2021 Kia K5 GT Review by Ben Lewis

When we recently tested the all-new Kia K5 GT-Line, we came away hugely impressed – a great looking and driving car. We found the 1.6-liter, turbo 4-cylinder to have plenty of punch, but we did think some added juice would make this even more fun.

And now we have the Kia K5 GT (not to be confused with the GT-Line) with a 290-horsepower, 2.5-liter, turbo four. Well, that got our attention! But should it get yours? Let’s take a look.

Blue Thunder!

Like our previous K5, the GT shares the platform with the new Hyundai Sonata (we recently tested the Hybrid model), and the Kia is definitely the sportier sibling. The GT is very much a twin to the sporty GT-Line – they both share a more aggressive body kit, leading with a Hyper Silver GT shark-skin inspired mesh grille, LED “Heart Beat” LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, and blacked-out mirrors with LED turn signal indicators. Handsome, fresh and modern.

The silhouette remains sleek and Audi like, with a graceful profile that looks like a hatchback, that looks even more Audi-licious in the GT, thanks to larger 19-inch alloy wheels.  It all makes the latest Accords and Camrys look a bit frumpy in comparison!

Around back, more shark-skin mesh design teamed up with an LED light that runs the full width of the back is an athletic finish to a stunning design. Outside of the alloys, a unique quad-tip, dual exhaust and GT badge are your only clue that you went bucks up for more power.

Our Sapphire Blue tester was a gorgeous hue, and we got lots of thumbs up on the K5’s looks. We still love Wolf Gray the best, but that’s just us.

Jet Blue Cabin

Inside, the GT is once-again similar to the GT-Line, no problems there!

Feeling much like its big brother, the Stinger, a large horizontal dash features clear analog gauges in front of the driver, framed by a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel – heated on our heavily-optioned tester. Nice.

Another upgrade on our GT was the optional 10.25-inch touch screen which sits large and lovely on the dash. It’s loaded with nice tech including Navi, Bluetooth that lets you connect two phones simultaneously, along with Kia’s excellent UVO telematics system for easy setup and use.

A bit of a head-scratcher, when you upgrade from the standard 8-inch system, you lose the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the bright side, you do get the excellent 12-speaker Bose Premium Audio system, which includes the “Ambient Sounds of Nature” feature – Snowy Village anyone? – and there’s a cool retro “tube” display for the tuner.

You’ll enjoy the time you spend listening to the audio. We love the GT’s unique front sport seats – excellent and supportive – and with the GT1 Package, they’re heated and ventilated, too. The rear seats are truly spacious with loads of legroom – Uber drivers take note! The rear seats fold as well, and while the K5 is not a hatch, a generous pass-through gives excellent flexibility when you need to carry gear.

Blew By You

So, you pretty much can get a K5 GT-Line and enjoy all of the above – where’s the money going? Under the hood, my friends! Where our GT-Line had a stout little 1.6-liter turbo 4 pumping out 180 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, it pales in comparison to the GT’s 2.5-liter turbo 4 that serves up a heaping 290 horsepower, and 311 lb.-ft of torque at just 1,650 rpm.

And it gets better. Instead of the quite likable 8-speed automatic of other K5’s, the GT gets an all-new 8-speed dual clutch transmission which fires off rapid shifts – use the paddles for extra fun! – and keeps you happily in the GT’s meaty powerband just about all the time. No lag, no drag, and an easy 0-60 in close to 5 seconds. Oh my…. You find yourself hunting down those expensive European sedans, trying not to smirk.

What’s not to love? Well, the GT is only offered in front wheel drive – lesser models can get AWD – and with this much power, it’s easy to chirp or even spin those fronts. Very easy. Give it a little too much toe, and you have heads turning, looking for the dork who’s trying to patch out of the Target lot. Exercising a little caution goes a long way.

At least Kia steps things up on the GT with larger brakes (a very good idea), faster steering ratio, and a sport-tuned suspension. We like that Kia didn’t go overboard and make a hard -riding performance special. Its ride is firmer than the GT-Line, but still quite refined and comfortable, truly living up to the GT (Grand Touring) name.

You’ll tour in confidence, too. All K5’s have the “Kia Drive Wise” safety suite, which includes Forward Collision Warning and Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Following Assist, and even Leading Vehicle Departure Alert – a neat little chime that tells you the vehicle in front of you has pulled away. Sure beats getting honked at by the person behind you!

Our tester had the GT1 package – a boat-load of goodies – that includes Cruise Control that uses the Navigation to proactively slow the car for upcoming curves, as well as stop and go. Nice for the commute. You also get an upgraded Forward Collision System that adds Cyclist detection and  Junction Turning that can step in when you’re turning left and an oncoming vehicle is approaching. Pretty cool.

Blue Light Special?  

So, here’s saving the best for last. While our GT-Line was a pretty impressive value starting at $25,490, we’d have to say the GT, starting at just $30,590 is a screaming performance bargain! That low price leaves plenty of room for some tasty options, like our tester’s GT1 Package ($4,000), and Carpeted floor and Cargo mats ($155 and $95). Add in $965 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $35,705.

Load up a Camry SE V6, and you’re at $36,799. And the Accord 2.0T Touring is $38,800. We think the Kia just looks and feels a step ahead. And if you want to price the Audi A5 Sportback look-alike, you’re probably near $50k when you load it up.

We love the Kia K5 GT. Great style, addicting power, Euro-vibe and Kia value. Or save a bundle and get the GT-Line. It’s win-win either way!

 

 

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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