While midsize sedans are taking a beating from sales of compact and midsize SUVs, there still seems to be an appetite for larger cars loaded with luxury features and sold at a reasonable price. This less competitive segment includes such well-regarded names as the Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala and the 2018 Kia Cadenza. Granted, Cadenza sales haven’t been as robust as its Toyota and Buick counterparts, but for those seeking a bit of exclusivity in their next car, this might not be such a bad thing.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Cadenza’s Luxury Package gains a panoramic power sunroof and LED lighting.
What We Like
Simple yet elegant exterior styling; quick acceleration; commendable driving dynamics; upscale interior furnishings; rear-seat legroom; value
What We Don’t
Fuel economy still lags behind some competitors; full suite of automatic safety technologies isn’t available on the entry-level grade
Only one engine powers the Cadenza. It’s a 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6, delivering 253 lb-ft of peak torque. This engine turns the front wheels via an all-new 8-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission built in-house by Kia. Despite two extra gears, it’s lighter than the 6-speed automatic used in the previous generation car. Fuel economy in the 2018 Kia Cadenza is a government-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Standard Features & Options
Kia offers the Cadenza in three grades: Premium, Technology and Limited.
The Premium trim comes right out of the box with 18-inch alloy wheels, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seating, heated front seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, an 8-way power adjustable passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, a rearview camera, a 7-in touchscreen, a UVO infotainment interface, Bluetooth connectivity and an 8-speaker audio system with satellite-radio capability. Power-folding outboard mirrors, a panoramic power sunroof, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist and rear parking assist are all part of the $4,000 Luxury Package.
The Technology trim includes all Premium standard and optional features, adding 19-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, auto rain-sensing wipers, a heated power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a 14-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat, smartphone wireless charging, high-beam assist, autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and surround-view cameras.
The Limited trim builds on the Technology’s standard equipment and adds a power rear-window sun shade, Nappa leather seating, heated rear outboard seats, a smart power trunk and a heads-up display.
The two top trim levels come standard with a comprehensive suite of automatic safety and driver-assist technologies, including forward-collision warning, emergency braking, lane-departure warning and assist and a blind spot monitoring system. Some of these are options on the entry-level grade. Seven airbags, including a driver-side knee-bolster bag, are standard across the Cadenza lineup.
In crash testing, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2018 Kia Cadenza top marks in all its crash tests and awarded it a Top Safety Pick designation.
Behind the Wheel
If you’re looking for a big sedan that’s eager to cleave the corners, you might want to look elsewhere. Although the 2018 Cadenza has shed a few pounds and is a bit more aggressive in accelerating, it’s still primarily a boulevard-cruiser, whisking its occupants along in comfy quiet. The Cadenza is all about the passenger experience, offering the most rear-seat legroom in its segment and a trunk capacity that’s greater than most competitors.
Kia updated the suspension with more advanced shock absorbers that adjust to changing conditions. They seem well-mated to the lighter, stiffer structure. Three driving-mode settings provide some control over how aggressively the transmission shifts. We kept ours in Sport mode for most of our time behind the wheel and had no issue zipping around slower traffic when we needed to.
It may not set a new bar in its segment, but the 2018 Cadenza delivers just what a large, upscale people-hauler should: Refinement, comfort and the latest in technology.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Toyota Avalon — It’s not possible to talk about large sedans without including the Avalon. Roomy, comfortable and quiet, with solid fuel economy for a big car, this is exactly the sort of land yacht most big-sedan owners demand.
2018 Buick LaCrosse — Mention the name Buick to most people over the age of 50, and most likely the first adjective that pops into their head is "big." The latest LaCrosse is that, but now it’s also as agile as it is comfortable.
2018 Chevrolet Impala — The Impala’s highlights include a stylish exterior, plenty of passenger space, boulevard ride and a beefy V6. It’s also loaded with technology. That pretty much checks all the large-sedan boxes.
There are compelling reasons to spend the $7,000-or-so extra to get the Technology grade instead of the Premium. The full suite of automatic safety and driver-assistance technologies, as well as the spectacular state-of-the-art Harman Kardon surround-sound system are two of them. If you have the extra cash, we think the Cadenza Technology is the way to go.