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2021 Kia Cadenza Review

As consumers have flocked to SUVs in recent years, some automakers have abandoned sedans altogether while others have doubled down on the traditional four-door car formula.

The Cadenza is a good example. For 2021, Kia has carried over its full-size sedan model virtually unchanged from mid-2020 when it went through a significant refresh.

Kia’s models are well-known as good value propositions, but the Cadenza takes that tactic a step further by layering on luxury car features and refinement levels.

The Cadenza is not as well known as its primary rivals, the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but this Kia deserves consideration because it competes strongly in many areas, not least being its exemplary warranty.

What’s new for 2021?

The Cadenza sees no significant changes for 2021. The Kia continues to offer the car in two trims, the Technology and the Limited, both powered by the same 3.3-liter V6 motor paired to an 8-speed automatic. The Cadenza is a front-wheel-drive design; no all-wheel-drive option is available. Find a 2021 Kia Cadenza for sale

What We Like

  • Silky smooth powertrain
  • Luxurious, roomy cabin
  • Well equipped for the price
  • Terrific warranty

What We Don’t

  • Dull to drive
  • Toothy grille design
  • Fixed rear seats not as practical as some rivals

How Much?

$38,885 – $44,585 (includes $1083 destination fee). These are 2020 model prices. Kia has not yet released 2021 prices, but we do not expect much of an increase.

Fuel Economy

The Cadenza’s 3.3-liter V6 develops 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. With an efficient 8-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain returns 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing.

Standard Features and Options

The Cadenza starts out with the well-equipped Technology trim level ($38,885). This includes 18-inch alloys wheels, manual tilt wheel, heated and power-folding door mirrors, panoramic sunroof, leather seat trim, 10-way power-adjustable driver seat (8-way passenger), and 12.3-inch touchscreen display.

To this specification, the Limited trim ($44,585) adds 19-in alloy wheels, power tilt steering wheel, Nappa quilted leather seat trim, a 14-way power-adjustable driver seat (10-way passenger), and a Harmon Kardon audio system with 12 speakers.


Dubbed Drivewise, Kia’s suite of safety features on the Cadenza is comprehensive on both trims. Standard across the board is forward collision warning and avoidance, lane-keeping/departure assist and warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and avoidance plus smart cruise control.

The only safety features not on the Technology trim but surround-view monitor and blind-spot monitor are standard on Limited.

In its last evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2019, the Cadenza scored well in crash tests.

Behind the Wheel

Like most Korean vehicles (with the exception of the Kia Stinger), the Cadenza is not known for its handling prowess. This Kia follows more in the footsteps of the Toyota Avalon, providing a relaxed, quiet, comfortable ride. Do not expect exciting reflexes from the steering or suspension when hustling along winding back roads. That said, the Kia performs its role as a roomy, upscale long-distance cruiser with aplomb. Performance is decent, rather than thrilling, from the V6 engine, whose main attraction is its smooth, quiet power delivery.

For thousands less than similarly sized and equipped sedans from premium Asian and European automakers, the Cadenza is the smart money choice.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Toyota AvalonThe gold standard among full-size four-doors, the Avalon is a big, old school sedan that blends in modern features and notable elements lacking in the Cadenza such as available all-wheel-drive and fold-down rear seats.

2021 Nissan Maxima – If keen handling and performance characteristics in a big sedan are important to you, then the powerful engine and relatively firm suspension of this Nissan are worth considering.

Used Dodge Charger – Looking for a full-size sedan with some spice, a Dodge Charger with a 485-hp V8 will throw comfort and refinement out the window but put a smile on your face.

 Autotrader’s Advice

There are only two Cadenza versions available and both are well equipped so we say save a few thousand dollars and opt for the less expensive Technology trim. Find a 2021 Kia Cadenza for sale

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