KIA K5 / Optima


Debut: 2015
Maker: KIA
Predecessor: K5 / Optima (2010)


 Published on 10 Dec 2015
All rights reserved. 


It is easy to mistake the new Kia K5 / Optima for a facelift the outgoing car, because it looks remarkably close to the 2010 version. However, it is actually a new generation. I won’t describe it all-new though, as it obviously sits on the same platform of the old car and have all hard points kept, whereas most mechanicals are adapted from the old ones rather than fully redesigned. In other words, this is a new generation in the same sense of Volkswagen Golf Mk6. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the progress it has made. The last generation K5 was a raw diamond. All it needed was fine polish to shine.

One thing the last K5 did so well was its exterior design by Peter Schreyer. The new car keeps its sporty profile and all the key features, but it improves the details to appear more elegant. The nose gets a new mesh grille, more stylish headlamps and reshaped bumper with stylish intakes. There are more fine chromed decorations to deliver a premium feel. At the back, the boot gets new bumper with pseudo diffuser to look sporty. In contrast, the new taillights become more civilized than the admittedly too aggressive old ones. The side profile is softened a little bit around the C-pillar, where the small rear quarter window is moved from the door to the body. Like the recent Jaguar XF, that move sacrifices some sporty flavours in exchange for improved sound insulation and visibility. Personally, I prefer the old C-pillar design as it made the car like a Maserati.

As it is built on the existing platform, the new K5 is barely 10 mm longer, 25 mm wider and 10 mm taller than the last generation, whereas wheelbase is boosted by 10 mm. Because the old car was rather weak on NVH suppression, Kia spent extra effort on the chassis construction, dramatically increasing the use of high-strength steel, structural adhesives and sound insulation. Torsional rigidity is therefore lifted by a whopping 50 percent. On the flipside, these efforts means the car fails to cut weight, in contrast to the industrial trend. Its kerb weight ranges from 1460 kg of the base model to 1630 kg of a fully loaded model, which is probably too much for a front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan these days.



Fortunately, in the cabin you will feel the extra weight well spent. This is also the most improved area of the new car. While the old cabin was outdated and low rent, the new one is a much nicer place. Yes, its design is somewhat plain, but at least a lot more pleasant to see than its sister car Hyundai Sonata (which sits on the same platform). Materials and build quality are vastly improved. Most plastics are soft-touch, and there are real metal inserts on dashboard and doors on more expensive models. The Nappa leather seats and upholstery look expensive. The switchgears and the steering wheel feel good. Sure, it is not as high-quality as Volkswagen Passat or other German premium brands, but it is at least good enough to match mainstream European sedans, let alone the Japanese and Detroit rivals it faces in the USA, its largest market. The touchscreen infotainment system is also intuitive to use, thanks in part to the center console which is oriented towards the driver as in BMWs. This cabin also offers plenty of space front and rear. The boost in wheelbase might be negligible, but rear legroom is noticeably even more generous. At the back, the boot is capacious and well shaped.

On the road, the stiffer chassis is proved to be solid and refined. The cabin is a lot quieter, as engine, wind and road noises are well insulated. The suspension irons out road imperfections more effectively, resulting in a quiet and comfortable ride. Keener drivers might prefer a stiffer suspension setup to counter body roll and sharpen response though. European version does get this with its specific tuning, but the sharper handling comes at the expense of ride comfort. Still, the K5 is no Mazda 6 in terms of driver appeal. Nor it is as versatile as Ford Fusion/Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat, which manage to please both worlds. More premium models get an electrical power steering with rack-mounted motor. It delivers decent precision and adequate weighting, but feedback is faint. Lesser models are paired with a cheaper EPS with column-mounted motor whose feedback is poorer still. The chassis dynamics of K5 is not exactly top-notch, though it is still decent enough to please the majority of family car buyers.


The K5 / Optima has a total of 5 engines for selection, but different countries have different offerings. In Korea and Europe, it starts with a 163 hp 2.0-liter engine with continuous variable valve lift and a 141 hp 1.7-liter turbo diesel. The latter is refined and tractable enough to eclipse the petrol in real world driving. In America, the cheapest engine choice is the familiar 2.4 GDI with 185 hp. As we have found in Hyundai Sonata, the latest version is actually worse than the old one, as it loses 16 horsepower and 6 pound-foot of torque but keeps the coarse soundtrack at high rev. Fortunately, now you can have a better option: 1.6-liter direct injection turbo with 180 hp. Combining high flexibility, good refinement and low fuel consumption, it is easily the pick of the bunch. Moreover, it can be mated with a smooth-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Comparatively, the 6-speed manual is less appealing, as the gearchange is neither slick nor precise.

At the top of the model tree is 2.0 GDI turbo engine. Again like its Hyundai cousin, it loses 29 hp and 9 lbft of torque in the name of smoother power delivery – I think the true reasons might be emission and fuel consumption tuning. With 245 hp and 260 lbft, it is not weak, but it no longer feels as potent as the Japanese V6 rivals. Stop watch proved this: Car and Driver took 6.8 seconds to crack 60 mph, whereas a Camry V6 recorded a full second less by the same magazine. The 160 kg extra weight this model carries also blunts performance.

However, with its focus now shifted to quality and refinement, the new K5 is undoubtedly a better, more rounded package than before. It should be highly competitive in the market and able to command higher prices.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
K5 / Optima 1.7CRDi
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1860 / 1465 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1685 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
141 hp
251 lbft
6-speed manual
R: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/60R16
1515 kg
126 mph (c)
9.4 (c)
-
K5 / Optima 1.6T
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1860 / 1465 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
180 hp
195 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
R: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/65R16
1465 kg
137 mph (est)
7.3*
19.1*
K5 / Optima 2.0T
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1860 / 1465 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
245 hp
260 lbft
6-speed automatic
R: strut
R: multi-link
-
235/45R18
1630 kg
149 mph (c)
7.0 (c) / 6.8*
17.3*




Performance tested by: *C&D




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