The Cadenza is a good-looking car, arguably one of the best in its class.
In a market populated by thoroughly excellent cars like the Hyundai Genesis Sedan and the Infiniti Q50, a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan makes little sense at first. Canada doesn’t get the Hyundai Azera, so its sister from Kia is our only way to get this platform. The Cadenza showed up as a 2014 model and impressed us significantly, proving yet again that the Koreans can produce a spectacular sedan when they want to. I was assigned the 2016 Kia Cadenza Tech for a week to gauge my thoughts against the newly refreshed competition within its segment.
The Cadenza is a good-looking car, arguably one of the best in its class. The polarizing new Maxima is sharper and looks a bit younger, while the latest Toyota Avalon very obviously looks like it was designed for those approaching retirement. Kia utilizes their familial styling cues while giving the Cadenza edgy lines, elegant new wheel designs and bright LED lighting to give it an aggressive stance whether it be night or day. The 19” machined alloys have twenty spokes and are one of my favourite factory wheel designs out there, and I’ve been considered to be a bit of a wheel nerd.
Rather than employ the same 3.8L that powers the Genesis line, Kia has chosen their 3.3L GDI V6 with direct-injection. This is the same motor also seen in the Sorento, Sedona minivan, and the Hyundai Santa Fe XL. In this application it’s good for 293 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 255 lb-ft of torque at 5,200RPM. This engine has a surprising amount of get-up-and-go, because the Cadenza is deceptively quick. Straight-line power is very good, and going full throttle will leave the big Kia’s front wheels hunting for grip. Throttle response is sharp enough and the six-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission does a swell job at keeping the car balanced.
Of course, the front-wheel-drive setup doesn’t do the Cadenza any favours, as the car is prone to both torque steer on wide-open acceleration and understeer when cornering. This won’t be an issue for Kia, as the vast majority of buyers will never see the tachometer go over 4,000RPM. In everyday driving, the Cadenza drives very well – it’s buttery smooth and the electric steering is light. The gentle steering was particularly a breeze when navigating the car through busy parking lots during Christmas season. Kia does not offer all-wheel-drive on the Cadenza – in order to gain this, buyers must step up to the Sorento or move laterally to the Hyundai Genesis.
Our test took place in the winter, so we expect fuel economy numbers in the warmer months to improve slightly. Regardless, after a week’s worth of driving, I managed to squeeze a 10.4L/100km average out of the V6-powered Cadenza. This involved a considerable amount of highway driving, where I saw instantaneous numbers hovering close to the 9.6L/100km mark. There is no automatic start/stop technology on board here, and the implementation of an eight-speed automatic transmission would go a long way to improving economy.
Though quality and fit/finish are the same in both cars, I personally prefer the Cadenza’s interior to the Genesis. Many of the switchgear is similar, but Kia’s infotainment system is slightly nicer, easier to browse through, and the car’s interior just seems to fit me better. There’s ample space in the cabin for four adults (a fifth would have to be small), with plenty of legroom and headroom for everybody. The large panoramic sunroof means plenty of light is able to enter the cabin during the day, and the materials are all nice to the touch.
I didn’t notice any bits on the interior that stood out as being cheap plastic, other than the buttons themselves of course. The interior is filled with a nice brown wood finish, although I would have liked if it was matte like in the Genesis. The leather upholstery is also soft, and the power retractable rear sunshade is a nice touch. Things like rear heated seats, front ventilated seats, and a suite of safety features including lane departure warning help the Cadenza’s image as an upscale sedan rather than just a tarted-up Kia Rio.
The Cadenza starts aggressively priced at just over $37,000, which puts it right in line with the Avalon (base price of $38,990) and the Maxima ($35,990). Our “Tech” model tester was loaded up to the tune of $45,595 and came completely loaded. For this price you get dual-zone climate control, radar-guided adaptive cruise control, front and rear heated seats, panoramic sunroof, 12-speaker Infinity stereo, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring and far more. This car at $45,595 is more loaded than the Hyundai Genesis we just did a road trip with, while costing a few hundred dollars less.
As with all vehicles, there are some flaws with the Cadenza. For instance, I find the cheapest part of the car the overly blocky font that Kia uses for all labeling inside the car. This is consistent into the UVO infotainment system as well as the digital display within the instrument cluster. It just looks tacky and like it’s trying to attract young buyers. The reality is, younger buyers are going to opt for more modern and edgy styling like the Maxima, or gravitate towards the base model BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Cadenza’s main selling features are overall interior space, comfort, and smoothness, which makes it an excellent sell to the baby boomer generation.
Despite Hyundai’s offering of all-wheel-drive as standard equipment on all models of the Genesis sedan, the 2016 Kia Cadenza Tech does make a very valid case for itself. The reality is, despite our frigid weather conditions, front-wheel-drive is perfectly acceptable with a good set of winter tires as equipped on our tester. With all of the safety systems such as stability and traction control as standard equipment on most vehicles these days, all-wheel-drive isn’t really a necessity in the slightest. Those wanting an upscale sedan with a high-quality interior, a smooth engine, and good efficiency will find the Cadenza an enticing and humble choice.