2018 Kia Cadenza Quietly exceeding expectations of label snobs everywhere.

 2018 Kia Cadenza

Overall Rating:

Kia’s Cadenza is a compelling choice in a shrinking segment. For those who prefer sedans to SUVs, it not only represents a solid value but also provides near-luxury features throughout its model range. Inside its well-built cabin is room for four adults to stretch out in comfort, and the luxe features only get better the further up its range you climb. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features, and highly sought-after active safety tech—automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and more—is provided as standard on the midrange Technology trim and the top-spec Limited. That the Cadenza wears a handsome and upscale design is icing on the automotive cake.

HIGHS
Intuitive infotainment system, technology-heavy equipment list, generous warranty.
LOWS
Tepid acceleration, lackluster braking performance, limited cargo flexibility.
VERDICT
The Cadenza is a high-tech haven for the upper-middle-class sedan buyer.

What’s New for 2018?

Kia saw fit to make just one change to the Cadenza lineup for 2018: Last year’s Panoramic Sunroof package (a large glass sunroof, power sunshade, and LED interior lighting) is now part of the Luxury package on the base Premium trim instead of being a separate $1000 option. The big glass roof is still standard on Technology and Limited trims.

What Was New for 2017?

The Cadenza was all new for 2017, marking Kia’s sophomore effort for a full-size near-luxury car. Completely redesigned from bumper to bumper, the sharper Cadenza features a sleeker interior and modern technologies such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an available head-up display. The 3.3-liter V-6 engine was retuned for better fuel economy and paired to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. For the first time, the Cadenza offers a full suite of active safety technology.

Trims and Options We’d Choose

We chose the midrange Technology trim last year, and we’d hold steady on that recommendation for 2018 as well. This year’s build is priced at $40,190 and calls up many modern and luxury items that attract buyers in this segment, including:

• Panoramic sunroof
• 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation
• 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio
• Proximity approach lighting

All of the Cadenza’s active safety technologies also come as standard on this midrange trim and on the top-spec Limited model.

Engine and Transmission

Engine and Transmission Rating:

While not as quick as its rivals, the Cadenza’s V-6 engine is velvety smooth and competent. The transmission could be more refined, but the Smart driving mode makes the most of the powertrain’s capabilities.

What’s New for 2018?

The components underneath the Cadenza’s sculpted hood carry over to 2018 with zero changes.

2017 Kia Cadenza

The revised 3.3-liter V-6 makes 290 horsepower (three less than in the previous-generation Cadenza), and while the engine itself is a smooth operator, initial throttle response is sleepy. This makes the Cadenza easy to drive around town without disturbing your passengers, but it requires a heavy foot for more immediate zip at stoplights.

The eight-speed automatic is carefree. It’s never quick to change gears, but it stumbles under heavy throttle, and with Sport mode engaged, shifts feel abrupt. The transmission does feature a manual-shifting mode that will hold the gear until the driver provides input. In addition to Sport mode, the Cadenza has Eco, Comfort, and Smart driving modes. Smart mode monitors your driving style and automatically switches between Eco, Sport, and Comfort to provide the optimum balance between performance, fuel economy, and operation.

Test Results: Acceleration


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Performance and Driving Impressions

Performance and Driving Impressions Rating:

The Cadenza’s fair acceleration, refined ride, and handling capability will satisfy those in the market for a full-size sedan. Braking performance needs improvement, however, and other rivals simply offer more speed and better cornering ability.

What’s New for 2018?

No mechanical changes under its handsome skin mean performance of 2018’s model mirrors that of 2017’s.

2017 Kia Cadenza

Acceleration

The Cadenza is no slouch—6.7 seconds from zero to 60 mph is plenty of pep—but it’s still one of the pokier cars in this segment. Get on the accelerator hard, and the eight-speed automatic is slow to catch on, with abrupt, late downshifts. The Cadenza is better suited to laid-back driving styles than aggressive ones.

Test Results: Acceleration


Ride, Handling, and Steering

The Cadenza’s suspension soaks up bumps admirably and manages to keep body motions in check. The Cadenza’s helm is light to the touch; comfort is prioritized over sportiness here, but it’s still a competent handler.

