Kia’s second-generation Cadenza makes a much stronger statement than its predecessor.

– Detroit, Michigan

I’m sure I drove the previous-generation Kia Cadenza, but I cannot for the life of me remember it. I’m sure it was fine, in the same way that a Chevy Impala or Toyota Avalon are forgettably satisfactory. But it hardly stood out. Actually, Kia only sold about 28,000 of them since 2013. Turns out the general public barely noticed it, too.

The 2017 Cadenza has a much better shot at success, right off the bat. Every time I walk away from this car, I look back for a second glance. I rave about it to friends and coworkers. I really like it, and find myself more excited about this fullsize cruiser than any one of its competitors. This time around, the Kia Cadenza is definitely worth your attention.

 

 

Pros

  • This is a seriously pretty car. The old Cadenza didn’t do much for me; it looked like a seven-eighths scale Kia K900, which... also didn’t do much for me. The new sedan wears clean, taut lines, with lots of sharp angles and dramatic elements. The 19-inch dark-finish wheels look great, and I love the lightning bolt signature of the LED turn signals (also the running lamps) up front. I’ll go so far to say this is one of the best-looking cars to come from Kia, and it even usurps the larger Genesis G90 in terms of Korean elegance.
  • The interior both looks and feels incredibly premium, especially considering this Limited model should only cost around $45,000. The white leather has quilted bolsters, every bit of trim is very high quality, and the cabin comes together as a seriously stylish and full-featured package.
  • By the numbers, the Cadenza doesn’t best any of its competitors in terms of interior measurements, but it’s the overall feeling of spaciousness that earns a Pro here. A Dodge Charger has more rear legroom, but the Kia is easier to get in and out of, and has more headroom. Scanning the list of competitors below, this Cadenza is the car I’d want to sit in every day.
  • It’s super comfy for highway cruising. Despite not being all that lovely to steer (more on that in a minute), the Cadenza succeeds at its mission of being incredibly smooth and composed on the highway. This is what big sedans do best, of course, and the Kia does it better than many others in the class.

Cons

  • I can’t believe Kia is still using this old, naturally aspirated, 3.3-liter V6. It’s not especially powerful, slow to respond, and the eight-speed automatic transmission tends to just upshift into the highest gear possible for better fuel economy. That’d be fine, normally, especially considering this car’s relaxed demeanor, but a combined economy rating of 23 miles per gallon is also pretty poor.
  • Look, there isn’t a single car in this segment that I’d label “fun to drive,” and in that regard, the Cadenza joins the population of Snoozeville, U.S.A. There’s no feedback through the steering or chassis, even when swapping between Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Smart (read: Auto) drive modes – they all feel exactly the same. All Sport does is keep you in one gear lower than the engine wants, and it doesn’t feel in any way sporty. My advice: Leave this thing in Comfort, take it easy, and just enjoy the plush ride and super nice interior.

Competitors

 

Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com

2017 KIA CADENZA LIMITED

Engine 3.3-Liter V6
Output 290 Horsepower / 253 Pound-Feet
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy 20 City / 28 Highway / 23 Combined
Drive Type Front-Wheel Drive
Weight 3,633 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Base Price $31,900 (est.)
As-Tested Price $45,000 (est.)

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