CARS.COM — Kia’s redesign of the 2017 Cadenza significantly refines a car for buyers who want the stretch-out space and feature glut of a full-size luxury sedan at the price of an entry-level compact car from an established luxury brand.
Kia will need buyers of this description in order to grab a share of the pie in the near-premium full-size sedan market, a mixed-bag that ranges from boulevard cruisers to would-be sports sedans, from hybrids to V-8s. The battle is only getting more cutthroat as makers fight over the shrinking pool of buyers who will spend this kind of money on a big car rather than an SUV.
Give Kia points for sticking with it, rolling out a new generation of a car that has had total sales of fewer than 30,000 since it rolled out as a 2014 model. Kia continues to see competing in new segments as a key strategy in its rise to mainstream brand status from its past as a purveyor of cheap rides for the budget-impaired. In that sense, fielding a legitimate rival to the likes of a Toyota Avalon or Buick LaCrosse probably does more for Kia’s image than does its pricey K900 luxury yacht.
And the remade Cadenza is, in fact, a legitimate contender, better all-around than its predecessor. It has to be because its rivals are a moving target: The LaCrosse is redesigned for 2017, Nissan’s Maxima got a full makeover for 2016, and the Avalon and Lincoln MKZ have been recently refreshed.
For a Certain Kind of Buyer
In keeping with the Cadenza’s upscale aspirations, Kia hosted the new version’s national introduction in Middleburg, Va., a historic town in the heart of the state’s posh horse country. In contrast to the usual automaker pitch claiming its latest product will lure the elusive younger buyer out of their Uber, Kia officials were candid that this vehicle is aimed at older buyers, equally men and women, they say, who still want a big comfortable car with lots of premium features. Kia says they are loyal buyers who don’t really look at anything else. At the introduction, the car’s millennial-era exterior designer summed up one of his goals for the Cadenza as creating a car his dad would want but wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive.
The new Cadenza’s trim lineup is Premium, Technology and SXL Limited. I tested the top trim.
Looking Good Is Half the Battle
The new Kia got a subtle lift here and tuck there rather than radical cosmetic surgery, but the overall look is a lot more like an upscale European car and a lot less like a dressed-up version of Kia’s Optima mainstream sedan, with which the Cadenza shares its platform.