Kia is attempting to revive the declining appeal of family sedans by recently crafting a daringly redesigned Optima with their all-new 2021 K5, with its sleek sporty but luxurious look. Toyota had been equally busy with its newly revamped 2021 Camry. The America’s best selling sedan’s exterior has been revamped with a more defined front fascia.
At a starting price of $24,455 for Kia and at $26, 000 (est.) for the Camry, both sedans are priced with a significant difference. So let’s take a closer look which car could offer more bang for your buck.
THE BATTLE OF PERFORMANCE
The K5 has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 180 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 195 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm of torquet. This engine will be paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive will be optional, while the 2021 Toyota Camry provides a choice of three powertrains: 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6 and next-generation Toyota Hybrid System (THS II).
The Dynamic Force engine is not only strong but also a smooth operator that makes an impressive 203 hp at 6,600 rpm and 184 lb.-ft. of peak torque, and 206hp at 5,000 rpm and 186 lb.-ft of peak torque for the XSE grade, using a dual-outlet exhaust.
Most of the AWD grades have 202 hp, while the XSE AWD grade has 205 hp with dual exhaust. The Camry’s 4-cylinder engine uses a high compression ratio (13:1). In addition, Toyota’s innovative D-4S fuel injection employs both direct injection and additional port injectors. The engine is packed with Toyota's most advanced technologies that includes Dual VVT-i with VVT-iE (Variable Valve Timing intelligent system by Electric motor) and laser-clad valve seats.
Although it’s not readily available just yet, the sportier K5 GT model will have a more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which will make 290 horses and 311 lb-ft. It will be paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The GT model will have a Pirelli P Zero summer tires, which will improve its braking and cornering performance versus the regular models. It has more than enough power at low engine speeds and confidence boosting performance when you need it.
AWD of K5 provides the best driving performance by steadfastly distributing torque between the front and rear to give added traction and control. K5 eases through any changes in road surface for any driving conditions, while Toyota also developed a comparable Dynamic Torque Control AWD system for Camry as a standalone option for its four-cylinder LE, XLE, SE, SE Nightshade and XSE grades.
The Dynamic Torque Control AWD of the Camry gives effective traction for slippery and inclement weather conditions while keeping AWD’s typical drag on fuel economy at the minimum. The system can pull up to 50 percent of engine torque to its rear wheels, responding to acceleration or slippage at its front wheels. When AWD isn’t required, the electromagnetic controlled coupling at the rear drive axle can detach the propeller shaft to make way for fuel efficiency. It is also designed to re-attach when need arises.
When it comes to suspension K5 has a wide-track suspension, which is the widest in class, boasting of sophisticated light-weight materials for more responsive handling and agility when steering. Camry on the other hand has MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension with a ride-handling balance befitting luxury vehicles (both SE and XSE grades boast of sport-tuned springs and shocks).
Camry has long been renowned for quietness in its class, and the current-generation 2021 Camry even improved on that by adding noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) countermeasures previously found only on luxury models. The extensive noise absorbing insulation has foam or vibration-dampening materials throughout the car, including a thicker dash silencer mat that comes across the entire firewall section. A special vibration-damping coating is also applied over a wider area of the underfloor, and a special noise-proofing material covers more surface area underneath the headliner.
The EPA estimates the front-drive 2021 K5 will earn up to 29 mpg in the city, same as the Toyota Camry and 38 mpg on the highway, which falls 2 mpg compared to the equally equipped rival Toyota Camry. The Camry new model has a variable cooling system, variable oil pump and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system that contributes to the engine’s outstanding thermal efficiency and fuel economy.
Both the top XLE and the cheaper SE trim of the Toyota Camry are comfortable and spacious but the XLE is downright more luxurious with the gap of the quality of the materials used. Surfaces throughout the Camry cabin is a showcase of soft-touch premium materials. The new interior design for 2021 in all grades gives a state of the art look with linear dark, wood inlay or patterned metal depending on the model grade.
The dashboard unfortunately also has a plain and uninspired interior design, compared to the K5’s amazing interior. K5’s straightforward and state of the art layout is complemented by leather upholstery and wood trims on its dash and doors. The steering wheel is also adorned with leather. You can also enjoy a pilot’s seat with modern displays, classy finishes, and marvel at the view through a wide panoramic sunroof.
Kia offers the best technology in the industry, with K5 having its latest hits. Its standard 8-inch touchscreen has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which is a rare feature in 2020. The larger 12.3-inch digital gauge drops the wireless connectivity but has customizable themes and high resolution graphics, plus it has Sounds of Nature feature with seven soundtracks. It also has an intuitive split-screen layout. And to add to its amazing features is its ambient lighting for the dash and doors. Its front seats and rear seats are also heated, and it has a wireless charging pad. And if that is not enough say hello to its 12 Bose speakers found surrounding the cabin, giving you the best music trip as you hit the road.
