A grey 2021 Kia K5 is driving down a city street after winning the 2021 Kia K5 vs 2020 Kia Optima comparison.

Going Head-to-Head: 2021 Kia K5 vs 2020 Kia Optima

While many automakers are on the path to retiring their sedans, Kia is improving theirs. In this head-to-head comparison, we will discuss the all-new 2021 Kia K5 vs 2020 Kia Optima. You may be surprised to learn that the new K5 is a refreshed, restyled, and repackaged Optima with quite a few advanced upgrades. Let’s take a look to see what’s new!

Out with the Old

The brand new 2021 Kia K5 boasts the perfect blend of athleticism, luxury, and charm. Its elegantly appointed cabin features advanced technology, a restyled digital cluster gauge, and even ambient light to help set the mood. Compared to the outgoing 2020 Kia Optima, the new 2021 K5 is much more impressive. It’s even available with all-wheel drive, which is a first for Kia’s sedans (other than the performance-oriented Kia Stinger). As for price, the base model is only $100 more than the 2020 Kia Optima, meaning that this sedan will still be a budget-friendly option.


A blue 2021 Kia K5 is stopped at an intersection on a busy city street.

Since the 2021 Kia K5 is a sportier sedan, it will have two powertrain options to choose from. The first is a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Generating 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, this unit will have a fuel economy of up to 32 mpg combined (29 city/38 highway). Meanwhile, the sporty GT trim will come with a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that uses an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Producing 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, the fuel economy for this engine has not yet been released.

Turning our attention to the 2020 Kia Optima, there are three powertrains to pick from. The base trims are powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder motor with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission. This produces up to 29 mpg combined (25 city/35 highway), and it generates 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque.

Once you step up to the mid-level EX trim, the powertrain in the Optima changes to the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder model that carries over to the new K5 model. However, on the Optima it is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it produces a marginally lower 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The fuel economy is a bit lower for the Optima as well, sitting at about 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway).

The final engine option on the Optima is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. This combination pushes out 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. And despite being less powerful than the top engine in the new K5, its estimated fuel economy is also lower at 24 mpg combined (21 city/30 highway).

Standard Infotainment & Options

The base K5 sedan will come standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that is used to navigate through the infotainment system. Higher trim levels can have a 10.25-inch touchscreen that features a restyle digital cluster gauge and is finished in Piano Black. Whichever infotainment interface your K5 model has, it will include physical buttons mounted on the steering wheel and a volume control knob. Other interface controls can be adjusted via the touchscreen.

Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard, as is as Bluetooth connectivity. You can make calls and send text messages hands-free, and you can also stream your personal playlist and use your favorite apps. Essentially, this advanced system can do anything your smartphone can do. Higher trim levels also include the ability to sync two smartphone devices via Bluetooth. You may also opt for a premium 12-speaker Bose sound system.

If you take a look at the 2020 Kia Optima’s infotainment options, you will find that the two vehicles are quite similar in this regard. The main difference is in the higher trim levels. For example, the Optima’s best stereo upgrade is a 10-speaker Harman Kardon system, and the touchscreen interface doesn’t get any larger than 8 inches.

Standard Safety Systems & Options

A black 2020 Kia Optima is parked in front of a pier.

Before we get into which advanced safety features come standard on the new K5 models, you should note that the vehicle has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, the 2020 Kia Optima has undergone these rigorous tests, and it performed beautifully. In fact, it earned a solid 5-star overall crash test rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. It’s safe to assume that the all-new 2021 Kia K5 will most likely receive good ratings as well.

Standard safety features on the K5 will include lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. These two functions work in unison to help keep your vehicle inside the designated lane. If the system detects that your vehicle is beginning to drift outside the lines, it will trigger a visual notification and an audible alert. These are meant for you to correct your path.

Other standard safety features include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. These two systems also work in unison. Front-facing radar sensors are used to detect any obstacle in the path of the vehicle. When another vehicle or obstacle is detected, the system will alert you with both a visual notification and an audible chime. If no action is taken on your part, the forward-collision warning system will trigger the automatic emergency braking system to kick in. This will begin to slow the K5 down until it brings the vehicle to a complete stop.

As for available safety options, you will find blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems on higher trim levels. These two advanced functions monitor the sides and back of the vehicle for other vehicles that may be out-of-sight. They are designed to help prevent side-swiping accidents and rear-ending accidents. A head-up display system may also be included.

If you look at the 2020 Kia Optima, you will notice that its base model came with standard safety features including lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and even a driver attention monitoring system. Some of these features may carry over to the 2021 Kia K5, but not all of the details have been released yet. Available safety features on higher Optima trims include adaptive cruise control and a tire repair kit.

Standard Interior & Options

Slipping behind the wheel of a 2021 Kia K5 is said to be a whole new experience. The interior layout is well thought out and sophisticated. You will find wood accents on the dashboard and leather upholstery on higher trim levels. The contoured steering wheel may also be wrapped in leather, and the high-resolution 12.3-inch digital cluster gauge will come with customizable themes to suit your personality.

Luxurious add-ons can include ambient lighting throughout the cabin, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a wireless charging pad. The air purification system keeps the cabin air fresh, and there is ample legroom in the front and back. This model is beyond comfortable to drive.

As for the 2020 Optima, it comes standard with cloth upholstery, and it gets faux leather and a leather-wrapped steering wheel on the second trim. The heated leather seats and wireless charging pad come into play at the mid-level trim, and other luxury features such as ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof, and ambient lighting are added to the Premium model.

If you are interested in test driving a 2020 Kia Optima, you can find one at your local Kia dealership today. However, if you want to experience the all-new 2021 Kia K5, then you will need to wait a bit longer. Contact your local Kia dealership for updates.