Remark: K5 is for Korean market.
Overseas version is called Optima.
I guess I am becoming a
big fan of Peter Schreyer. Since his arrival to KIA, this long-time
Audi and Volkswagen designer has completely changed our view on the
Korean company. Among his various game-changing creations, the K5 is
definitely the best so far.
Viewing these pictures, one could easily conclude that it was the
junior Maserati Quattroporte that (FIAT boss) Sergio Marchionne
promised last year. No, the truth is far from that, of course. The K5
is a Korean response to Camry and Accord, i.e. a budget mid-size family
car. What Schreyer really successful is to
package it to appear like a rear-drive sport sedan. Given its FF
architecture, that proportion is really difficult to achieve. I am not
going to explain how this is done. Just take a closer look to its
waistline, hood, rear doors, C-pillars and taillights and you will find
So the K5 is probably the first Korean design (though by a German
designer) that could shame the best offerings from Europe. It makes the
Volkswagen Passat Mk6 dull (by the way, Volkswagen should not have
released Schreyer) and simply trumps any rivals – Ford Mondeo, Opel
Insignia and Citroen C5 included. That is perhaps its greatest
Apart from looks, the K5 has many things executed correctly. It is
built on the platform of Hyundai Sonata, no wonder it shares the same
2795 mm wheelbase and much the same modern hardware. It rides on
MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspensions at the rear, with
Amplitude Selective Dampers (a kind of mechanical adaptive dampers)
offered as option. Steering is powered by trendy electrical assistance.
Engines are modern as well, including the Sonata's 2.0-liter four,
2.4-liter GDI (gasoline direct injection) and 2.0-liter GDI twin-scroll
turbo engine, all are equipped with dual-variable valve timing. They
produce a respectable 165hp, 201hp and 274hp respectively, accompany
with excellent fuel economy when compare with its Japanese rivals'
port-injected fours and large-capacity V6s. In many ways, it sounds
more Volkswagen than Toyota.
Even the interior – traditional weakness of KIA – is well made. The
driver-oriented console is more intuitive to use than the symmetric
design on its Hyundai sister, and delivers a masculine sense. If Sonata
is designed primarily for female buyers, then the K5 must be for men.
Build quality is just as good as you would expect on Japanese and
European cars. All plastics on sight level are soft-touch and textured.
Premium trim level offers stitched leather seats, touch-screen
navigation and good sound system without causing too much pain on your
wallet. Moreover, the cabin offers plenty of space front and back.
However, once on the move the quality feeling is slightly let down by
mediocre noise insulation. Too much road and wind noise can enter the
cabin, so the KIA does not feel as refined as the best European rivals.
Chassis dynamics is better. The KIA has sportier suspension and
steering tuning than its Hyundai sister, so it delivers slightly better
handling and more feedback to the driver. Its body control and agility
are good. Ride quality might be a little too firm for some, but it's
not going to be a deal breaker. The steering is an improvement from
Sonata, not only having gained more weight but also got rid of the
strong self-centering of that car. Nevertheless, it is not the best
steering around. There are mainly two problems: it feels mushy and
imprecise on the straight ahead, requiring constant correction; and
feedback from the helm is still rather faint.
The powertrains are generally good, delivering good performance and
refinement for their class. The 2.0 GDI turbo engine is a sensible
replacement for traditional V6, thanks to its class-leading output and
lack of turbo lag. Ultimately, it does not match a good V6 for sound
and smoothness, but it is nonetheless a better compromise on the ground
of fuel saving. A pity the mandatory 6-speed automatic transmission
does not live up to expectation. While its gearshift is mostly
seamless, it reacts to throttle slowly. Manual mode is not particularly
responsive either. Otherwise the turbo could have been marketed as a
Overall, I have to say the new KIA sedan is a strong contender in the
mid-size segment, especially when you consider its impressive value for
money. Yes, it has some minor flaws in refinement, steering and
gearbox, so it is not going to be the best driver's car or the best
passenger's car in the class. As a whole package, however, it is highly
competitive. Taking into account its top-notch beauty, its market
success is pretty much guaranteed.