[Review] KIA Optima K5: Sleeker than ever

A while back, the very mention of a Korean automotive brand (i.e. Hyundai and Kia) would send most buyers shriveling away in fear. From bad build quality to poor engine specifications, Korean cars took most of the cold shoulders.

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But fast forward to today’s industry and we see a whole new brand campaign for these two brands. Hyundai with it’s sleek headlamps and Kia, well, boosting just a little bit more than it’s same-nationality competitor in most classes. 2010 saw the launch of the new Kia Optima K5, otherwise more affectionately known as the K5, and now, we see a slight revamp of it’s aesthetics, as well as the refinements that lie under the hood.

Exterior

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One look and you would agree that this facelift looks almost the same as the old model. But mind you, the sexy curves and sporty makeover of this range, courtesy of Kia’s Chief Designer Officer Peter Schreyer, makes the ordinary bystander turn and check it out twice, or more (at least thrice was the max I noted during my 3 days with this car).

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The most common difference for this 4.8 m long car compared to it’s predecessor is it’s fog lamps. Kia has so willingly incorporated four huge LED bulbs in the place of the fogs, allowing for better illumination. It might seem pointless in Singapore roads, but a downpour at 11 pm I experienced over the weekend proved my opinion about these LED bulbs wrong. HID projection headlights are standard on both the 2 litre and 2.4 variant, and a strip of LED daytime running lights add on a touch of sleekness to the design of the car.

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At close to 4.9 metres in length, the K5 might seem a little too big for the ordinary executive to handle. Fret not. Behind the wheels of the K5, I felt as comfortable as I would have been in an entry-class sedan, the curves allowing me to acclimatize to it’s size almost under 10 minutes. Aesthetically, the bend from the pillars of the vehicle makes it’s ground clearance look low and ground-hugging, boosting it’s sportiness (or at least, the curves plays tricks with your eyes).

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If you’d look closely at the newer Kia’s on the roads, you will realise the rear lamps bearing a trademark design, allowing you to identify it’s brand from afar. Instead of halogen bulbs, Kia utilises LED technology for it’s rear combination lamps, boosting visibility especially during inclement weather.

Interior

You may agree that the exterior of the car looks almost like a continental, less the badge of course. The interior isn’t too far off from this expectation too.

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Although one glance and you could tell it’s a Korean/Japanese make, the K5’s interior emits an indescribable welcoming feeling, especially to the driver. I felt perhaps it could be the tilt of the center console, angled 9.6 degrees towards the driver, allowing for easier access and greater control. I found it a little similar to Audi’s cabins, where everything wraps around you like the cockpit of a fighter jet. This is no different, though not to that extent.

IWT_7204Technology is aplenty inside the K5 (just like how I mentioned it surpasses it’s own-nationality competitor in the features segment). The K5 boasts an electronic parking brake with an Auto-Hold function, one which I find it useful everything you reach the lights and you could lift your feet off the brakes for a short stretch.

IWT_7206Similar to it’s younger K3 sibling, the K5 offers ventilated front seats with both heating or cooling functions. The same thunderstorm night drive proved too chilling for me after a short dash in the rain, but at least my bottom was saved by the heated seats.

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And if there’s one thing I have a grouse about, it is the ever-so-small 4.3″ TFT LCD head unit the K5 (and the K3) holds. I would have expected the larger variant (at least complete with Sat Nav), but unfortunately, it seems like the Korean car market here doesn’t fancy such features (as of now). Using it, however, was a breeze – from the Bluetooth pairing of your phone to the storing of new radio stations, the touch-screen system can be said as “idiot-proof”. Oh yes, and it comes with a reverse camera incorporated too.

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If you’re one of those tech gurus who fusses over the best sound system, this car doesn’t boasts Harmon Kardon speakers but it’s Infinity range speakers might just satisfy your “sound cravings”. With 8 speakers, you can be assured of solid bass and quality music (this however, is only available in the 2.4 litre variant).

The dash of the K5 allows you to choose either Sports or Eco settings, depending on how you wish to drive it.

The dash of the K5 allows you to choose either Sports or Eco settings, depending on how you wish to drive it.

The drive

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This, however, would be one aspect I felt Kia could work on improving. I had the luxury of bringing out the 2,359 cc engine, as compared to the 1,999 cc variant Cycle and Carriage will be bringing in. Even at 180 horses, the K5 feels laggy at low RPMs, presumably because of the torque peak at a relatively higher 4,000 rpm. Acceleration was reasonable, though it could have been slightly better to pull myself ahead of that Clio Sports from the lights.

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To add on to the range of sports goods the K5 delivers, I must say the paddle shifters are extremely responsive, with almost minimal lag time. A fan of such gadgets, I was notably driving with the paddles for most of my test period, which also allowed me to clock a 10.3 sec for my own 0 to 100 km/h test (compared to the 9.5 sec on paper).

Suspension would be another plus point in this review, where you don’t feel the minor small bumps on the roads of Singapore, and can even cross our humps at relatively high speeds without feeling the “URGGHHHHHZZZ” sensation.

Similar to some other competitors in the market, the K5 also comes with Blind Spot Detection, beeping continuously when you veer across the lane markings without signalling your intentions. Irritating as it may be, the BSD might just come in useful if you’re driving on a half-shut-down mind and veering off to another lane unknowingly.

Conclusion

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The K5 is perhaps a gadget-filled sedan for the sporty, technologically savvy driver. The ride ain’t fantastic, but the car’s sleekness makes up for most of this shortcoming.

An obvious notch above other competitors such as the Mazda 6 and the Hyundai i45, the Kia K5 packs so much more value-for-money equipment and technology you can never resist. And if you’re indeed able to resist that, perhaps the near-continental look of this sedan might just win you over the rest in it’s class.

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What I like:

– Sleek and sporty look, almost comparable to a continental mid-sized sedan
– Amount of equipment over the rest in it’s class
– Welcoming cabin allowing you ease of access to almost everything in the car

What I don’t like:

– Engine could have been more refined and responsive
– Lack of infotainment system (seriously, a 4.3″ would suffice for a mid-size sedan? Hardly.)
– Steering feel doesn’t change much despite Eco and Sports mode

 

For this weekend, Cycle and Carriage will be pushing out it’s promotional price for the Kia Optima K5, with it’s 2.0 litre variant starting from S$133,900. Head down to Cycle and Carriage to check out the K5 now!

Prices and information are correct at time of press.Β 

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