Review of: 2016 Kia Cadenza 4dr Sdn Tech
2016 Kia Cadenza: Hiding in plain sight
By Jil McIntosh
Jan. 26, 2016
Know about hidden gems? They pop up occasionally: well-equipped and well-priced mainstream models that provide a viable alternative to pricier brands, but which fly under most buyers’ radar. One is the Toyota Avalon, while my tester, the Kia Cadenza, is another.
The Kia what?, some people say. It’s understandable, since fewer than 200 of them go out the door each year in Canada. With a name more reminiscent of office furniture than a vehicle (cadenza is actually a musical term, but my brain always goes straight to credenza), the Cadenza slots above the Optima, but below the premium and even more weirdly-named K900. It’s roughly equivalent to the Hyundai Azera, a model still sold in the U.S. but discontinued a few years ago in the Canadian market.
It comes in three trim lines, starting with one known simply as the Cadenza at $37,995. It then moves into the Premium for $41,995 and stops at my tester, the Tech, at $45,595. Mine had an additional $200 tacked on for its coat of Snow White Pearl paint. The Cadenza’s trim levels have been tweaked for 2016, but that’s the only change from the 2015 models.
Pros & Cons
- + Quiet, effortless cruising
- + Comfortable front seats
- + Warranty coverage
- - Limited cargo flexibility
- - Uncreative name
- - No all-wheel drive option
The Cadenza is handsome if a bit understated, with Kia’s signature grille, sculpted body lines, and a tail nicely tied together with strips of chrome. Adaptive HID headlights are part of the Premium trim, while the Tech further adds LED fog lamps. Both share a panoramic sunroof that’s missing on the base model. The Tech trim also adds specially-treated front door window glass that repels water for better vision.
The Cadenza and Premium get 18-inch alloy wheels, while the Tech bumps its rim size up to nineteen inches. Expect to blend in: exterior shades are limited to variants on black, white, and grey.
Like the outside, the cabin is conservative but good-looking, available only in black and with plastic-wood trim that looks better than it sounds.
The Premium and Tech come with front seats that are both heated and cooled, and that include a power-operated knee extension, a feature that was manually-operated on the last BMW I drove. Both those trim lines also add heated rear seats, along with a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel that actually gets too hot and needs its thermostat tweaked. (When a heat-lover like me complains, take note: this thing could all but boil water.)
The Korean manufacturers can be hit-or-miss on seat comfort, but the Cadenza’s chairs are impressive, and the Tech trim includes an eight-way power passenger seat rather than the four-way that other models use. Rear-seat legroom is quite good for the Cadenza’s midsize footprint too, with gently-bolstered chairs that include a pass-through to the trunk. The Premium adds a power-operated rear window screen, while the Tech gives back-seat drivers a USB port in the centre armrest as well.
The controls are laid out well and easy to use, with large buttons and dials. The liquid crystal instrument cluster, unique to the Premium and Tech, is equally easy on the eyes for quick glances at the information.
The “Tech” portion of my tester’s name refers to its package of driving aids, since the infotainment system is the same on all models. It includes Bluetooth, navigation, satellite radio, rearview camera, USB port and twelve-speaker Infinity audio system. It will stream your music and make your calls, but there’s no phone app integration.
The navigation system works by voice command and accepts the entire address at once. Kia was one of the first automakers to offer this type of speech recognition. It took a little while for the system to mull over what I’d said, but it accurately translated the address each time, doing a better job than many I’ve tested, and then sent me on my way.
As for the Tech part, you get a blind spot monitoring system, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. The first two work well, but the cruise control can be jerky as it slows down or speeds up when it detects other vehicles ahead.
The Cadenza uses a direct-injection 3.3-litre V6 that makes 293 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic and with front-wheel drive only. The company makes some very good engines and this is one of them, with linear acceleration, quiet operation, and enough pulling power on the highway to get around those who need to be gotten around.
Paddle shifters are included, and while you can keep the shift lever in manual mode, the paddles will also work when you’re in Drive and just want a quick cog swap that will switch itself back to automatic mode once you return to your regularly scheduled cruising. Against published fuel figures of 12.7 L/100 km in the city and 8.4 on the highway, I averaged 9.8 L/100 km in combined, cold-weather driving.
The platform is showing its age, with a pliable ride reminiscent of some of the luxury models that have long since gone sporty. But it’s still comfortable and presents no drama over rough pavement, and handling is quick and responsive. Overall, it’s a decent family-style sedan.
There’s no doubt the Cadenza offers a value proposition, throwing in a lot of features for the price. But you still need to do your comparison-shopping, as some other automakers have caught wind of Kia’s strategy and are doing the same.
My Tech tester rang in at $45,595. Cross-shop the Toyota Avalon—a car that I find a bit more solid and better to drive—and while you get slightly less giddy-up at 268 horsepower, the Limited trim gives you most of the Cadenza Tech’s features for $43,700. Kitting out a Chevrolet Impala with many of the same items will be $44,940, and while it’s $47,400 to get up to a fully-loaded Buick LaCrosse, you also get a head-up display. That’s not to say that the Kia isn’t a good deal for many buyers, but do your homework before you make your selection.
The Cadenza’s low volume makes it a rarity, to the point that a few people walked over to it in parking lots to see exactly what it was. It has a couple of minor issues, but it really deserves to be more popular than it is. It’s still a chunk of change, but for those who like their creature comforts, it’s the premium experience without an overly premium price.