Kia K5 is optimal

2022 Kia K5 EX. Metro Creative Services photo

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2022 Kia K5 EX. Metro Creative Services photo

Former Kia Optima, now K5 stays competitive in tight segment

My favorite comedian Jerry Seinfeld did a bit about car names and how they try to sound as impressive as possible. And in many ways he is right. Why bring this up? Well my tester this week went through a name change from one that sounded close to optimal to one that sounds like the move on a chess board.

This week’s tester is the 2022 Kia K5, which used to be known as the Optima (oh so close to optimal). I rather liked the Optima name just as I rather liked the Optima as a car. It is the equivalent to its Korean sibling the Hyundai Sonata and rivals the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. You know all the names in this segment.

It used to be the chic segment. It used to be the best sellers – until it all changed. Now sedans like the K5 are all but forgotten, so it seemed strange to me to rename it and have to work on rebranding it. As for the 2022 version, nothing changes (not even the name) as it’s a straight carry over from the 2021 model year. I didn’t get a chance to drive the 21 version, so this felt like a vehicle to me yet it also felt familiar.

Everything I used to like about the Optima is still there for the K5. This is a sedan that has personality when you drive it. There are two engine options for the K5, both of which are turbocharged. The base 1.6-liter seems adequate, but thankfully my tester was the 2.5-liter four-cylinder which was good for 290 horsepower. The robust engine adds oomph and personality to the car’s performance. So many sedans are dull but the K5 is quite the opposite.

A dual-clutch eight-speed automatic transmission is even better, offering quick, athletic shifts. What little you lose in fuel economy with the bigger engine you more than make up for with enthusiasm. It’s a fair trade off, for sure.

On looks the K5 feels exotic. While it’s Korean-made, it has more of a European vibe with the small, squinty grille and the sleek hood. Duel exhaust pipes show the more aggressive side to this car and the taillights span the width of the back end adding a sporty look. My tester lacked a spoiler and that really seemed to be one missing element that would have completed the sporty appearance.

Where the Kia even separates itself from Hyundai (and the other Asian competition) is in the youthful, but upscale interior. For a vehicle meant to be economy-focused, my tester poured on the niceties with leather seats, soft touch points and an overall high-quality cabin. Road noise was minimal too, which is an area they have over their competition too.

The 16-cubic-foot trunk is big enough and feels average for the segment but doesn’t feel small either. The extra-large opening adds to the cavernous cargo area.

A 10.25-inch touchscreen is an upgrade from the standard 8-inch screen. Integration with smart phones is seamless and the K5 has ample technology that is simple to use. Kia’s UVO infotainment system is intuitive and presents itself neatly and feels modern.

My tester was the 2022 Kia K5 EX with the 2.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive (FWD). I usually prefer all-wheel drive, but the FWD seemed to suit this car and I didn’t even miss not having AWD. Base price for my tester was $28,950. The very base trim (LX) has a starting price of $23,690.

With the bigger engine, the fuel economy rating is lower than the smaller engine. As such EPA rating for my tester is 24 mpg/city and 32 mpg/highway. I came very close to still averaging 30 mpg (just over 29 mpg) despite a heavy foot. I will take the peppier engine and just a couple of MPG different than a slower, less impressive engine.

Don’t get hung up on the name. The K5 is still an optimal sedan against some big, well-known names.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2022 Kia K5 EX

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $28,950/$28,950
  • Mileage.......................................... 24 mpg/city; 32 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 290 hp/311 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ West Point, GA

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