2024 Kia K5 GT-Line Review and Test Drive
Kia's stylish midsize sedan is an excellent choice, except for two significant flaws.
Midsize sedans are having anything but a moment. In recent years, the segment has faded faster than a Route 66 motel after the interstate went through, leaving just seven models from which to choose. You could argue that's still too many for the number of travelers seeking a family-friendly four-door with a trunk. You could also argue that people concerned about rising inflation, high loan payments, and steep gas prices should give traditional family cars another look instead of shopping for a three-row SUV equipped with a third row they'll rarely use.
The K5 replaced the Optima in 2021, and it hasn't proven as popular as its predecessor. While the wisdom of shelving the well-known Optima nameplate is debatable, the fading demand is more likely a reflection of consumer preferences shifting to compact crossover SUVs, as can be seen in skyrocketing Kia Sportage sales.
There are good arguments in favor of crossovers. Still, sedans are typically more affordable and fuel-efficient while providing superior driving dynamics on pavement, where you spend most of your time. And the 2024 Kia K5 would be well worth your consideration if not for two significant flaws.
2024 Kia K5 Prices Reflect Exceptional Value
Kia sells the K5 in LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT trim levels, and base prices range from the mid-$20,000s to the mid-$30,000s, including the destination charge to ship the car from the West Point, Georgia, factory that builds it to your local dealership.
For this K5 review, I test-drove the GT-Line in Southern California. Highlights from the optional equipment list included the Premium package, Panoramic Sunroof package, a cargo mat, carpeted floor mats, and extra-cost paint, bringing the test vehicle's manufacturer's suggested retail price to $30,530, including the $1,125 destination charge. Kia provided the car for this K5 review.
Eye-Catching Style, Upscale Interior Design
During the photo shoot for this review, I heard a group of cyclists approaching from behind me. They were talking about the Kia. All were making remarks about the car's good looks and terrific paint color. One asked what it was, while another said it was a Kia. As they rode by, it was clear the K5's styling is not a problem.
That sentiment extends to the interior, where the K5 looks sporty, upscale, and European as long as you don't allow your eyes to linger too long on the acres of hard, glossy plastic. I don't know how much it would cost Kia to cover those door and center console panels with a dull matte finish, but that would eliminate the K5's cheap look and feel in several spots.
Nevertheless, the test car's panoramic glass roof, impressive detailing, and sensation of solidity each time you use the transmission shifter are remarkable for a well-equipped new car priced at around $30,000.
Regarding the control layout, Kia keeps it simple. Aside from the menu shortcuts surrounding the infotainment screen, only the screen itself is touch-sensing. Otherwise, you get well-marked buttons and knobs placed in logical locations. All that's missing is a radio tuning knob.
Comfort Is King, but SynTex Is Sticky
Kia wraps the K5 GT-Line's seats in SynTex artificial leather with cloth inserts. The materials look good, but my jeans and SynTex did not get along well due to friction that made the fake leather seem sticky.
That's a shame because otherwise, aside from omitted rear air-conditioning vents (you can get them with EX and GT trim), Kia nails the comfort equation. In addition to the 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat (standard starting with GT-Line trim), every 2024 K5 has a manually operated front passenger-side seat-height adjuster. In addition, the EX and GT offer a 10-way power-adjustable front seat for the passenger as an option.
That's not the end of the comfort story. Heated front seats are standard in all but the K5 LXS, while a heated steering wheel is available on the K5 GT-Line and higher trims. The K5 EX has ventilated front seats, which are an option on the K5 GT.
Back-seat passengers benefit from generous legroom, a proper seating position, and excellent leg support. When the K5 has the available panoramic sunroof, headroom might be tight for taller people.
Plenty of In-Car Storage and a Roomy Trunk
Stash space for smaller items is plentiful, but some interior storage locations lack a lining, so items placed within them may rattle or create scraping noises as you drive.
As far as cargo space is concerned, the Kia K5 provides a roomy 16 cubic-foot trunk. The lid opens wide when you release it using the remote keyless entry fob. Or, you can turn on the Smart Trunk function, which will recognize the fob's presence. With this feature, the lid will open after standing behind the K5 for a few seconds.
2024 Kia K5 Infotainment System Review: Don't Forget Your Smartphone Cable
Kia equips the K5 LXS with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while other trims feature a more comprehensive 10.3-inch touchscreen display. With either one, distinctive iconography and color themes add some personality to the technology.
Oddly, though, the base K5 LXS includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while higher trim levels require you to tether to the technology using a cable and the USB data port. That's the opposite of expectations but has been a long-standing issue with Kia infotainment systems.
Navigation is standard with the larger screen, perhaps a concession to owners who forgot their smartphone cable and can't run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Other benefits with the bigger display include satellite radio and Kia Connect connected services.
As a part of Kia Connect, the car offers access to a cloud-based digital assistant that recognizes naturally spoken queries and commands. The test car had no active subscription to this service, so I couldn't evaluate it.
The standard voice recognition technology is unimpressive. It requires the use of specific commands, and frequently could not understand me or gave me inaccurate information. For example, when I searched for an address in Washington, D.C., the system did not distinguish between the state of Washington and the District of Columbia.
