camera, heated rear seats, or drive-by-wire shifter. Might there be a GT2 package available in the future? Or maybe an SX or SXL option with more luxury features? 

Picture caption: Left, Kia K5 GT-Line AWD in Wolf Gray. Right, Kia K5 GT1 in Sapphire Blue

We’ll wait and see what else is in store for the K5, but for now, the K5 already makes a compelling argument for itself, and should keep some buyers away from crossovers for a little while longer.

Written by Kevin Rooney

Kevin is a massive Korean car fan who lives in Los Angeles, California. He currently drives a 2019 Kia Stinger GT2 and also owns or has owned a 2017 Kia Soul, 2012 Hyundai Veloster, 2004 Kia Sorento, and 2001 Hyundai Accent.

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