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2021 Volvo S60 vs. 2021 Kia K5: Which Is Better?

Two conservative sedans, the 2021 Volvo S60 and 2021 Kia K5 each offer a choice of engines and a Sport model. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Volvo S60 Recharge hybrid makes 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque.
  • Both come with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
  • 2021 Kia K5 is a brand-new model.

2021 Volvo S60

2021 Volvo S60 Front Right Side in Black

Base price: $38,745 / Read our 2021 Volvo S60 Review

What we like: Great standard safety features; optional plug-in hybrid; optional all-wheel drive; refined driving manners.

What we would change: Complicated touchscreen; add trunk space; not as sporty as some rivals.

Overview: The compact offering from the Swedish luxury automaker, the 2021 Volvo S60 offers ample safety features (a Volvo hallmark) and respectable driving manners. The base engine is a turbocharged 4-cylinder, with an upgrade 4-cylinder that is both turbo- and supercharged. That upgrade engine is paired with an electric motor in a plug-in hybrid. The 4-cylinder is front-wheel drive, while both the upgrade and the hybrid are all-wheel drive. Power is ample and the ride offers a good balance between taut and comfort, although with its base front-wheel drive, no one would call the S60 a true sport sedan. The look is conservative but elegant, paired with a quiet and roomy interior offering plenty of space in the rear. Even the base S60 is well equipped, with 10-way power front seats, leatherette upholstery, and an infotainment screen with a 9-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as well as a 10-speaker/220-watt audio system. We don’t love the touchscreen, which can be distracting. Safety systems are comprehensive, including lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring.

What’s new for 2021: Given that Volvo has always placed a premium on safety, new features include standard blind-spot monitoring, LED headlights and foglights with bending function, and a system that warns of slippery roads. There are also new 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming and retractable side mirrors, keyless entry, and two USB-C ports in the rear. Top speed has been limited to 112 mph.

Features and technology: With a choice of engines, there are three main trims to the 2021 Volvo S60: Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription. The base Momentum trim includes 10-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Infotainment includes a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, a 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a 10-speaker/220-watt audio system. Safety features include lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning.

R-Design is the sporty model, with a lowered chassis, sport seats, and a navigation system, as well as some sportier looks, a Harman Kardon audio system, and Nappa leather. Inscription is the top trim, with leather upholstery, comfort seat padding, driftwood details and a special grille. Both R-Design and Inscription models can be upgraded to a Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Options include navigation, a head-up display, wireless charging, and Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving system. that we like a lot.

What does the future hold: Volvo has always been a fairly conservative company, and given a choice of engines, we wouldn’t mind maybe a bit more sport in the R-Design. Also, we would like a redesign of the touchscreen so the driver doesn’t have to turn his attention away from the road. Find a 2021 Volvo S60 for sale

2021 Kia K5

2021 Kia K5 Front Left Side in Grey

Base price: $24,455 / Read our 2021 Kia K5 Review

What we like: Handsome looks; optional all-wheel drive; sharp interior; choice of engines; adjustable driving modes.

What we would change: Add a hybrid option; include physical knobs for the infotainment system; improve rear visibility; make blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert standard on all trim levels.

Overview: Replacing the popular and award-winning Optima, the 2021 Kia K5 is a brand-new model. Featuring Kia’s “tiger shark” grille and a fastback roof, the K5 is more aggressive looking, but still offers good space for passengers, plenty of technology, and either a 1.6- or 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Unlike the Optima, however, there is no hybrid available at present. Power goes to the front wheels, although all-wheel drive is available with both engines. Four trim levels start with the base LX, which has the smaller engine and includes cloth seats and little more, other than an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The next trim up includes much more, including additional driver-assist and safety features. On the road, the K5 drives with a certain level of refinement and while the smaller engine is a touch underpowered, its torque helps propel it along in day-to-day driving. There’s also a button on the center console that switches driving modes from Normal through Sport and tailors the engine, steering, and transmission response accordingly. As with all Kia models, the 2021 K5 includes a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

What’s new for 2021: Everything. A replacement for the Optima, the 2021 Kia K5 is a brand-new model.

Features and technology: There are four trim levels of the 2021 Kia K5, with the base model, the LX, living up to its base model aspirations, with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a cloth interior, and a rear bench seat. Also included, on all trims, are wireless Apple CarPlay and automatic emergency braking, as well as a driver-attention warning and lane-keeping assist. The next level up, the LXS, includes a split-folding bench seat, the UVO infotainment system, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic assist. The GT-Line 1.6 is mostly an appearance package, adding 18-inch black wheels, LED foglamps, sporty front and rear bumpers, a gloss-black rear spoiler, cloth and leatherette seat trim, and gloss-black outside mirrors.

Next is the EX, which adds wireless smartphone charging, heated front seats, an optional 12-speaker Bose sound system, a panoramic sunroof, and Sirius satellite radio. The top GT 2.5T trim is the only one that gets the 2.5-liter engine, with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, quad-tip dual mufflers, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

Available options include the Highway Driving Assistant, which uses information from the navigation system to adjust the speed to the posted speed limits. There will also be a special edition AWD GT-Line trim in Wolf Gray with a red leatherette interior, LED projector headlights, and gloss black B-pillar trim.

What does the future hold: As the K5 is brand-new for 2021, expect minor changes, such as different driver-assist and safety options. As its predecessor the Optima included a hybrid, we also expect a hybrid option at some point in the near future. Find a 2021 Kia K5 for sale

S60 vs. K5: Strengths comparison

S60 Benefits: More base power; standard features; optional plug-in hybrid.

K5 Benefits: Much lower starting price; fuel economy; bigger trunk; longer warranty; true sport model.

2021 Volvo S60 vs. 2021 Kia K5: Which is better?

There is much to like about the 2021 Volvo S60 including its optional plug-in hybrid and Volvo’s traditional emphasis on safety. But the 2021 Kia K5 just feels fresher, more exciting, with a sport model that’s truly sporty and plenty of space for both cargo and passengers. There’s also that $14,000 price differential. Yes, the base K5 engine is less powerful than the Volvo’s, but even with the 2.5-liter turbo it’s still nearly $8,000 less expensive. Add to that its class-leading powertrain warranty and we have a winner.

Find a 2021 Volvo S60 for sale or Find a 2021 Kia K5 for sale

2021 Volvo S60 2021 Kia K5
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 1.6-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm 180 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission 8-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 27 mpg (23 city/34 hwy) 32 mpg (29 city/38 hwy)
Also Available 2.0-liter turbocharged/supercharged I4; 2.0-liter turbocharged/supercharged I4 + plug-in electric motor; all-wheel drive 2.5-liter turbocharged I4; 8-spd dual-cluch automatic; all-wheel drive
Specs
Basic warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 113.1 inches 112.2 inches
Overall Length 187.4 inches 193.1 inches
Width 72.8 inches 73.2 inches
Height 56.6 inches 56.9 inches
Turning Diameter 37.1 feet n/a
Headroom, Front 37.4 inches 40.2 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.2 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 42.3 inches 46.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 35.2 inches 35.2 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.1 inches 58.0 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 54.5 inches 56.1 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 94.0 cubic feet 105.3 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 11.6 cubic feet 16.0 cubic feet

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Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Edmunds.com. Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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