Seat Time: 2017 Kia Cadenza – The Perfect Car, A Decade Too Late

October 4th, 2016 at 9:29am


Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

John McElroy
Vehicle: 2017 Kia Cadenza
Price: starting around $33,000

Final Impression:

Poor Kia… It’s trying as hard as it can to shake its image as a company that makes cheap and cheerful cars. So it completely revamped its styling to exude a more sophisticated image. It loaded up its cars with the kind of technology that you expect to find in the luxury segment. And it doubled its efforts to develop cars that drive as good as they look.


As a result, Kia has three of the finest sedans in their segments: the Optima, the Cadenza, and the K900. The only problem is that the market is walking away from passenger cars. These three sedans are practically nailed to the showroom floor.

Sales of the K900 are minuscule. Kia will be lucky to sell 1,000 of them in the US market this year. The Optima sells much better but sales are plunging, down by a quarter this year alone. The Cadenza never caught on with the public, Kia will sell perhaps 5,000 of them this year.

Generally, when a car company redesigns a car and makes it a lot better you expect to see the sales go up. Don’t count on that happening this time with the Cadenza. But don’t blame the car. The public is running away from passenger cars and jumping into CUV’s instead.

Make no mistake; the Cadenza is a very good sedan. It has attractive styling, with the latest variation of Kia’s “Tiger Nose” grille, a design that makes all Kia’s look decidedly upscale. It’s a relatively large car with exceptionally good rear seat legroom and a very large trunk. The interior controls and readouts are logically laid out and intuitive enough to decipher without resorting to the owner’s manual. And it drives like a dream, perfectly suited for everyday commuting yet sophisticated enough to rub shoulders with the luxury cars parked at any upscale restaurant.

The 2017 Cadenza is powered by a 3.3 L V-6 with an 8-speed automatic that work very well together. Though it’s rated at 23 mpg combined, in my test-driving it delivered 30 mpg, perhaps because I was doing a lot more highway driving.

As of this writing Kia still has not released prices for the 2017 Cadenza. The outgoing model started at around $33,000 but you could option it up to around $44,000. It’s highly unlikely the price will change much with the new car especially when you look at the sales numbers.

If this car had been introduced a decade ago it would’ve been hailed as an automotive triumph. It’s at least as good as the original Lexus LS sedan. But timing is everything, even when it comes to introducing cars. And it’s highly unlikely the Kia Cadenza will have any impact on the market whatsoever. As good as it is, it’s a decade too late.