2021 Kia K5 GT Offers Quality Without Compromise - IMBOLDN
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“Times are tough” can be written in bold and underline in the year following a global pandemic. Everyone is looking to recover, regroup, and restart. While others are busy trying to predict the next cryptocurrency stock to pump and dump or trading gold for lumber, finding a good deal is turning into an Easter egg hunt. The Kia K5 GT is a rare case in modern times. It is a sedan that offers everything you want and needs for a fraction of the cost compared to its competitors. Old money buys tweed upholstered Bentleys, new money opts for vinyl wrapped Audis, but smart money should consider the 2021 Kia K5 GT. A modern sedan with the latest bells and whistles minus the premium cost. 

During my week-long drive in this Sapphire blue 2021 Kia K5 GT, it felt like I was the only one not falling for the ruse. The same way someone wearing sunglasses purchased at a gas station can look just as fashionable sitting next to someone wearing $450 shades. Kia Motors is a brand that reminds consumers that a good deal should not be a compromise. You should be able to afford the latest safety features, Bose audio system, modern styling, and performance for under $40k. 

Knowing Where You Stand in the K5 Line-Up 

One key detail I admire in the Kia K5 trim levels is the distinction. Go back a couple of decades to when vehicle trim levels had a noticeable difference. A base model looked visually different from a GT or premium option. If you’re struggling for the high-end of the spectrum, you do not want it to be mistaken for a run-of-the-mill base option. There is nothing more annoying than paying more for a vehicle just for a badge and an “appearance package” with no added performance or features. 

On the 2021 Kia K5, the LX base engine is a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder producing 180-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft of torque. Plenty of power to get from A to B while averaging 32 mpg. However, the model tested in this article was the GT variant. With the K5 GT1 package, customers get significant money’s worth of upgrades, starting with the engine. 

The GT ditches the 1.6-liter to make room for a healthy 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four producing a stout 290-hp and 311 lb.-ft of torque. Shifting the power is Kia’s first-ever eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, with available all-wheel-drive. 

The GT1 package also features a quad-tip dual exhaust system, a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, and GT brake calipers. Exterior add-ons include a rear spoiler, fog lights, and a front grille unique to the GT. 

Interior upgrades for the K5 GT include: 

  • A wireless charger
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • A/C vents for the rear seats
  • A 10.25-inch infotainment screen
  • Syntex bucket seats

The model shown was optioned with a black interior, but Kia does offer red upholstery for the GT. There is also an Ash Blue color choice which is a sort of grey that reminds me of the smoldering remains of a campfire.

Kia K5 Delivers Safety in Style 

The 2021 Kia K5 GT offers the latest in safety tech as standard. Such as full-length side curtain airbags, dual knee airbags for driver and passenger, and side airbags for front and rear occupants. Standard driver aids include:

  • Driver Attention Warnings 
  • Lane Keep Assist with Lane Follow Assist 
  • Leading Vehicle Departure Alerts
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alerts 

During the week-long road test, lane assist and adaptive cruise control made driving across Texas a more comfortable experience. However, it is essential to note that while these systems help keep the car on the road and in its lane, it is not an excuse to read a graphic novel while driving. These advanced safety driver aids are intended to work like a spotter when you need to look down at the infotainment screen or during moments when you need to take a hand off the wheel and open a can of soda. 

While on the subject, it is vitally important to state that as of 2021, there are no production cars on the market that are fully self-driving (no matter what the Tesla owner down the street tells you). 

Road Tripping in the 2021 Kia K5 GT

There is only one flaw I found in the 2021 Kia K5 GT. You hear a noticeable amount of wind noise coming from the driver-side door. It is not enough to be a deal-breaker, but you will notice it. Oddly enough, this same issue was brought up in the new 2021 Aston Martin Vantage when Car and Driver published its review, so it is an issue that can affect any vehicle regardless of status. 

The good news is that because the Kia K5 offers a 12-speaker Bose audio system, all I had to do was turn it up a notch and completely drown out the wind noise – problem solved. 

Kia’s Bose audio system also includes a program list of ambient background noises. Maybe listening to the sounds of the beach or campfire can help stressed motorists fight off-road rage tendencies. Whatever the purposes of these sounds are, they do manage to encourage a sense of tranquility. 

While the K5 does offer an all-wheel-drive, the model shown was only front-wheel drive. However, it does have a launch control when you select SPORT+ drive more, but damned if I was able to figure out how to engage it. More so, it brought up the question of who would even use it. The 2021 Kia K5 GT offers satisfying performance without the need for such a gimmick. It came off as peer pressure, as if the K5 needed to have launch control to justify the letters G and T added to its nameplate. 

Nevertheless, the 2021 Kia K5 GT feels comfortable going fast and its exterior styling means it will look good doing it. Kia even made a special note on its website to state that the K5 GT “outperforms the BMW 330i”, a direct competitor car with a starting price 10k higher than the GT. 

Smart Value without Compromise 

Over the course of a week, I drove the 2021 Kia K5 GT 860 miles and averaged 30 mpg. The GT1 package adds $4k to the bottom line, but you get a lot for it. The 2021 Kia K5 GT starts at $30k and as shown in this article, it was priced at $35,705. That puts it right at the doorsteps of its larger, more powerful sedan sibling – the Kia Stinger, which starts at $36k. 

My biggest criticism with this sporty sedan is not with the car but with Kia’s marketing team. In 2020, Kia debuted the K5 by using it as a stunt car. There were several online ads showing the Kia K5 doing handbrake spins and even a mid-air 360 spin. It looked great, so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out the production model cannot do any of those things. The commercials lied to me. Beyond that, the 2021 Kia K5 GT delivers on all fronts. It’s comfortable, spacious, reasonably priced in all variants, well equipped, fast enough to be fun, and offers styling that will stand out in a parking lot without breaking the bank.