Kia has expanded its vehicle lineup recently with the addition of the K900, Cadenza, and Stinger. Both the Cadenza and Stinger share similar pricing, but the sporty Stinger is intended for a different customer base. The Cadenza is perched above the Optima midsize 4-door, and below the flagship K900 luxury sedan. Three Cadenza models are available: Premium ($32,290), Technology ($39,290) and Limited ($44,690).
We tested the Cadenza Limited with a couple of minor options: cargo net ($50) and cargo tray ($80). The total including the $900 freight charge added up to $45,720. As the top model, the Limited offers upgraded Nappa leather seats, panoramic sunroof, power folding mirrors, navigation, Harman Kardon audio system, head-up display, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, LED headlights and foglights. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard. Safety technology includes blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, surround view monitor, and rear parking assist.
The Cadenza's mission of affordable luxury is evident from the soft Nappa leather seats or the glossy piano black trim on the doors and center console. The instrument panel is simply laid out with an analog tachometer and speedometer; smaller dials indicate coolant temperature and fuel level. A multi-function LCD within the gauge cluster displays various vehicle functions. Phone, cruise, and audio controls are integrated within the leather wrapped steering wheel. Dual paddle shifters are mounted on the steering wheel. The 8" touchscreen infotainment system has a simple interface for the navigation and audio menu options. Kia's surround view uses cameras around the vehicle to synthesize a plan view perspective, along with a rear and front camera views of the surroundings. The plan view displayed on the touchscreen is especially effective for parallel parking and eliminates blind spots. On the center stack is an analog clock and the climate controls. Additional knobs for volume, tuning and a CD slot are located lower on the center stack. Pushbuttons for the heated/ventilated seats are on the center console next to the seats. Hidden under a sliding panel on the console are a 12V power outlet, USB port and analog audio input. Another 12V power outlet is installed in the center console bin. Mobile phones can be discreetly recharged via a Qi wireless charging pad without leaving the phone visible.
A luxury sedan is expected to focus on passenger comfort and the Cadenza Limited does not disappoint. The Cadenza's front seats provide excellent lateral and thigh support, along with 14-way power adjustments and 4-way lumbar support. The front passenger benefits from a 10-way power seat with 2-way lumbar support. Front headroom is adequate for occupants up to 6 ft. tall, even with the sunroof. Rear seats occupants will appreciate the spacious accommodations with ample headroom and legroom; even the center seat is tolerable for short trips.
All Cadenzas are powered by an all-aluminum 3.3L V-6 driving the front wheels. Direct-injection and dual-overhead cams yield 290-hp @ 6,400 RPM and 253 lb.-ft. @ 5,200 RPM. Mated to the V-6 is an 8-speed automatic with overdrive ratios in seventh (0.799:1) and eighth (0.648:1). Fuel consumption is estimated at 20/28 MPG (city/hwy.) We averaged 23-34 MPG in mixed urban and highway driving.
Like most other front-drive sedans, the Cadenza's front suspension consists of MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar. At the rear is a multi-link setup with coil springs and dampers. Disc brakes are at all four wheels: 12.6 in. dia. (front) and 11.8 in. dia. (rear). Michelin all-season P245/40R18 tires on 19" x 8" alloy wheels are standard on Cadenza Technology and Limited models; the Premium trim gets smaller 18" x 7.5" diameter alloy wheels with P245/45R18 tires. Steering is via an electric motor-assisted rack-and-pinion system with 2.71 turns lock-to-lock. Curb weight ranges from 3,770 to 3,799 lbs. (Cadenza Limited) depending on equipment.
Kia intended the Cadenza to fulfill its mission as a luxury cruiser. Moderate understeer and body roll that confirmed that the Cadenza is best suited for straight roads and Interstates. Kia does include various Drive Mode settings to customize steering effort, damping and throttle response. The steering system is tuned for moderate power assist, yet provides minimal feedback of road surfaces; switching to the Sport mode reduces steering assist with no other benefit. We preferred the Smart mode instead, which sets a reasonable balance of steering, damping and throttle response. The Normal mode aims for a cushy ride, but the Cadenza wallows over road undulations. Patched and potholed roads are another story: the low-profile Michelins transmit road impacts directly into the cabin, even in the soft Normal suspension mode. Highway journeys on smooth roads is the Cadenza's strength, cruising with minimal wind and engine noise, although tire noise is apparent but not especially obtrusive.
The Cadenza's V-6 and 8-speed are an effective combination, with decent midrange throttle response; passing highway traffic was effortless. The steering wheel-mounted paddles command quick downshifts on demand. Flicking the paddle shifters to drop down a couple of gears was faster than waiting for transmission kickdown in city traffic. Low RPM throttle response can be somewhat abrupt, resulting in unintended tire squeal when accelerating from a stop. We adjusted the various Drive mode settings to tame the jumpy throttle. As noted earlier, the suspension is no match for the powertrain, so we were unable to exploit the Cadenza's capabilities on the roads.
The Cadenza turns out to be perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable entry luxury sedan. In this shrinking market segment, this Kia faces tough competition from the Toyota Avalon, Buick Lacrosse and Lincoln MKZ. We think the Cadenza Premium model is the best value in the model range, but ultimately with so many excellent alternatives, the Cadenza is not an especially compelling choice.