What’s a full-size sedan to do when it’s not supposed to be a luxury car?
The 2018 Kia Cadenza tackles that big-car conundrum with grace and finesse, even if it doesn’t have a definitive answer. It has luxury features, big spread-out space, and softly tuned handling, and that makes it a less expensive and better car in some ways than Kia’s pricier K900. Awkward much?
Sold in Premium, Technology, and Limited trim, the 2018 Cadenza merits a score of 7.4 on our scale, with kudos for its features and its comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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With the Cadenza, Kia breaks no new ground. Thankfully it also doesn’t merely copy and scale up its other sedans. The Cadenza has a pleasant if not daring shape, one that’s made more lively with details like a concave grille and LED lighting. The interior’s a familiar wing-shaped affair for those attuned to head designer Peter Schreyer’s efforts, and it’s a nice place to be, especially when trimmed in nappa leather and suede.
Performance issues from a 290-horsepower V-6, an 8-speed automatic, responsive brakes, 19-inch wheels and tires, and an independent suspension. It sounds a lot like Buick’s LaCrosse on paper, but while that four-door has turned up the stiffness on all its driving systems, the Cadenza keeps things calm and loose. Handling is composed but a bit fluffy, the powertrain’s all but invisible in its action. The sole noticeable deviance from big-car norms is overly heavy steering.
The Cadenza’s big interior space suits as many as five adults, without intruding too much on personal space. Diamond-quilted stitching elevates the top versions, but even the Premium model has leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and a big trunk. It lacks the finishing touches you’d find on a K900, like massaging seats, but will you really miss that for tens of thousands less?
Crash-test data is incomplete, and Kia walls off its best safety technology on the more expensive trims. A rearview camera is standard. Other features found on the options list include wireless smartphone charging, a simple infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a panoramic sunroof.