- Pleasant ride
- Hushed interior
- Affordable active-safety features
- Excellent infotainment system
- Spacious trunk
- Lacks rear head room
- Too-light steering
- The Kia badge?
The 2016 Kia Cadenza is no luxury sport sedan, but it offers almost all of the trappings except for crisp handling—and maybe, the right badge.
The Kia Cadenza joined the South Korean automaker's lineup in 2014 as its first full-size sedan. Though it's been joined by the larger, rear-drive K900 luxury four-door, the Cadenza still strikes us as the ultimate sedan in the Kia lineup. It's styled and packaged well, has a premium level of refinement, and proves that Kia should be taken seriously at the $40,000 price point. Luxury badge or not, it can seem like a very good deal to a great many families and comfort-minded folks.
The Cadenza is closely related to the Hyundai Azera, but the two are well differentiated by unique exterior and interior treatments. The Azera's smooth, flowing design and deeply sculpted sheet metal stand in contrast to the Cadenza's taut, more athletic look. Inside, there's a mix of traditional and forward-thinking design. The look is rich and finely detailed, with soft-touch and nicely grained materials for the upper dash, plus wood grain for the steering wheel and dash and door trim. Controls and displays are laid out in a cockpit style, with plenty of supplementary steering-wheel controls.
The Cadenza feels quick and responsive relative to other large front-drive four-doors, but it's not a true sport sedan by any stretch. Power is provided by a 3.3-liter V-6, making 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet. The V-6 doesn't make all that much torque at the low end of the rev band, which means that stepping away from a standing start, or up a steep hill, it feels a bit more sluggish than you'd guess from its power output—until the revs build, and then you rocket ahead. Steering lacks road feel and requires a lot of small corrections to stay on course on the highway. Still, when driven at anything but a sport-sedan pace, this is a car that feels confident on the back roads yet maneuverable in town.
The Cadenza has top-notch interior comfort, without those boat-like old-fashioned big-car motions. It's also luxury-car quiet inside. Get the Luxury Package and you'll have ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and even an extendable driver's thigh bolster—something rare in this class of cars and something that will be appreciated by tall drivers. In back, the available panoramic roof really limits headroom, though.
Once you're in, this is a sedan that doesn't disappoint in the subtle details. The Cadenza is a very quiet-riding sedan, with almost no wind noise, and very little road noise, at highway speeds. Materials, and the leather upholstery, are very impressive throughout the cabin.
The Cadenza has earned top "Good" scores from the IIHS in most tests, but hasn't yet been subjected to the new small-overlap crash test, which mimics an impact with a telephone pole. Because of that lack of data, it's not eligible for the IIHS' Top Safety Pick awards. The NHTSA hasn't tested it at all.
Kia isn't actually calling the Cadenza a luxury sedan—just a "Premium" one. And it's in an in-between market niche that some shoppers might find just right. At about $34,000, the Cadenza includes lots of standard equipment and is quite the value considering it's about the same price as a well-optioned Optima (SX Limited), Accord, or Camry, all of which are smaller. With the Luxury Package and the Technology Package added to that, you get things such as a panoramic sunroof, power retractable sunshade, Nappa ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloys, smart cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and lane departure warning—all for about $43,000.
The Cadenza gets Kia's UVO eServices system, which provides integrated roadside assistance, diagnostics, and other services, through a paired smartphone (no separate subscription is required). It also has Kia's 8.0-inch touchscreen system that responds well to natural voice commands and includes plenty of traditional physical buttons to back things up. Navigation is included as a standard feature, and it's one of the best systems on the market, with clear, colorful displays, live traffic information, and easy-to-intuit split-screen views.
Even among large sedans, the Kia Cadenza's fuel economy doesn't register at the high end of the spectrum. The EPA pegs it at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined. That's lower than some Ford Taurus models and even lower than the Hyundai Azera, from which the Cadenza is based.