The Kia Cadenza is a large sedan that's part of the second generation first introduced in 2017. Although many buyers are moving away from sedans and into SUVs, the venerable sedan is still holding on and the Cadenza is a great example of what a 21st-century sedan should be. It's available in three trims, the Premium, Technology and Limited models which are all front-wheel drive and powered by a 3.3-liter V6 developing 290 horsepower and 253 ft-lbs of torque, while connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. The Cadenza might not have the biggest trunk or the best performance, but it has many brilliant standard features and safety equipment and continues to finely tread the line between luxury and affordability, giving it a leg up on rivals like the Toyota Avalon, Buick Lacrosse, Chrysler 300, and Chevrolet Impala.
The current Kia Cadenza was introduced as part of the 2017 generation and has seen some minor upgrades. The 2019 model gets a few changes to keep things fresh, but they're primarily limited to a reshuffle in standard equipment across a few trims. Now standard on the base Cadenza Premium, you'll find enhanced safety courtesy of rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert made standard. Meanwhile, the Technology model gets the remaining equipment from last year's Premium Luxury package as standard, including an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Harman Kardon premium audio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, panoramic sunroof, and built-in navigation.
The entry-level Premium model starts at an MSRP of $33,100, while the Technology model starts at $38,200. The range-topping Limited trim starts at $44,100 before tax, registration, licensing fees, and a destination charge of $995.
Comparatively, the Toyota Avalon ranges between $35,650 and $42,350 while the Buick Lacrosse ranges between $29,570 and $44,870.
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The Cadenza feels like a lounge on wheels. It's a comfortable and quiet place with plush seating that transports its occupants around without much fuss. The steering is light and doesn't give as much feedback as it should, especially when cornering. It's no surprise that the standard driving mode of the Cadenza is Comfort, which optimizes a soft ride and smooth shifts above all else. Sport mode firms up the steering and sharpens the throttle programming, while eco maximizes efficiency with even slower responses to throttle inputs. There's also 'smart mode', which learns the driver's habits and adjusts the car accordingly. Of the four modes, only Sport feels any different, with the changes in other modes feeling negligible.
The ride is extremely comfortable even on the Limited trim with the 19-inch wheels, but this does result in more body roll than we'd ideally look for in a large sedan. However, bumps are hardly felt and occupants will feel disconnected from the stress of the outside world due to the extremely high levels of isolation when inside the Cadenza.
Braking is also easy and predictable and makes stopping the Cadenza, even at speed, a trivial matter. While not the quickest off the line, or the most agile around a corner, the Cadenza turns every journey into a smooth and relaxed affair.
The Kia Cadenza suffers in the performance area due to its mundane handling and ho-hum acceleration. It also suffers from average fuel economy and the fact that it is only available with the V6 engine.
However, the Kia Cadenza has many strong points like its stylish interior, great safety and equipment levels, as well as an infotainment system that can compete with the best. It's not a car with quick shifts and blistering acceleration; the Cadenza is meant to stay composed in all conditions while its occupants enjoy comfort and luxury on a trip. With little road noise and most of the bumps absorbed, passengers can enjoy the premium features while getting to their destination in style. At a starting price of only $33,100 it also provides fantastic value for money and it's a great alternative to some of the more established sedans out there. It's by no means a typical large sedan, but as a junior luxury sedan, it fulfills its role rather well.
With three trims and no options packages to bridge the gap, what you see is what you get, and you've only got one chance to make sure you get all the Cadenza you need. As such, the Technology trim is the option to buy as it has most of the features of the Limited model, but at a much better price. For the mid-range price, buyers get the full eight-inch infotainment system with Harman Kardon premium audio, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, and a full suite of driver assistance features including lane keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, and adaptive cruise control. You miss out on ventilated front seats and heated rear items, but for that, you need the Limited trim, and the price of $44,100 seems a bit high.
Although both these cars have outstanding interiors, the Cadenza has more passenger space, including rear legroom. However, the redesigned Avalon feels like a junior Lexus, while the Kia is luxurious but not at the same level. The V6 in the Toyota makes 310 hp compared to the Cadenza's 290 hp, and also has better gas mileage estimates than the Cadenza. On the Cadenza, the driver's aids are only available on the higher trims, but adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking are standard on the Toyota. Toyota has also endowed the Avalon with sportier driving dynamics, but sacrifice little of the comfort required to dominate this segment. With a starting price of around $2,400 cheaper than the Avalon, the Kia is definitely worth taking a look at, but is it the better large sedan? Arguably not.
Both of these cars are comfortable and have great features, but the Buick has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that the Cadenza just can't match. The Buick Lacrosse is available in all-wheel drive, as well as having a more powerful V6 motor that makes 310 hp. The Cadenza is only available in front-wheel drive and its V6 engine only makes 290 hp and provides drivers with tepid performance. The Lacrosse is also available with an adjustable suspension, and 20-inch wheels, while the Cadenza focuses on a plush ride without that element of adjustability. While the Buick has less cargo space at only 15 cu-ft compared to Kia's 16.1 cu-ft, the rear seats of the Buick fold forward to drastically increase cargo space while the Kia's don't. The Kia has a better interior and longer warranty, but it's just not enough to take on the Lacrosse, which is more of an all-rounder suited to a wider variety of buyers.
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