The spacious Kia Cadenza becomes arguably the most stylish large, near-luxury sedan for 2017 with upgraded looks, new amenities and a smooth ride.
The 2017 Cadenza also is a bit more fuel efficient than its predecessor and is rated by the federal government at 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on highways.
And the base model's $32,890 starting manufacturer's suggested retail price (plus destination charge) is something of a bargain considering the standard amenities: 290-horsepower V-6, eight-speed automatic transmission, leather-covered seats, heated 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat and eight-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, pushbutton start, rearview camera with guidelines, selectable drive modes, automatic dimming rearview mirror, 18-inch wheels and a trunk cargo net.
By comparison, the base 2017 Toyota Avalon sedan with a standard lower-powered V-6 and smaller wheels starts at $34,115.
All 2017 Cadenzas come with the best new-car warranty in the industry — 10 years or 100,000 miles for the powertrain and five years or 60,000 miles of limited vehicle coverage. Consumer Reports magazine predicts reliability for the 2017 Cadenza will be average.
The Cadenza isn't a big seller because many consumers prefer SUVs to larger sedans, though it's about the same length as a Honda Pilot SUV.
Its nicely appointed appearance inside and out drew compliments, and the test vehicle, which was the top-level Limited model, was easy to drive. Drivers don't have to work through a complicated menu of commands to tune the radio or set interior temperature. The 8-inch display screen in the middle of the dashboard was large and easy to read.
The Cadenza seats were spacious and welcoming, given that the 45.5 inches of driver and front-passenger legroom are more than the Cadillac Escalade and rear-seat legroom of 37.2 inches is improved from last year. Trunk space of 16 cubic feet is the same as the same-class Avalon.
The Cadenza's rear seatbacks are fixed and don't fold down, so narrow long items can slide through from the trunk to the second row of seats via a center pass through area.
Steering had a rather light feel — maybe too light for those who enjoy a sporty vehicle.
The 3.3-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection V-6 produces 3 less horsepower than last year's Cadenza engine, and peak torque is reduced by 2 foot-pounds to 253 at 5,200 rpm. But the adjustments aren't noticeable and still allowed for good power for the nearly 3,800-pound Cadenza test vehicle.
This is the first eight-speed automatic in a Kia front-wheel drive car, which helped improve the Cadenza's fuel mileage rating by 1 mpg in city driving. Running on regular gasoline, the test Cadenza averaged the government's 23-mpg average, which is on par with the mileage rating for many mid-size SUVs.
The Cadenza was quiet inside, with little exterior noise intruding. Road bumps, even cracked pavement, were absorbed and capably managed by a compliant suspension. That let passengers in the well-crafted interior enjoy the perforated, quilted Nappa leather-covered seats and Harmon Kardon audio system with ClariFi sound enhancing technology.