Car Review: Kia Cadenza Limited blurs the line between premium and luxury


The large premium sedan class once dominated by Buick and Lincoln has some real competition now from the likes of Lexus — and now Kia joins the crowd. The Cadenza has been around a few years already. And for 2017, a redesign is here to help it better compete.

Before, the Cadenza was nice but not comparable to Buick when it came to the ride, providing a jarring ride over bumps. But Kia has revised the suspension, which has smoothed out the ride. Handling is more old-school luxury than Euro-tuned sporty, so don’t expect a lively, tossable car on back roads.

There is some body lean on faster corners, but a comfortable cruiser is where the Cadenza is most at home.

The 3.3-liter V6 helps move the large sedan well; maybe not as much as some of the competition, but for most people, it’s plenty powerful. The eight-speed automatic is very smooth, and those extra gears seem to help on the highway. I managed 25.2 mpg in a week of driving, better than the 23 mpg on the sticker.

A more-elegant interior

The Cadenza has a very quiet ride with little wind noise to speak of; you can have normal conversations or low volume on the radio and still hear everything without issues. A host of safety features — such as autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot and lane-departure warning systems — come standard on this model.

Inside, the fully loaded $45,200 Kia Cadenza Limited gives a very nice impression of a full-on luxury sedan for less money than the others.

Higher-quality leather with diamond quilting adds a bit more elegance for this price range, though white leather might be a bit more work to keep clean (although it does add a rich contrast to the black dash and door trim). You get heated and ventilated front seats with myriad power controls to help with your comfort. Rear seats offer nice leg room and sufficient headroom for most but maybe not the tallest of riders. The outboard seats also offer heat only; the person in the middle seat misses out.

The navigational system works well, and the 8-inch screen is nicely sized, but the voice recognition seems to have a problem sometimes with an address input with a lot of numbers; sometimes taking several tries. There is no complaint about the Harmon Kardon premium audio system: It has quality sound at all volume levels. There is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

Polished styling

The Cadenza has a more-modern look than before, but it’s still pretty conservative even in this class. Overall, the new front-end styling appears more polished, with a wide grill and sweptback headlight clusters that house LED headlights and fog lights lower down the front fascia.

There is tasteful, bright trim work on the car, adding just enough flash without looking overdone. Large 19-inch dark satin wheels play nicely with the granite brown paint. I’m not a fan of brown paint, but it works well on this big Kia Cadenza. The lines flow nicely for a large car, even if it doesn’t really wow with any “Hey, look at me” curb appeal. Rear-end styling is clutter-free if maybe a bit boring, with only a large exhaust opening at the bottom of the bumper to add interest.

The 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited does a nice job of blurring the line between premium and luxury, offering a near-luxury car for a price that’s easier on the wallet. With an improved interior, smooth ride and long warranty, the premium large sedan market isn’t just for American brands anymore. Kia is always looking to be a better brand, and they make leaps and small jumps each time they redesign.