Test Results: Maximum Cornering Capability


Braking

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Test Results: Maximum Braking Capability


Interior

Interior Rating:

The Cadenza’s classy, well-built cabin provides the same luxuries as its rivals and then some. Outward visibility is good, too. Overall, the Cadenza is a lovely space to spend time.

What’s New for 2018?

LED interior lighting and a panoramic sunroof join the Luxury package on the base Cadenza Premium. Other than that, the cabin remains as spacious, comfortable, and well equipped as last year’s model.

2017 Kia Cadenza

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Interior Space Comparisons

Front-seat passenger space in the Cadenza is among the best in the class, and the rear quarters should still be comfortable for two adults.

Front Seats


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Back Seats


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Interior Features

A high-quality, elegant interior pulls cues from class-above manufacturers. A 7.0- or 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is set above a control panel; Technology and Limited models have a second 7.0-inch display that snuggles between two gauges and provides trip information to the driver. The leather-trimmed seats, with beautiful quilted panels in our Limited test car, were highly supportive. The optional ventilated front seats were weak enough that we often couldn’t tell whether they were cooling our hindquarters.

Feature Standard/Optional
Tilting steering column Standard
Telescoping steering column Standard
Power-adjustable steering column Optional
Heated steering wheel Optional
Power-adjustable pedals Not Available
Memory driver’s seat Optional
Massaging driver’s seat Not Available
Massaging front-passenger seat Not Available
Power driver’s seat Standard
Power front-passenger seat Standard
Heated front seats Standard
Heated rear seats Optional
Cooled front seats Optional
Cooled rear seats Not Available
Head-up display Optional
Rear-seat entertainment system Not Available

Seat Adjustments

2017 Kia Cadenza SXL Fore/
Aft
Recline Shoulder articulation Lumbar support Height Thigh support Side bolster Headrest tilt
Driver’s seat X X X X X
Front-passen-
ger seat
X X X X

Climate Control

Manual climate control Automatic climate control Second-row climate control Second-row vent
2017 Kia Cadenza SXL No Two-zone No Yes

Cupholder Location

Vehicle Tested: 2017 Kia Cadenza SXL

Seating Height

To accurately measure seating height—the distance from the road to the driver’s hip—we use an H-Point Machine (HPM), a precisely engineered device marketed by the Society of Automotive Engineers. This versatile tool, in conjunction with a laser device, reveals the width and location of roof-pillar visibility obstructions (blind spots). Our HPM and laser measurement tools determine the length of road obscured by the hood as well as the road obscured by the trunk or hatch (as seen through the rearview mirror).

Test Results: Seating Height


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Blind Spots and Visibility

Drivers will notice that the Cadenza’s roof pillars are narrow, with the exceptions being the rearmost pillars that widen at the base. Depending on your height, these may create a blind spot for you.


Roof pillars protect occupants in a rollover crash, but they also create blind spots. We determine visibility by measuring the location and width of each pillar using an H-Point Machine and a laser beam (surrogates for a driver and eyeball, respectively). Front and rear visibility are calculated by subtracting the viewable area blocked by the pillars from a perfect 180-degree score.



Infotainment

Infotainment Rating:

A high level of standard infotainment equipment is a great start, and the Cadenza kicks it up a notch with an interface that’s easy to operate.

What’s New for 2018?

The Cadenza’s suite of infotainment technologies is the same as last year’s lineup, and we’re mostly satisfied. The lack of an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot puts the Cadenza a half step behind rivals such as the Buick LaCrosse.

2017 Kia Cadenza

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Infotainment Features

Base Cadenzas, oddly known as the Premium trim level, have a 7.0-inch UVO infotainment touchscreen nestled into the dashboard; Technology and Limited trims have an 8.0-inch display. All models have UVO eServices, an onboard telematics system that can diagnose a mechanical problem, alert the driver for vehicle maintenance, and call for help in the event of an accident.

Vehicle Tested: 2017 Kia Cadenza SXL

Infotainment Performance

The UVO infotainment icons could be bigger for ease of use while driving. Kia’s decision to include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard across the range was a smart one, as both add familiar functionality to the system, and UVO’s response time was on par with popular smartphones from Apple and Samsung.