The takeaway here is don't forget your smartphone cable and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead of the native tech.
2024 Kia K5 Highway Driving Assist Review: Setting Class Standards
The Kia K5 is not a tech-heavy automobile, but there isn't a shortage of advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS) or safety features. Still, none of the software in the world can compensate for some apparent crashworthiness deficiencies that cropped up in the latest round of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests.
Stricter requirements in those IIHS assessments reveal the K5 earns a Poor rating for moderate overlap frontal-impact protection and a Marginal rating for side-impact protection. Previously, the K5 earned Good ratings in the older versions of those evaluations.
Fortunately, the standard Kia Drive Wise collection of ADAS is generous so that you may be able to avoid a collision in the first place. It includes the expected crash-avoidance systems, plus some unexpected enhancements at the price. For example, the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems actively try to prevent collisions instead of merely warning a driver. In addition, every K5 has a safe exit assist system.
Since many people stop in traffic or at an intersection and check their devices for messages or email, the K5 also has a standard Leading Vehicle Departure Alert. When traffic ahead starts to move, you get a notification that it's time to go. Of course, it doesn't work when you're the leading vehicle, but in other situations, it's helpful.
Numerous additional safety features are available. Highlights include cyclist detection, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera, and an intersection assist function that can automatically brake to avoid a collision. The K5 also offers Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Kia's semi-autonomous driving aid that pairs adaptive cruise control with lane-centering assist.
My test car had HDA, and in my opinion, it is one of the best systems of its kind. You're aware of its operation, but the inputs are smooth and subtle rather than sudden and sharp, so HDA doesn't aggravate you, add stress, or engender distrust.
It performed beautifully on the curves of the Pacific Coast Highway heading north from Malibu, ignored exit and entrance ramps on a typical expressway with two lanes of traffic in each direction, and mastered the bends of the multilane 101 freeway as it climbs the Conejo Grade in Ventura County. In addition, it traversed dirty and dusty two-lane farm roads without an issue until mud completely obscured the yellow center lines.
As impressed as I am with HDA, there is room for improvement. First, the system's delayed reaction to slower vehicles moving out of the lane ahead is excessive. Second, HDA flunked a critical test on a rural road where the lane kinked right and left to accommodate left-turn lanes at a T intersection. Otherwise, HDA is mighty impressive. Kia seems pretty close to offering a hands-free driving-assistance system.
Turbocharging Is Standard, All-Wheel Drive Is Optional
Most 2024 Kia K5 models have a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 180 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 rpm and 4,500 rpm. Those are not impressive numbers, but the power distribution makes the K5 feel lively except when attempting to pass at higher speeds.
If you want a powerful sedan, look no further than the Kia K5 GT. The top trim has a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 290 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 311 lb-ft of torque between 1,650 rpm and 4,000 rpm. I haven't driven a Kia K5, but within the family of Hyundai Motor Group brands, the Hyundai Sonata N-Line is the equivalent, and it's a speedy car.
The smaller engine uses an eight-speed automatic transmission to power the front wheels, and all-wheel drive is available with GT-Line trim. The GT gets an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive, and a Sport+ driving mode with a launch-control system. In addition, the GT features a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes, faster steering, larger wheels, and stickier tires.
The K5 GT-Line Is a Daily Driver, Not a Sports Sedan
After the K5's disappointing IIHS crash-test results — it struggled to pass the updated moderate front overlap test — fuel economy is a consideration for drivers. According to the EPA, the K5 GT-Line should get 27/37/31 mpg in city/highway/combined driving. On my evaluation loop, the test car averaged 23.8 mpg on a cool, cloudy day that didn't tax the climate control system.
Worse, during a week of driving the K5 more than 300 miles, it averaged 24.5 mpg. That included a day trip with lots of highway driving. Unfortunately, Kia doesn't offer a hybrid powertrain in the K5, as you'll find in the automaker's Sportage model. That would likely resolve the problem.
Otherwise, the K5 GT-Line is good to drive. Stomping hard on the gas pedal isn't the trick to swift acceleration. Instead, you learn to ride the engine's wave of torque and the transmission's snappy shifts by progressively pushing harder on the accelerator. The compliant ride is perfect for the daily drive, while athletic handling rewards you if you take the fun road home. The K5 GT-Line is also remarkably quiet at highway speeds.
However, the GT-Line's steering isn't particularly satisfying, and the brakes baked under duress while descending the writhing Mulholland Highway from more than 1,000 feet of elevation down to sea level. So, if you plan to drive enthusiastically, get the K5 GT.
Fix the Flaws, and the Kia K5 Could Be a Class Leader
Stylish design, a comfortable cabin, and significant bang for your buck are the hallmarks of the 2024 Kia K5. In addition, the K5's Highway Driving Assist system is a class leader, and the car's large trunk adds plenty of practicality. Unfortunately, fuel efficiency is not this Kia's forte, and the latest IIHS crash-test ratings reveal safety concerns.
Since a recent Statista survey found those to be the two most important factors when people buy a new car, Kia has some work to do before the refreshed 2025 Kia K5 arrives to take on the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and other midsize sedans.