by Roger Biermann
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 current Cadenza was introduced in 2017 and there have been no changes made to the styling. It has a large tiger-nose grille flanked by projector headlights on the base model, replaced by LED headlights on higher trims. The base model rides on 18-inch alloys, while the upper two trims receive 19-inch items in different designs and finishes. All trims receive dual exhaust tips housed in a chrome surrounding integrated into the rear bumper.
The Kia Cadenza is a large sedan with many features so it comes as no surprise that it's on the heavy side with the Premium having a curb weight of 3,633 lbs, with the heavier two trims both tipping the scales at 3,770 lbs. The Cadenza sits on a wheelbase of 112.4 inches and has a length of 195.7 inches. The height is 57.9 inches and the width is 73.6 inches.
In comparison, the Chevrolet Impala has a length of 201.3 inches, a width of 73.0 inches, and a height of 58.9 inches. The Toyota Avalon has a length of 195.3 inches, a width of 72.2 inches and height of 57.5 inches.
The 2018 Kia Cadenza comes with an option of seven different colors, all of which are carried over from the 2017 line-up. Snow White Pearl, Silky Silver, Moss Grey, Granite Brown Pearl, Platinum Graphite, Aurora Black Pearl, and Gravity Blue all return. However, while Snow White Pearl, Silky Silver, Aurora Black, Gravity Blue, and Platinum Graphite are available on all trims, Moss Grey is available on the Technology model only, and Granite Brown is available on the Limited model only.
The Cadenza lineup uses a 3.3-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel drivetrain. Outputs from the naturally aspirated engine are 290 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. All the models are also front-wheel drive, while rivals like the Chrysler 300 utilize both rear- and all-wheel drivetrains. The Cadenza gets from 0-60 mph in a middling time of 6.8 seconds before cruising on to an estimated top speed of 155 mph. The times are decent, but lag behind rivals like the Chevy Impala at 6.2 seconds and the Toyota Avalon at 6.4 seconds. Rivals not only offer alternate drivetrains, but differing engines as well, with a range of turbocharged four-cylinders V6s, and naturally aspirated V8s, leaving the Cadenza as a fairly average and simple offering in the full-size sedan arena.
All the trims in the Cadenza range use the 290 hp, 253 lb-ft 3.3-liter V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, forgoing turbocharged four-cylinder engines favored by many rival large sedans. Without a turbocharger, there isn't a solid slug of torque through the midrange, but the engine is still capable of getting the Cadenza moving fairly quickly, both from a standstill and when effecting overtaking maneuvers.
The Cadenza is fine for around-town trips despite its seemingly average acceleration. The transmission is smooth rather than quick and shifts are hardly felt as the Cadenza glides between traffic lights with ease. Cruising on the freeway is where the Cadenza shines with both the engine and transmission almost imperceptible due to the lack of noise and smoothness with which gears are shifted. In no time, the Cadenza is doing high speeds that can't be felt through the well-insulated cabin that's surrounded by acoustic glass.
There may be some sportier sedans out there like the Toyota Avalon and Buick Lacrosse that have better cornering and handling, but when it comes to having a pleasant journey in a luxury setting the Cadenza is definitely a contender.
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.
The Kia Cadenza uses regular gasoline and tries to keep the fuel economy down by using the eight-speed transmission. Thanks to using the same V6 engine, all the models in the range get fuel economy estimates of 20/27/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, which is about average for its class, although is bested by some like the Toyota Avalon with a combined estimate of 26 mpg. Based on the combined fuel economy and the 18.5-gallon fuel tank, the Cadenza is capable of an estimated range of 474 miles. Although the Cadenza has average gas mileage estimates, it has a longer range than some of its competition due to having a fairly large fuel tank.
The Kia Cadenza has a plush interior complete with high-quality hard- and soft-touch materials. The dashboard has a clean and practical look with smooth lines and all the buttons in an easy to read and logical order, with the eight-inch touchscreen taking center-stage. Faux chrome and wood accents adorn the dashboard and doors but are tastefully done and don't look gaudy. The leather-covered steering wheel has a sturdy feel to it and has well-placed buttons for the audio, cruise control, and phone controls. Leather upholstery completes the premium feel with Nappa leather available on the Limited model. Overall the cockpit has a premium feel while packing spacious seating for a full five occupants. Bordering on premium in look and feel, the Cadenza treads the line between affordability and luxury in fine style.
The Cadenza accommodates five on comfortable leather seats. Even the entry-level Premium model comes standard with a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat and eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, the former giving a wide enough array of adjustment for an ideal driving position. On the Technology trim upwards, front seats are heated and ventilated, as well as 14-way power-adjustable on the driver's seat and 10-way power-adjustable on the front passenger seat. The front of the Cadenza's cabin has 40.2 inches of headroom and 45.5 inches of legroom, while the back has 37.9 inches of headroom and 37.3 inches of legroom. That's more than enough space for both front and rear passengers, although headroom can be tight for occupants taller than six-feet-tall when the panoramic sunroof is equipped, as it eats into available headspace. Legroom is ample throughout, however, and being full-sized, the cabin is broad enough to accommodate three adults in the rear sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Leather seating is standard across the Cadenza range, unlike rivals that cut costs with a cloth-upholstered base model. The Premium is available with black leather only, while the Technology is available in either black or beige leather. The Limited gets softer Nappa leather in a choice of black, white, or brown with a quilted appearance. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped with subtle faux chrome accents around the cruise control and audio controls. On the dashboard, there's a combination of hard and soft plastics and leather-look materials which have a solid feel to them, with either fake wood, or ashwood trim inserts to make the interior look classier than is expected at this level. Overall the Kia punches well above its weight in the interior department.
