When you review lots of different cars, they have the tendency to blend together. Not only do cars share so many of the same features and technology these days, they also share lots of styling cues and interior-design ideas. This is especially true for the Korean auto giant Kia, who seems to borrow a little something from everyone. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and they are unlikely to borrow bad ideas – but ultimately it leaves this Cadenza sedan without a true sense of self. Underneath that ambiguity, however, you’ll find a very capable car for a good value.
When any new car company comes to the market, they have to have something to offer that’s different than the others. For Kia, that was always affordability. The cars were a bit spartan at first, but when you hop in this Cadenza you realize just how far the company has come in an extremely short timeframe. It’s a real accomplishment to be able to deliver this level of comfort, technology and build quality from such a relatively new company. One of the only ways to advance this quickly was to take other cars as benchmarks, then engineer to them.
You see it first when you walk up to the front – the grill has a very Ford Fusion-esque design, while the headlights and front fascia look very Buick-like. There’s a bunch of older Lexus influence in the back, and the interior is a mash-up of Ford, Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Once you get past that, you slip into a very comfortable seat with some cool quilted stitching patterns on the limited trim of our test car. Overall, the materials chosen are quite nice – with only a few thinner plastics to be found.
The technology is great too, featuring a touch-screen infotainment system that is very robust, if not a bit overly simplified. That is a good thing, because it feels like this car is targeted at older buyers. It’s got an over-abundance of buttons as well, which does leave the cabin a bit cluttered, but it means you don’t have to interact with the touchscreen if you don’t want to. There’s also a decidedly hushed and subdued feeling to the performance, also seemingly to appeal to a more ‘mature’ buyer.
Even though the handling is fantastic, the Cadenza isn’t geared for performance. It’s got a clear luxury intent, and it doesn’t try to show off the handling or boast about the 290hp 6-cylinder 3.3-Liter’s power. With 3700lb to lug around, the engine feels competent, but not quick. Overall, it’s a very balanced driving experience. While it’s not going to speed up your pulse, it doesn’t really feel disappointing either.
The value proposition here is a ‘full size’ sedan that starts at $31k. The test car here loaded down with tons of safety and comfort features (like radar cruise, lane departure, collision avoidance, navigation, backup cameras, etc.) pushes $45k, which is still a good chunk of change. When you consider that most of its competitors have starting prices that are more than that, [and] you can see where the value is. The V6 engine doesn’t give great fuel mileage, especially in the city (20mpg City, 28mph Highway) – but with a low-entry price and an overall pleasant experience, there’s lots to like about this new 2017 Kia Cadenza.