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2017 Kia Review: 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited By Steve Purdy

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Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

While talking with a fellow on a California park road lookout last week I found that even among some who think themselves car enthusiasts the word has not fully gotten out that Kia, and sister brand Hyundai, are now as good as anything in the world and fully competitive in the categories in which they compete. This fellow was thinking of getting a new car for his significant other and once he found out I write about cars for a living he wanted my opinion.

As we chatted he revealed his assumption that the Korean brands should be avoided because of poor quality. I had to assure him that while that may have been the case when they first came to the U.S. as cheap car brands neither Kia nor Hyundai has been that for quite some time. In fact, they have led J.D. Power Initial Quality Surveys in recent years not to mention design and content have been first rate and continue to keep up with the intense competition.

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Our test car this week is Kia’s full-size, “near-luxury” sedan called Cadenza – bigger than Optima, smaller than K900 - that just experienced its first modest redesign since introduction in 2012. With a passenger volume of nearly 108 cubic feet, it’s about the size of a Lexus ES, Toyota Avalon or the new Cadillac CT6. It would be tough to find a better value when considering the many comparables.

Peter Schreyer is in charge of design at Kia and Hyundai. Schreyer is best known for his work on German cars including the exceptionally innovative Audi TT. Since being hired by the Koreans in 2006 he has brought the brands from white bread to focaccia. The Cadenza’s profile reminds me of the Jaguar XJ and distinctive styling details set it apart from the crowd. A vertical and concave version of the Kia chipmunk grille, striking lighting details and enough sculpting to catch one’s eye make it look impressive. The big 19-inch tires on our test car wrap around strikingly styled, satin-finish multi-spoke alloy wheels. And, it has just enough chrome to punctuate the design without becoming garish.

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The car’s remarkably roomy interior exhibits up-to-date styling details as well to compliment excellent ergonomics, functionality and comfort. The horizontal visual character adds to the feeling of roominess and integrates a large-enough, multi-function touch screen in the center. Kia does not offer a remote controller as do many competitors. Buttons are used where buttons are needed. First-rate materials, fit and finish, including lots of stitching and a suede-like headliner along with an analog clock, speak to the upscale character of this beautiful sedan.

Only five exterior colors and two interiors are offered along with only three trim levels and very few options. This is a strategy for providing a good level of content for the price but seriously limits a customer’s ability to personalize the car. Our test car came with the Granite Brown (very dark) exterior and black interior – not particularly attractive to this reporter but that, admittedly, is simply a personal bias.

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The basic Cadenza (and we use the term “basic” advisably since it has impressive content) is called Premium and starts out at $31,990. The next step up is the Cadenza Technology model that starts at $38,999. Our loaded, top-of-the-line Limited version shows a sticker price of $45,290 including destination charge. We show nothing extra on the sticker but the lengthy list of included features includes: heated and ventilated Nappa leather front and outboard rear seats, cool 19-inch wheels, full slate of safety stuff, dual-zone HVAC, navigation with traffic, push-button start, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, all the nanny-assist systems you’ll need (lane departure warning, blind spot alert, forward collision warning with dynamic braking, adaptive cruise control, chassis dynamic controls, hill start assist, etc.), power rear window blinds, premium audio, panoramic sunroof, power trunk lid, power and heated tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and plenty more.

Only one powertrain comes in the Cadenza and it is a mighty good one. While not fastest, nor most sophisticated, nor most efficient, it is certainly competitive in all these categories. The direct-injected, normally aspirated, 3.3-liter V6 makes a good 290 horsepower and a modest 253 pound-feet of torque. That power gets to the front wheels (all-wheel drive is not offered) by way of a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The EPA says it should be good for about 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 23 mpg combined using regular fuel. With an 18.5-gallon fuel tank we have an excellent range of well over 400 miles.

Power is more than adequate for this 3,600-pound sedan. While the transmission is not the quickest shifting it does have paddle shifters in addition to a manual mode on the console shifter. So, the overall driving experience is more genteel than spirited – as we would expect with this kind of car. Cadenza also provides four driving priority modes that will adjust a variety of engine, transmission and chassis functions to provide a sportier, more economical or more normal experience.

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Perhaps the most impressive elements of the Cadenza are a decidedly luxurious feel and a cavernous interior. Rear seat passengers, even big or tall ones, will fit nicely with room to spare. Ingress and egress, front and rear, are easy.

Kia’s new car warranty covers whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The new Cadenza is a real pleasure to live with. Handling and performance, road feel and ergonomics are all very good. While it is a big car, it feels reasonably agile and since it provides exceptional fuel mileage for its class you needn’t feel guilty driving it. You could find a car that would beat it in any single category, or even in all categories, but I doubt you could do it without spending way more money.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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