2021 Kia Optima

2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
December 19, 2019

Buying tip

The 2021 Kia Optima goes on sale next year.

The 2021 Kia Optima is the automaker’s mid-size sedan that not only starts a new look but also a new identity.

The 2021 Kia Optima marks a new era for the Korean brand—and a new face is just the beginning for one of the automaker’s most popular models.

The 2021 Optima is longer, lower, and wider than the sedan it replaces and will be available with all-wheel drive. Several engine options will be available for the Optima—which is known as the K5 in other markets, and may adopt that name in the U.S.—although it’s unclear how many will arrive in the U.S. once hybrids are figured into the mix. The two engines confirmed for the U.S. are both turbocharged and one features in the Optima GT.

When it goes on sale, the Kia Optima will compete with mid-size stalwarts such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and even the Hyundai Sonata, which is mechanically related to the Kia. Kia hasn’t yet said how much it will cost, but it’s likely to cost more than the outgoing Optima’s $24,115 starting price. 

Review continues below

Style and performance

Edgy like an Eddie Murphy joke at family Christmas dinner, the Kia Optima is sharper, meaner, and tenser than the outgoing version, which didn’t look bad either. 

The new Optima’s signature—like the related Sonata—is its lights that slash around the sides and into the honeycomb grille. 

Kia’s grille here is more hawkish here, underscored by creases in the hoods that angle toward the sedan’s beak. 

The Optima’s hood lines are along the body sides, similar to the outgoing version, and meet below the windshield cowl at a malfunction junction in the sedan’s only bad look. 

The body sides are sculpted with a heavy bend at the bottom to visually lower the car further. The Optima’s old “floating roofline” has been grounded, at least in most colors in the new version. A chrome strip running the length of the roofline reaches back around toward the rear window in a single accent that acts as a halo. 

Around the back, a short decklid and full-length rear taillight span the trunk. 

Kia will offer the Optima with up to 19-inch wheels on GT versions, others will have 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels available. 

Kia hasn’t yet said what powertrains will be available in the U.S. when the car goes on sale, but the K5 Optima will get an all-wheel-drive system, a hybrid variant, and a sporty variant. 

The 2021 Optima will arrive with at least two turbo-4 engines, including a turbo-4 in the GT that makes about 286 horsepower and will motivate the car up to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, according to Kia. 

A 1.6 liter turbo-4 that makes 178 hp will be the base engine. 

Those engines will shift through 6- or 8-speed automatic transmissions, including a new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic in the Optima GT. Front-wheel drive is standard on most cars, while all-wheel drive will be available. 

Comfort, safety, and features

The 2021 Optima rides atop a wheelbase longer by 1.8 inches than the outgoing 2020 Optima, which should make for a more spacious sedan. The outgoing Optima offered just 35.6 inches of rear seat leg room, less than the Accord and Camry, but 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which is generous for its class. 

Kia says the new Optima’s interior is minimalist and horizontally designed, but the integrated touchscreen of the sedan has been replaced with an available 10.3-inch touchscreen mounted above the climate controls in the center stack. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster faces the driver, and an available 8.0-inch head-up display adds yet another screen. 

Cloth, synthetic leather, or leather upholstery is bathed in interior ambient lighting in the K5 Optima and the dash can be finished with metallic or wood surfaces. 

The Optima will be equipped with optional and standard safety features including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system. The Kia sedan will include a remote parking feature, although it’s unclear if that will be available in the U.S. 

Kia hasn’t yet said what trim levels will be available in the 2021 version, although it’s likely to follow a similar cadence as the outgoing Optima: base, S, EX, SX, and GT versions. 

In addition to upsized touchscreens, head-up display, leather upholstery, and bigger wheels, the Optima will offer advanced safety features, a voice-recognition system, premium audio by Bose, and navigation. 

The 2021 Kia Optima will arrive in the U.S. early in 2020. 

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