The Cadenza has average trunk space for its class but it's still decently sized at 16.1 cubic feet. Unlike some of its rivals, the rear seats don't fold to increase the cargo space so there's no option of carrying large loads, although there is a ski-hatch to cater to long, slender objects. Compared to the Cadenza, the Chevy Impala has 18.8 cu-ft of cargo space and the Toyota Avalon has 16.0 cu-ft of cargo space, but both offer folding rear seats. Despite the Cadenza's obvious shortcomings, it does have some additional practicality in the form of a smart power trunk, which allows the trunk to open automatically if the keyfob is detected nearby.
In addition to the trunk space, the Cadenza also has plenty of storage for smaller items. There's a large glove box, decently sized front and rear door pockets, front and rear cupholders, an overhead console with storage, front and rear door pockets, and center console storage with a removable tray.
Even the entry-level Cadenza Premium trim comes with an excellent amount of features, and going up the range there's enough to compete with some much higher-end cars. The Premium comes standard with a rearview camera, upgraded to a surround-view monitor on higher trims, a well as a smart power trunk, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio functions, dual-zone climate control, and keyless ignition. Higher trims get a wider range of power adjustment for the seating, and from the Technology trim up there's a standard panoramic sunroof, as well as LED exterior lighting, wireless device charging, rear park assist, and power rear sunshades. Heated and ventilated front seats are available, as are heated outboard rear seats, while on the Limited trim, the driver gets a head-up display. Driver aids are inclusive of forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection with lane-change assist, and rear cross traffic alert.
Even the entry-level Premium model comes packed with a fantastic infotainment unit. It comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen with eight speakers, while higher trims get an eight-inch touchscreen with UVO eServices, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM radio, USB and AUX ports, and satellite radio functionality. Both the Technology and the Limited trims upgrade the infotainment system to a Harman Kardon premium audio system with 12 speakers, including a subwoofer. These trims also boast onboard navigation and a wireless device charger for compatible devices. The infotainment system is well-laid out, easy to use, and has hard buttons doubling up on touchscreen controls to cater to those that prefer physical inputs.
The Cadenza is a relatively low-volume seller, but buyers seem to be happy overall with their purchase, with very few problems reported by owners. There have been no recalls on the 2018 model although the 2017 model did get recalled for a hose problem that can undermine braking performance. As with all Kias, the 2018 Cadenza comes with a basic warranty of five-years/60,000 miles and a powertrain warranty of ten-years/100,000 miles which isn't transferable if the car is sold. There's also a roadside assistance plan of five-years/60,000 miles for added peace of mind.
The Kia Cadenza hasn't been tested by the NHTSA in its current generation. However, in IIHS crash testing, the Cadenza received a best possible score of Good in most departments and was awarded the title of 2018 Top Safety Pick for its performance.
Large luxury sedans are expected to have state-of-the-art safety systems and the Cadenza is no different. It has a wide range of safety features and driver aids to give buyers some peace of mind when traveling including seven airbags (dual-front, front side, side curtain, and driver knee airbags), tire pressure monitoring, traction control, four-wheel ABS, and stability control. Higher trims get greater levels of safety equipment with features like blind-spot detection, lane change assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, rear park assist, forward collision warning, and autonomous braking. A driver head-up display also keeps your line of sight on the road.
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 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.
Kia offers the Cadenza in three trim levels: Premium, Technology, and Limited. All models are powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine, driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The Premium may be the base model in the line-up but is equipped with 18-inch wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and AUX ports, AM/FM radio, cruise control, and eight speakers. The Premium also has leather upholstery, heated front seats, a smart power trunk, and power-adjustable front seats.
The Technology trim is next in the line-up and adds an eight-inch touchscreen with 12 Harman Kardon speakers, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, ventilated front seats, wireless charging, auto rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, a 14-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and a ten-way power-adjustable front passenger seat. The Technology model also adds driver aids such as rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, autonomous braking system, as well as blind-spot detection with lane change assist.
At the top of the line-up, the Limited Model adds a head-up display, 360-degree surround monitor, Nappa leather upholstery, power rear sunshades, and heated outboard rear seats.
With a fully-loaded line-up, Kia only offers one additional package upgrade for the Cadenza. The Luxury package can only be added to the Premium model only to enhance its features. It includes power-folding mirrors, perimeter approach lighting, and illuminated door handles. Also included are a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon premium audio system with 12 speakers, and LED interior lighting, as well as driver aids like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear park assist.
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.