2011 Kia K5 (Optima)

The new offering from Kia the K5 has been unveiled at the L.A Auto Show that is currently ongoing and is one of the most eagerly awaited cars in Kia’s line-up. This is because the Optima was one of the odd cars in terms of design and styling (it did not have any). The new 2011 Kia K5 takes on a new persona in the D-segment and has a unique concept to its name as well. In Korean the word for the number ‘5’ sounds a lot like ‘oh’ and this would make the K5 a ‘K.O.’, well at least that’s what Kia hopes it is.

Looking at the new Kia K5 it is easy to come to the conclusion that Kia has got off to a great start if they are planning on making the K5 a knockout. The K5 does not look like any of the previous Optima’s and this present generation model has very aggressive styling and a certain appeal that really makes it stand out. For those of us who are true car connoisseurs though a closer look will reveal some amount of design discord and it seems as though Kia has put in loads of crisp lines and creases to increase the masculinity of the vehicle but they may have been overdone.

One of the main visual drawbacks is probably the chrome door strip running from the top of the windows, crossing the rear door and ending at the trunk. As it passes towards the rear quarter panel it creates a disharmony of lines that look like ‘Attila the Hun’ was having a bit of fun. The rear of the car features some more disarray in design as the taillights that seem to be inspired from the Audi blend in with the trunk lid decently from distance but then seem to go off on a tangent and form a lip mid way down the boot giving the rear an unpleasant ‘Bugs Bunny’ bucktooth look.

The front of the car also displays come non cohesive elements and the front grille, fender and hood have lines and curves that seem afterthought at all levels. The current fad which are LED lights do not blend in well with the fog lights as the white light of the headlamps clashes against the yellow light from the incandescent fog lamps. Also the fog lights are positioned weirdly and do not follow the contours of the vehicle.

The inside of the 2011 Kia K5 is impressive if you have one-dimensional eye-sight. What I am trying to say, is that if you look at each element individually then you may be impressed. What designers at Kia look like they have done, is given each part of the interior to a different designer without sharing the designs of the other elements. This results in there being no cohesiveness between; say the dashboard and the door panels. It seemed that Kia designers never thought these areas may appear together. The door panes are in themselves a non-thought out affair with the speakers protruding like a sore thumb and make the door look very lop-sided.

The steering wheel is also smaller than you would expect and is cluttered with a dozen buttons that make the Airbus A380 look like child’s play. Saying that a quarter of those buttons are meant for the K5’s cruise control, which is not normally found in mid-sized Korean cars and should make the engineers at neighboring Hyundai quite jealous as both their mid-sized offerings the Sonata and Grandeur do not have the cruise control option.

Another cool function of the steering wheel is the fact that it is heated, but you would need a map to find the activation switch as it is well hidden and obscured by the four spoke steering wheel. The K5 again is one of the only Korean made cars to have it. All seats are also equipped with the same heating facility and use a special anti-bacterial polymer called Heatex that supposedly provides a more uniform heating while using infrared waves to help stimulate the occupants internal organs. In countries where there is enough heat provided by the outdoors and your internal organs do not need any more stimulation the Heatex option can be switched for cooled seats. These work effectively and quickly but can be a tad noisy when the car is idling at a stoplight or likewise.

Driving the Kia K5 is quite comfortable and the front seats are very accommodating although they could do with a bit more bottom cushioning as the seat position is low and this could lead to some discomfort on long drives. The front cabin space if very good and offers ample legroom and head room. The rear of the car is also very spacious with adequate legroom although head room may feel tight owing to the lower roof line of the K5 than its rivals the Camry, Sonata and Accord. If I were to be picky, the outside view from the rear seats is restricted as the windows sweep upwards. Combining this with the relatively low roofline could make occupants at the back feel slightly claustrophobic.

The passengers at the rear also enjoy the luxury of having their own a/c vents, but you would have to opt for the automatic transmission for your rear seat occupants to get that benefit. Nonetheless the rear vents add a touch of class to the Kia K5. Ride in the K5 is comfortable overall and noise levels are also kept to a minimum. The engineers at Kia have actually done quite a bit to make the cabin quiet and have added more insulation than some of the cars from their siblings at Hyundai. Saying this, the feel of the interior is still at the lower end of the luxury stakes, and is lacking in coherence and cohesiveness on all levels.

The Kia K5 employs the same 2.4 liter GDI unit that does its job in the Hyundai Sonata although a keen observer will notice a few subtle changes under the hood. The Kia K5 has a single gas strut inside the front wheel arch as opposed to two used on the Sonata and it also has a lower, wider, better integrated air intake than the Sonata. There are also some key engineering elements that are used to reduce noise levels like more insulation near the firewall as well as a differently shaped cowl near the wipers.

The 2011 Kia K5 will undoubtedly be quite a hit for the Korean car manufacturer as it is generally quite an attractive looking vehicle which is well equipped and moderately priced. But that is just what it is. You do not get any more than you expect out of it and that may tend to disappoint buyers. It does not have the necessary refinement that is required in D-segments vehicles and will make it difficult to compete with its rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. There are those niggling elements that would not have taken a genius to refine like the placement of the KIA logo on top of the grille instead of in it, blacked out roof looks out of place and alloy wheels look like cheap hubcaps. Driving dynamics are quite close to the Sonata but it falls short of being the expected K.O. that Kia would be hoping for.

The Kia K5 falls short on a number of front and is not a sporty car not is it a complete easy riding sedan. It will appeal in terms of its styling and design to those who are not too concerned and picky about refined looks as it has lines and creases all around (even if they are not coherent). The engine could do with a bit more power and it is more likely that buyers would prefer the better looking interiors of the Sonata over the Kia K5. We will have to wait and see how well the K5 does in the U.S. and only time will tell.

2011 Kia K5 Specifications

Vehicle Category: Sedan
Engines (petrol): 2.4 L, 4 cylinder, GDI, 200 HP, 345 Nm torque
Engine (petrol): 2.0 L, 4 cylinder, Turbo GDI, 274 HP, 420 Nm torque
Drive train: Front engine, 5 passenger, 4-door sedan, FWD
Transmissions (standard): 6-speed auto
Curb Weight: 2389 kg
0-100 kph: 6.8 secs (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 9.3 / 11.8 kmpl
Base Price: $ 25,000 (est.)

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