The full-sized, medium-priced sedan – descendent of the Chevrolet Caprice, Ford LTD and Plymouth Fury – remains with us despite fair to middling sales figures. The best of the breed carry nameplates like Cadillac, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz; these big luxury sedans can climb into the six-figure price range. Then there are the more humble Korean and Japanese models, exemplified by the redesigned 2017 Kia Cadenza.
Once inside this roomy, well-appointed $44,940 sedan, it’s hard to understand why some people pay so much more for … well, for not so much more car. The Cadenza is selling like hot chocolate in August, dragging down Kia’s otherwise successful lines like the midsize Optima, which left the showroom at rates 25 times higher than the Cadenza. But in Limited trim, our top-of-the-line Cadenza was as pleasing to the senses as it needed to be, and then some.
The Cadenza has just one major weakness: It is unavailable with all-wheel drive. All Cadenzas are equipped with a 290-horsepower V-6 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
In the often-snowy Northeast, buyers of large sedans, relatively few to begin with, are likely to gravitate to models with AWD.
Available for as little as $32,000, the Cadenza’s greatest strength is its roomy, stylish interior. Tall, long-legged adults can stretch out comfortably in front or in back. The redesign for 2017 widened the car a bit, so there’s room in back for three adults.
The ride is comfortable, too. Handling and styling have improved greatly since Kia’s first large sedan, the Amanti, appeared in 2003. Kia says the 2017 Cadenza has a stiffer frame and suspension tweaks that add up to more competent handling.
The Cadenza comes in three trims, with loads of standard features and just a few options: Premium, the oddly named base model; Technology; and Limited. The Limited comes with dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents; navigation system; rear camera; UVO infotainment and connectivity platform; premium audio system with satellite radio; Nappa leather upholstery; heated and ventilated front seats; heated rear outboard seats; push-button start; power rear and manual side sunshades; blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning; panoramic sunroof; and more.
Take into account the high quality and meticulous fit of the interior materials, and the Cadenza creeps past the boundary separating near-luxury from luxury. Add the concave grille, “Z”-shaped taillights on the sides and other styling flourishes, and the car moves well outside the mainstream of full-sized sedans.
All Cadenza models are rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 highway, and all come with Kia’s 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
Crash-test data are not yet available. The 2016 Cadenza received the top “Good” rating in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Other large sedans in the Cadenza’s category include the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima and Dodge Charger. All-wheel drive is available on some of these models, including the Taurus, LaCrosse and Charger.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Kia Cadenza Limited
Engine: 3.3-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 253 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,633 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19×8-in. chrome alloy
Tires: P245/40R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline