The 2021 Kia K5 mid-size sedan earned top crash-test ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS, and the insurance-industry funded IIHS gave it highest honors with a Top Safety Pick+ award.
The redesigned sedan formerly known as the Optima earned five stars in the NHTSA's test cycle despite a four-star front passenger crash rating. That test simulates a head-on crash between two similarly-sized vehicles moving at 35 mph; driver-side protection earned five stars. It also had a four-star rollover rating, which is less common in sedans and more common in tall-riding crossover SUVs.
The 2021 K5 earned "Good" ratings in all six crash tests conducted by the IIHS, including the front-passenger crash test. It also earned "Superior" ratings for its standard automatic emergency braking system. To earn a coveted Top Safety Pick+, the K5 also had to perform well in avoiding or mitigating crash tests with pedestrians, and it had to have at least "Acceptable" headlights as standard equipment.
There are four headlight variations on the 2021 K5, based on trim and production date. Models built after November 2020 all qualify for the award, whereas models built before then do not. It's common for automakers to upgrade a headlight mid-production to change the IIHS safety rating and qualify for the award.
The K5 GT and GT-Line with certain packages built after November come with LED projector lights with automatic high beams that earned a top "Good" rating; the LED reflector lights with automatic high beams on LX, LXS, EX, GT-Line, and GT models rated "Acceptable."
The related 2021 Hyundai Sonata missed a Top Safety Pick+ for its standard headlights that rated at "Marginal" due to glare and limited visibility in sharp curves.
The 2021 Kia K5 joins a small but growing list of 2021 TSP+ winners that meet or exceed criteria that gets tougher each year. The mid-size car list was especially robust this year, suggesting automakers are focusing on safety to persuade consumers on the fence between a sedan and a crossover.