Relic or relished? Kia Cadenza helps keep large sedans relevant

Heat and cooling are available for the front seats as well as the rear seats outer cushions in the 2018 Kia Cadenza. Kia photo
Heat and cooling are available for the front seats as well as the rear seats outer cushions in the 2018 Kia Cadenza. Kia photo

There are many things working against my tester this week. First, it has a weird-sounding name. Second, it’s part of a segment that used to be esteemed but now is diminished to the point of near extinction.

It may sound like these are traits of a dinosaur, but I’m actually talking about the 2018 Kia Cadenza. It’s far from a has-been in that it’s well-mannered, with non-threatening looks and luxurious refinement.

Yes, the Cadenza is in the full-size car segment which has very few competitors remaining. But it’s good to see the Korean automaker committed to producing a full line of vehicles including this full-size sedan. It certainly can rival the Toyota Avalon and go toe-to-toe with my favorite large sedan, the Chrysler 300. The Cadenza has that same feel and vibe as those cars I mentioned. It’s big, it’s comfortable, it’s certainly refined and it’s road-ready.

On looks, the Cadenza is awfully conservative, but then again, it’s going against the Avalon, which isn’t overly styled either. So, I suppose the looks are appropriate for this segment. The front end is tame, lacking any amount of aggressive styling. While the Chrysler 300 is big and bold, the Cadenza is rather understated in its appearance. LED headlights touch the chromed-out grille, giving the front end a simple, congruent flow. The chrome highlights are subtle on the side and the back end, but still present, giving it a look that is well put-together. The slope of the C-pillar and sleek roofline is the redeeming quality of the Cadenza’s outward appearance.

It’s important to note that within this segment – and perhaps what accounts for why this segment is waning – there are very few enthusiast-oriented cars. Rather, cars like the Cadenza are engineered toward comfort instead of performance. Don’t get me wrong, the 3.3-liter V6 engine has enough power, to the tune of 290 horsepower, to move the car along nicely. But it’s not a blazer off the line and the overall performance is far from enthusiastic, even in sport-shift mode.

The eight-speed automatic transmission does a good job with smooth, efficient shifting. There are paddle shifters to jazz things up a little. Overall, the Cadenza is refined – not athletic, but oh-so quiet and comfortable.

The interior of the Cadenza is what really differentiates it from much of the competition. The near-luxury feel, combined with the cavernous interior, makes this quite big sedan quite appealing. Leather seats throughout are comfortable. The back seat has room for three people legitimately, with ample leg room.

With the slick look of the Cadenza, the C-pillar slopes somewhat which eats into the rear head room a little bit. The 16-foot trunk is slightly below average within this segment. Sometimes function gets sacrificed for the sake of a sleek look. That’s the case here.

The UVO infotainment system doesn’t blow you away with cutting-edge technology, but it is simple to use, and presents well on a 7-inch touchscreen. Some of the touch commands are slow to respond, but otherwise, the integration with Apple and Android phones is great thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There are three trim offerings: Premium, Technology and Limited. My tester was the top-of-the-line Limited trim which comes loaded with every possible option. There aren’t too many additional features or options, as each trim steps up the features and luxury. My tester had a starting price of $44,690. The final MSRP after an optional cargo tray and cargo net was $45,720.

The front-wheel-drive-only Cadenza has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 28 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving, on and off the highway, I averaged 23.8 mpg.

As I get older (and wiser?), I grow to appreciate cars like the Cadenza. I don’t need all that power, nor do I want to feel every aspect of the road. Rather, I want a quiet, comfortable riding car with lots of space. One where I can get in and out of the car without my knees creaking or without having to contort myself. The Cadenza takes cares of all of that, and for that I really appreciate it.


  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $44,690/$45,720
  • Mileage…………………………………… 20 mpg/city; 28 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.3-liter V6
  • Horsepower…………………………… 290 hp/253 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Hwasung, Korea