Test Results: Infotainment Response Time


By filming the infotainment screen while switching between various menus and then analyzing the high-speed video frame by frame, we are able to accurately measure the system’s response time. We rate infotainment response, or latency, on the following scale:

Cargo Space and Storage

Cargo Space and Storage Rating:

Its average-size trunk, limited cubbies, and lack of folding rear seats make the Cadenza less flexible than the competition. Despite these shortcomings, it comes close to other full-size rivals in the category.

What’s New for 2018?

Since there have not been any changes to the Cadenza’s shape or interior packaging, we expect our storage testing regimen would provide similar results to the 2017 car shown in the illustrations below.

2017 Kia Cadenza

We fit six carry-on suitcases in the Cadenza’s trunk, which matches up with the competition. Kia fixed the rear seatbacks in an effort to enhance structural stiffness, so the second row only has a center pass-through for increased storage. The Nissan Maxima, with its foldable second row, is the ideal airport runner.

Test Results: Carry-On Luggage


Cargo Configurations

Cargo Volume Comparisons

Although the Kia’s trunk volume is midpack, it offers more volume than the Buick LaCrosse and Nissan Maxima. Both of those sedans offer folding rear seats, however, providing more a flexible cargo area.


Interior Cubby Storage

Why do we use ping-pong balls?

To determine the interior space available to stash travel essentials, we’ve devised a range of measuring protocols. We use six beverage containers ranging in size and shape to gauge cupholder accommodation. We stack, stuff, and arrange 9-by-14-by-22-inch cardboard boxes to quantify the number of airline-carry-on-size suitcases that will fit in a trunk or folded seat’s cargo space. To measure irregularly shaped gloveboxes, door pockets, and console bins, we fill each container with 1.5-inch-diameter ping-pong balls. It’s tempting to convert the number of spheres to a volume (cubic inches), but we resist that calculation because—as with the box of tissues, 12-ounce can of soda, or gallon of milk you might stash in these compartments—there are voids between the balls. Random packing (our procedure) nullifies approximately one-third of the available space. The negative space between the balls could theoretically be reduced to 25 percent of an irregular shape with precise stacking, but while we might be pedantic, we’re not crazy.

Test Results: Maximum Cubby Storage





Exterior

Exterior Rating:

Its charming good looks and trimmer dimensions make the Cadenza a catch in a segment of hefty sedans, and clever convenience features make it feel as if you spent more than you did.

What’s New for 2018?

Why fix what’s not broken? The Cadenza’s exterior styling is unchanged for 2018, and it remains one of the more handsome sedans available in this segment.

2017 Kia Cadenza

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Exterior Dimensions

The Cadenza strikes a balance between the biggest and smallest cars in this segment. Its just-right dimensions allow it to slide into parking spaces and garages easily.

Exterior Measurement Comparisons




Exterior Features

Starting with its angled headlamps, lightning-bolt LED daytime running lights, and concave grille, the Cadenza’s good looks continue along the lightly sculpted body. If you’re a fan of bright colors, you’ll be disappointed by the earth tones that are available for the exterior, but we think they complement the car’s subtle design. The Cadenza’s smart key fob has a few tricks up its sleeve, too. Stand behind the Cadenza for a moment with the fob, and the trunk will power open. The car will also illuminate the door handles and turn on puddle lights at night when it senses the fob’s proximity. The approach lighting is standard on the Technology and Limited trims.

Active Key-Fob Commands

Lock / unlock Trunk Remote start Panic alarm Hold to roll down windows Hold to roll up windows Remote parking
2017 Kia Cadenza SXL X X X

Passive Key-Fob Commands

Driver door lock / unlock Passenger door lock / unlock Rear doors lock / unlock Trunk Push to start Proximity approach lighting
2017 Kia Cadenza SXL X X X X X X

Safety and Driver Assistance

Safety and Driver Assistance Rating:

The Cadenza has not yet been tested by NHTSA, but it fared well in IIHS testing. The Cadenza’s active safety technology is comprehensive, and it is standard starting on the mid-level Technology trim, with simpler features offered as options on the base Premium model.

