Since Kia began selling cars in the U.S. back in 1994, the Korean manufacturer has been on a march for excellence. It’s paid off with skyrocketing sales, a number of award-winning models in its stables and placing top in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study — the first time in 27 years that a non-luxury brand has led that list.
The 2017 Cadenza shows off the automaker’s art form with high style and cutting-edge technology. Kia’s large front-wheel-drive sedan gets a second-generation remake on an all-new platform that’s stronger, lighter and stiffer; it promises better driving dynamics and more comfort than the model it replaces.
The 2017 Cadenza comes in three trims: Premium, Technology and Limited, starting near $32,000. Standard niceties include smart-key entry with push-button ignition, leather seats (heated in front), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated glove box and trunk and 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels (depending on trim).
Under the hood, Cadenza is powered by a retuned version of the existing 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine. It’s mated to Kia’s first front-wheel-drive-based, eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The new transmission is lighter than the outgoing six-speed transmission and helps improve fuel economy to a city/highway/combined fuel economy of 20/28/23 mpg, up about 1 mpg over last year. Four user-selectable drive modes — Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart — adjust the steering, transmission, suspension and throttle response to give it slightly different personalities to fit the driver’s preference.
Up front, the hexagonal grille has been smoothed, and reshaped headlight housings feature HID lighting and new Z-shaped LED signature lighting. Also noticeable are the longer roof, which is extended by 2 inches for more of a fastback profile, and additional chrome exterior accents. In back are reshaped LED taillights and a redesigned trunk lid; the license plate moves from the trunk lid to the rear bumper for a cleaner look, and new hexagonal exhaust bumper inserts replace the outgoing car’s oval tips.
The five-passenger interior is more spacious and thoughtfully redesigned with higher-quality soft-touch materials and hand-stitched craftsmanship. Noise and vibration levels are substantially reduced.
Kia’s Bluetooth-enabled UVO eServices Infotainment System with 7-inch touchscreen display now offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
We drove the 2017 Cadenza through the countryside on a collection of small highways, byways and two-lanes. We were impressed by its driving dynamics and driver assistance features. Another Kia first is the “smart” blind spot detection system that senses unintentional drifting toward an adjacent vehicle and automatically brakes the opposite-side front wheel to help maintain the vehicle’s intended course.
Cadenza competes against such rivals as the Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera.