Hard to believe that Kia is currently offering 15 different vehicles in its lineup. We were reminiscing about the first-ever Kia Sephia, and how the brand has come a long way in a short time. Kia’s ratio of hits to misses is impressive, but there were a few vehicles the brand would be happy to forget. For example, the Kia Amanti was a Korean-market midsize faux luxury vehicle rebadged and brought to U.S. shores to compete with the same size sedans from Japan and America. Not especially attractive, the Amanti was affordable and well built with acceptable power, but it was never destined to be a classic. In keeping with Kia’s revitalization, the Amati was replaced by the Cadenza, and although the vehicle was better in every way, it still lagged in sales behind a host of established competitors like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, and the Dodge Charger. For 2017, the Cadenza is all new, and has all the elements it needs to move up the list in the midsize luxury sedan segment.
First, it looks good. That’s the hand of Kia’s Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer, who almost singlehandedly brought the brand into relevance with his impressive eye for automotive design. The Cadena looks as if it costs twice the actual price, with elegant lines, a new scoop-type grille Kia calls “Intaglio,” and a complete absence of sharp edges and goofy lines that date a vehicle quickly. Some design elements like the Z-shaped lighting signatures prove that design can be edgy without looking horsey (yes, Lexus, we’re talking to you.). There are actually two grilles offered: the Diamond Butterfly grille that resembles other Kia noses is on entry trim models, while higher-end versions get the new grille face with the vertical faceted blades. This is the third grille design in recent years, running neck and neck with Lincoln’s changing designs. A word of caution; the grille is an important identifier of the brand; change it too often and no one will know what car it is. BMW hasn’t changed its twin-kidney grille since its inception, and everyone can spot a Bimmer from miles away.
The overall stance of the Cadenza is near perfect; it doesn’t sit too high or too low, and proportionally it looks equal. That may not be the first want on a buyer’s list, but subconsciously it will please them every time they look at it. Inside, the Cadenza features the same basic layout we’re familiar with from our long-term Kia Sedona van, with a few updates. Our trim level was the entry Premium kind of with the luxury package . We say kind of because our test vehicle was a pre-production model, which means it had some items in the package like blind spot detection and cross traffic alert, but not the navigation system, which is included in the package. The Cadenza starts at $32,890 with destination (which is $1,000 less than the outgoing model, so value is still part of the Kia story, instead of the only story). Add the luxury package for $3,000, a moonroof another $1,000, and you’re getting up there in price. There are two other models, Technology and Limited, with the highest end starting at about $45,000 and equipped with every option excluding accessories.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that Kia pretty much has departed from the value-based company it started out as, and now is barely perceptible in price difference from its competitors. We understand pricing must climb to ensure brand survival. Don’t get us wrong; even the Premium model comes with a nice list of features, like pushbutton start with Smart key, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats with heat and power for driver and front passenger, and Bluetooth connectivity. Another standard feature is the woodgrain trim pieces; in the light color interior, the trim is a blonde woodgrain, and we’re not that crazy about it. Might be because we’ve never been fans of light interiors anyway. But the fit and finish and overall quality of materials are top notch.