2017 Kia Cadenza: Elegant design and chockfull of technology

2017 Kia Cadenza (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Kia is full of surprises these days. And they’re all good.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I got behind the wheel of a Kia and thought, “Eh.” Usually the thoughts run more along the lines of, “Wow.”

The 2017 Kia Cadenza is no exception.

All-new for this model year, Cadenza boasts more technology, more available features and an all-around more elegant design.

Driving dynamics also get smoother, and I feel like Kia is finally starting to come into its own. Granted, this vehicle will not be able to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz or BMW in the drive department, but it will absolutely knock the socks off of a similarly sized Toyota, Ford or Chevrolet.

Cadenza is equipped with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, mated with an 8-speed transmission. I really liked this engine, and I thought the power was more than enough for aggressive passing maneuvers.

The ride falls more on the luxury side of the equation, being soft as opposed to sporty. And I found the steering to be a bit loose, but it wasn’t something that bothered me for an everyday driver. We took a bit of a detour over some gravel roads, and I thought the Cadenza did surprisingly well over all the bumps and grooves.

The second-gen Cadenza adds a refined touch to the interior and exterior styling. I love the new iteration of the Kia “tiger nose” grille with the vertical slats. The interior gives off an air of intuitive elegance. There aren’t too many buttons cluttering up the space on the center stack, and the pillow-soft quilted Nappa leather seats in the Limited trim are as comfortable as they are pretty.

What I really like about the Cadenza is all the stuff you get for your money. We were driving top-tier models during the preview, and though official pricing hasn’t been announced, Kia said this model would top out under $44K – which is slightly less than 2016 pricing.

What’s included? Virtually everything. At this trim, you’re looking at standard features such as Nappa leather seats, four-color head up display, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, heated/cooled front seats, surround-view monitor, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, Harmon Kardon premium audio, automatic climate control, lane departure warning, panoramic sunroof and navigation.

That being said, there was one major omission that we noticed: a rear USB port for charging smart devices.

I had the occasion to sit in the back seat for a stretch while my drive partner was filming a video segment. My phone battery was at 1 percent, and I looked for a port to charge in the back so I wouldn’t interrupt his filming. Nada. To me, for a 2017 model, that’s a glaring omission. Especially with a top-tier model. My hope is that these are pre-production models and a rear USB port is coming. [UPDATE: Kia has confirmed that we were, in fact, driving pre-production models, and the top-tier Cadenzas will have a rear center console with USB charge ports. Phew!]

Speaking of my drive partner, MotoManTV. We had a bit of an argument during the drive about whether or not we’d spend $44K on a Kia. My answer was yes, his was a resounding no – even though he admits it’s a nice car.

My reasoning: There’s a lot of stuff included for the money. His reasoning: He wants better driving dynamics and doesn’t care about the stuff. He’d rather be driving a pared down Mercedes C-Class for the money.

Depends on what you’re looking for. But I will point out to get a comparably equipped C-Class, you’ll spend upwards of $55K.

It should also be noted that we spent a lot of time comparing the Cadenza to the Nissan Maxima and the Toyota Avalon – two competitors in its class. While I think the Maxima is neck-and-neck with the Cadenza in terms of amenities, I like the 8-speed transmission in the Cadenza better than the CVT in the Maxima, and the handling in the Maxima is sportier than the Cadenza. However, a comparably equipped Maxima will cost about $3K less. Avalon neither has the amenities nor the handling, but it still costs about $2K less.

Imagine that. A Kia that costs more than a Nissan and a Toyota.

You may think that’s a bit ambitious, but as Michael Sprague, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Kia Motors America, pointed out during the press preview, Kia took the top spot of the JD Power Initial Quality Study for 2016 – that’s the first time in 27 years that a non luxury brand has held that spot.

“This is the new Kia, and it’s a world-class brand by every measure,” Sprague said.

Though we were driving Limited models with all the whistles and bells, the base model will come very well equipped with leather seats, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, smart key entry, push- button start, rearview camera and 18-inch wheels.

The 2017 Cadenza is slated to go on sale in October, and official pricing will be announced closer to that time. But at the launch, Kia gave us a small hint of pricing and trim structure:

  • The Premium model will start below $32K, which is $1,000 less than outgoing base model.
  • The Technology trim will start below $39K.
  • The top-tier Limited model will start below $44K.
  • Destination fee will be $895.

All in all, I really liked the new Cadenza. It’s pretty. It has a smooth ride. And it has every amenity you could possibly want.

If you’re shopping Avalon and Maxima – or even Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus – you’ve got to add the Cadenza to your must-test list. And if you’re balking over the fact that it’s a Kia, get over it. It’s 2016.


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