The current Kia Cadenza was introduced in 2017 as Kia's large luxury sedan, slotting above the Optima and below the K900 in Kia's sedan line-up. It comes in Premium, Technology, and Limited trims, all of which use a 290-horsepower V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. The Cadenza is a comfort-focused car rather than a performance biased one, so drivers can expect smooth shifts and gradual speed increases while riding in luxury, instead of nimble handling and blistering acceleration. It comes with leather upholstery, tons of features and a premium feel cabin that takes on more prestigious brands. While the Kia is an excellent choice it has some stiff competition in the form of the Toyota Avalon, Buick Lacrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Chrysler 300, all of which present completely different large sedan experiences.
The Cadenza was only introduced in 2017 and there have only been minor changes made to the packages. The luxury package now contains interior LED lighting and a panoramic sunroof.
The Premium model is the bottom of the Cadenza range and starts at an MSRP of $32,290 excluding a destination fee of $995, as well as any applicable tax, registration, and licensing fees. In the middle of the range is the Technology, which starts at $39,290 while at the top of the line-up is the fully loaded Limited, which starts at $44,690. Comparatively, the Toyota Avalon ranges between $33,500 and $41,300, while the Chevy Impala ranges between $27,895 and $36,420.
See trim levels and configurations:
The shifts can hardly be felt as the Cadenza takes off and gets up to speed in the most relaxed manner possible. There's no kick or burst of speed, just a gradual increase and then all of a sudden it's sailing at pace.
Changing between the Comfort, Sport, Smart, or Eco settings changes the throttle and steering response although the differences are negligible - the Cadenza is ultimately more luxurious than it is sporty. The heavy steering feels proportionate to a car of this size, but despite the weighting, it can be numb at times, particularly just off center. Due to being designed for comfort rather than handling, the Cadenza has a fair amount of body roll around the corners, but it isn't excessive enough to be a problem unless you're really hustling through a series of directional changes. Generally, the ride is soft and comfortable with all but the biggest bumps being filtered out by the suspension.
But where no compromise is made for comfort is on the braking front. The Cadenza may be soft elsewhere, but the brakes are strong, easy to modulate and provide fluidity of response with predictable braking effect. Coming to a stop from 60 mph happens in less than 120 feet, which is impressive for a sedan of this size.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
There was a time when Kia vehicles lacked refinement, but those days are long gone and Kia can now stand toe to toe with the more established brands out there. The Cadenza is proof of this in a tough full-size sedan segment. It may have its flaws, like its average fuel economy and limited trunk space, as well as its mediocre acceleration, but there are many reasons to favor the Cadenza. It has a classy exterior while the interior has a premium feel with its use of high-quality materials and impressive levels of noise suppression, as well as high standards of tech and safety features. The leather seats are also extremely comfortable and the Cadenza delivers a pleasant and relaxed driving experience with very little cabin or engine noise. To top it off is the highly competitive pricing and Kia's outstanding warranty that can't be beaten. It's not the dynamic rival to the Toyota Avalon many may look for, but it's a competitive luxo-barge to give buyers a K900 on a budget.
The best Kia Cadenza to buy is the Technology trim which straddles the middle of the range. It packs all the standard safety features equipped on the top of the range Limited, with the exception of a head-up display, but also makes sure it cuts costs without unnecessary additions. It still plays host to a range of luxury features though, like a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, the larger eight-inch infotainment setup, and heated and ventilated front seats with power adjustment. With a full suite of safety aids, it's safe too, earning that TSP rating from the IIHS in fine style. At $39,290 it undercuts the $40k mark, too and presents itself as exceptional value for money.
The Kia Cadenza is only available with a 290-hp 3.3-liter V6 engine while the Chevrolet Impala is available with either a 197-hp, four-cylinder 2.5-liter or a 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine. The Impala's V6 engine has the same combined fuel economy as the Cadenza, while the smaller motor performs better in this regard. The Impala also has more interior space and a larger trunk, as well as the ability to increase the cargo space by dropping the rear seats. However, the Cadenza's interior is more luxurious, whereas the Impala feels a little cheap. Of course, the Impala is some $5,000 cheaper than the Cadenza. The Cadenza does seem to offer more than $5,000 worth of upgrades though, and it packs higher standards of safety as well as more features. The long warranty is also a boon. Ultimately, the Impala is more practical, and admittedly it's also substantially more sporty, but if you're looking for a safe, comfortable, luxurious full-size sedan, the Cadenza borders on premium but without the expensive price tag.
The Toyota Avalon is a popular car because of Toyota's legendary reputation for reliability and quality. It's also front-wheel drive but packs a 301-hp 3.5-liter V6 which is more powerful than the Cadenza but also returns better gas mileage with 26 mg combined to the Cadenza's 23 mpg. The Toyota has more standard safety features, with all available across the range unlike the Cadenza, which requires options packages on the base model. At the upper reaches of their respective ranges, both are exceptionally equipped, with the Cadenza boasting an easier to use infotainment system. If it's a driver's sedan you're searching for, the Avalon is more competent, but it lacks the plushness of the Cadenza's ride quality, making the Kia the more passenger-friendly option in this regard. Both are quite squarely matched, so ultimately, the decision comes down to specific needs and personal preference; but we'd rate the Avalon as a better all-rounder.
The most popular competitors of 2018 Kia Cadenza: