The Car Connection Kia Cadenza Overview
The Kia Cadenza is a four-door sedan with some premium features, but without an overt premium or luxury appeal. A bit bigger than the related Optima mid-size sedan, the Cadenza is now the second most expensive car in the Kia showroom, priced just below the range-topping, rear-drive K900 luxury sedan.
U.S. buyers have had access to the large, front-drive family sedan since the 2014 model year. The Cadenza has been available in its South Korean home market (where it is known as the K7) and others since 2010.
Along with Kia's K900, the Cadenza is meant to pull the brand upmarket to appeal to near-luxury buyers. The Cadenza's competitors include cars such as the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, and Hyundai Azera.
MORE: Read our 2016 Kia Cadenza review
Although the Cadenza is closely related to the Hyundai Azera, it has entirely different exterior styling and interior appointments, and the suspension calibration is slightly sportier. The Cadenza is one of the best-looking Kia models yet; it manages to carry the proportions of a rear-drive sport sedan even though its drive wheels are up front. It makes the most of the trim, taut, and clean lines of the newest Kia design language ushered in under Peter Schreyer. The Cadenza looks European-influenced, but not derivative in any way up close.
All Cadenzas are powered by a 293-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6; a 6-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the big car's front wheels. The engine makes 255 lb-ft of torque, but the peak doesn't occur until high up in the rev range, making the engine feel weaker than its ratings would suggest. The transmission makes the best of this, however, and also includes a manual-shift gate for those who want to make gearchange decisions for themselves. While it looks sporty, the Cadenza is tuned more for comfort than anything else. Among its main competitors, the Cadenza's EPA fuel-economy ratings—19/28 mpg, city/highway—are only OK.
Comfort is indeed the focus for the Cadenza. It has plenty of legroom all around, and with the Luxury Package the front seats have extendable thigh supports and there's ventilation for the driver's seat. Other options inside include a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, as well as plush Nappa leather. Overall, materials, upholstery, and switchgear are very impressive throughout the cabin. Ride quality is on the firm side for a luxury car, but the Cadenza is tight and refined, with enough sound insulation to filter out most road and wind noise. The only disappointment is that the available panoramic sunroof ends up severely limiting rear headroom, effectively lowering the ceiling.
Standard equipment in the Cadenza includes LED taillamps and running lamps, smart-key entry, cruise control, a rear camera system, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, and a 550-watt Infinity sound system. A new infotainment system with eight-inch touch screen and navigation with satellite-radio-based traffic information is standard. At the top of the range, the Technology Package adds smart cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and a lane-departure warning system, among other things—all typically found on more expensive luxury cars. The Cadenza has not yet been tested by the NHTSA, but the IIHS gives it top "Good" ratings in the four categories for which it has been evaluated.
Though only a year old in this market, the Cadenza saw several updates for 2015. Kia added an adaptable steering system, which offers three levels of steering weight from which the driver can select. All Cadenza trim levels gained an 8-way adjustable power front passenger seat, while the Technology Package added rear cross-traffic warning. Limited models added a standard surround-view camera system as well as a new analog clock.
For the 2016 model year, the Cadenza gained a new base model, while navigation became standard across the lineup. Blind-spot monitors were added to the Luxury package.