What’s New for 2018?

Since IIHS has changed its scoring model for 2018, the Cadenza loses its Top Safety Pick+ designation, dropping to just a Top Safety Pick due to its headlamp performance and child-seat LATCH anchor access. Otherwise, all of the Kia’s good crash-test scores carry over, as do its available active safety technologies.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Test Results

2018 Kia Cadenza

Driver’s Side Small Overlap Passenger’s Side Small Overlap Moderate Overlap Side Impact Roof Strength Head Restraints and Seats Front Crash Prevention Headlights Child Seat Anchors Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+?
Good Good Good Good Good Good Superior Acceptable Marginal Yes; Top Safety Pick

2017 Kia Cadenza

Crash-Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the nonprofit, independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluate vehicles for crashworthiness in the United States. NHTSA assigns cars an overall rating out of five stars. IIHS uses a different set of tests, grades cars on a scale of Good to Poor, and awards the vehicles that perform best across its tests with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ honors, the latter of which requires that the subject’s automated forward-collision-braking system performs well.

The Cadenza sailed through IIHS’s battery of testing, earning the agency’s top award. The Cadenza notched less-than-stellar results for headlamp performance and access to its child seat anchors, but those areas don’t figure as heavily into IIHS’s scoring.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Test Results

2017 Kia Cadenza

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Test Results

2017 Kia Cadenza

Driver’s Side Small Overlap Passenger’s Side Small Overlap Moderate Overlap Side Impact Roof Strength Head Restraints and Seats Front Crash Prevention Headlights Child Seat Anchors Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+?
Good Good Good Good Good Good Superior Acceptable Marginal Top Safety Pick+

Airbags, Child Seats, and Spare Tire Location

The Cadenza’s child-seat LATCH anchors are easy to access. Once the carrier is situated, there’s still ample room for either the driver or the front-seat passenger to sit comfortably.

Vehicle Tested: 2017 Kia Cadenza

Active Safety Features

A basic blind-spot monitor is optional on Premium models as part of the $3000 Luxury package that also includes navigation, the 8.0-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, and Harman/Kardon premium audio. On Technology and Limited trims, an advanced blind-spot monitoring system will apply brake pressure on certain wheels to help maintain travel within the lane when there is a vehicle approaching from behind. Also standard on the top two trims are automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning.

Backup Camera

Gridlines integrated in backup camera view? Do gridlines move with steering wheel? Does volume of audio system reduce when reverse is selected?
2017 Kia Cadenza SXL Yes Yes No

Warranty

Warranty Rating:

When it comes to warranties, few manufacturers can compete with Kia (and its sister company, Hyundai). Five years or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance is better than average, but Cadenza buyers must fend for themselves when it comes to complimentary scheduled maintenance.

For more on what you need to know about warranties, read here.

What’s New for 2018?

The Cadenza’s warranty coverage is the same for 2018 as it was for 2017.

Warranty Comparison

Vehicle Limited Warranty Powertrain Warranty Hybrid Component Warranty Corrosion Protection Roadside Assistance Complimentary Scheduled Maintenance
2017 Kia Cadenza 5 years / 60,000 miles 10 years / 100,000 miles* N/A 5 years / 100,000 miles 5 years / 60,000 miles None
2017 Nissan Maxima 3 years / 36,000 miles 5 years / 60,000 miles N/A 5 years (unlimited miles) 3 years / 36,000 miles None
2017 Buick LaCrosse 4 years / 50,000 miles 6 years / 70,000 miles N/A 4 years / 50,000 miles 6 years / 70,000 miles 2 years / 24,000 miles (two visits)
2017 Toyota Avalon 3 years / 36,000 miles 5 years / 60,000 miles 8 years / 100,000 miles 5 years (unlimited miles) 2 years (unlimited miles) 2 years / 25,000 miles
2017 Chevrolet Impala 3 years / 36,000 miles 5 years / 60,000 miles N/A 6 years / 100,000 miles 5 years / 60,000 miles 2 years / 24,000 miles (two visits)
*Original owner only. See manufacturer website for more information.
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