On the other hand, Toyota offers a touchscreen infotainment system, the Entune 3.0, for the 2021 Camry, for all their Camry lineup. The enhanced version is available as an option. Entune has loads of features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Camry also relays information to the driver via 3 available monitors. New for 2021, the floating 7- or 9-inch central touch-screen display is a combination of audio and navigation control. Available for the XLE and XSE models, a 10-inch color Head-Up Display (HUD) shows vital information, like speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions, onto the lower portion of the windshield.
The system has customizable features and touch screen icons like that of a smartphone’s to ensure convenient and familiar operation. The Camry’s interior is a combination of functionality with elegant styling and craftsmanship. The dash layout gives a sporty cockpit-type feel while treating both the driver and the front passenger an expansive outward view.
All 2021 Camrys have an enhanced set of driver-assistance features, called Safety Sense 2.5. Camry has a standard forward-collision warning function, automated emergency braking, standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. It includes function upgrades like the pedestrian-detection and adaptive cruise control, while the 2021 Kia K5 has the Smart Cruise Control (SCC) feature that automatically safely adjusts to keep your pre-set speed and maintain safe distance from the car traveling directly ahead. And on roads where information is available, the Highway Driving Assist (HDA) is able to control the vehicle’s acceleration, deceleration and steering functions. Not only that, K5 also has a nine-airbag system that offers protection at the front, sides within the cabin, and that includes a knee airbag.
K5 also has a new Lead Vehicle Departure Alert that can warn when the vehicle in front starts moving from a stop, giving you a tap to stop playing with your phone or whatever it is you’re doing for a moment and get moving.
Comfortability and Storage
While the driver’s seat of K5 already feels high from its lowest setting, it has a comfortable spot for the left foot. The back seat has generous legroom and its trunk has plenty of space at 16. 0 cubic feet for luggage with most models having split fold rear seats. The Camry as a large sedan, on the other hand, has a lot of useful space in its trunk and its cabin can also serve as cargo space when the rear seat is folded. Toyota has relocated the hybrid’s battery from the trunk to the space beneath the rear seats so owners of the hybrid model do not have to give up its carrying capacity for the extra mpg.
What’s more impressive about the Kia K5 is its available UVO link service where you can control its environment by preheating or precooling the cabin remotely through a link app or online portal. K5 gives great cabin space for four adult passengers. The 2021 K5 has a wheelbase longer by 1.8 inches than the 2020 K5 model, which makes for a more roomy interior, with more of the added space in favor of the front-seat passengers. K5 also has wide rear doors that let tall passengers climb in without hassle. Only 6 footers or taller will have head room problems. It also has 10-way power adjustment that comes on the GT-Line and higher trims. K5 boats of sporty seat shapes that make comfortable seating for hours of driving, with a good range of adjustment.
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Toyota has a Limited warranty covering three years or 36, 000 miles and powertrain warranty covering 60,000 while they provide shorter warranty periods compared to Kia which has a Limited warranty covering five years or 60,000 miles and powertrain warranty covering 10 years or 100,000 miles, they offer a complimentary maintenance service for two years or 25, 000 miles.
But while Kia lacks the complimentary maintenance service their powertrain coverage is the longest of any auto manufacturer with the exception of their corporate sibling, Hyundai.
Gorgeous inside and and on the outside Kia offers loads of luxury options with its high tech content, that includes a digital cluster and cool ambient lighting coupled with a smooth powertrain operation and quality ride. Its upcoming 290-hp GT model promises performance equipment that should give it a more entertaining riding experience. Its spacious backseat and generous cargo trunk space makes it a good alternative to popular crossover SUVs, especially as it comes with an optional all-wheel drive system.
On the other hand, Toyota Camry may have lost its popularity as a family sedan but now it’s back to its former glory as a desirable choice for a segment that’s losing its appeal. Its diverse powertrain options help it earn its appeal. There’s a frugal option for a four-cylinder, an even more affordable hybrid option, and then a strong V-6 best experience with its TRD model. A stylish but comfy family sedan, it’s hard not to be adored considering the added driver assists and up to date features.
With both vehicles revamped and spiced up from their infotainment to their safety features it could be hard to decide which one is better. It could all boil down to a matter of preference. Kia is also yet to debut their GT model which can possibly compete with Toyota’s V6 TRD model. While Toyota Camry offers more variety of powertrain options, Kia offers a completely whole new interior experience with its panoramic sunroof and dramatic luxurious look. Toyota Camry has long proven its reliability evident on years dominating the market share but Kia K5 looks promising — breathing new life into the growing category. Kia has been a growing household name with them sticking on their plan to concentrate on sedans, and Kia K5 could easily be their newest shining glory.