When we last met the 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited, it was on the roads of South Carolina in the hands of CRD chief editor Tom Burkart.
You can check out his detailed review here, but we wanted to see how the Cadenza would fare in other environments, as well as against rivals in a segment that has taken a pummeling in recent years due to the resurgence of crossover vehicles.
To find out, we took the Cadenza to the CRD Metro Detroit outpost to see if Michigan’s rough roads were enough to unsettle this spirited sedan, while also crunching the numbers in this latest installment of Marketplace Comparisons.
Before we get into the meat of things, we’ll come out and say it, we loved the Cadenza too. Its styling is an interesting mixture of Kia’s dynamic influences, as well as the subtle elegance that has defined recent entries like the K900 as well as the recently unveiled Kia Stinger.
Unlike its time in North Carolina, we did not experience any issues with mysterious odors. However, the bumps and divots that define the pavement here in the Mitten state unearthed high amounts of rattling and creaking, with the bulk of it in the sunroof.
The rattling proved to be an unwelcome contrast to the high levels of quiet that the cabin delivers on smoother roads, and is a especially disappointing in a $45k car.
2017 Kia Cadenza Limited vs 2017 Hyundai Azera Limited
Starting things off is a case of sibling rivalry with the Cadenza going head to head with its cousin the Hyundai Azera. While the Azera will be exiting the U.S. market after the 2017 model year, it still offers buyers many of the Cadenza’s virtues in a slightly more upscale wrapper. The exterior styling takes the bulk of its cues from Hyundai’s older design language, but it still manages to look distinctive especially in the rear fascia which features prominent tail lights.
Both models offer the familiar 290 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 which is a relatively smooth engine, and makes both cars easy to drive around town, though buyers looking to push it hard will have to mash the throttle to get the most out of this six cylinder. However, when it comes to transmission offerings, the Azera stumbles thanks to its older six-speed automatic which loses two cogs to the eight speed in the Kia, and doesn’t offer as much crispness as the fore-mentioned eight speed. The Azera’s interior also falls behind in terms of ergonomics and style, but we do like the embroidered Azera logos on the headrests.
While it appears to be a dominating win for the Cadenza on paper, the Azera manages to nab one key category, price. The 2017 Cadenza has a base price of $31,990 with our Limited tester ringing in at $45,290. In contrast, the base Azera has a slightly higher $34,100 MSRP, but Limited grade models undercut our tester by $5,000 and can be had for $40,485. However, the Azera faces internal competition from the newly launched Genesis luxury brand, and its exit from the U.S. market is largely due to this rift, which should give the Cadenza more room to assert itself in 2018.
2017 Kia Cadenza vs 2017 Buick Lacrosse
This time the Cadenza goes head to head with its American competition the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. When compared side by side, only $100 separates the base Cadenza and Lacrosse. However the Lacrosse does suffer from the same interior quality woes that have always dogged its General Motors brethren (despite admirable progress in this area in recent years,) and buyers looking for heated seats will have to pay at least $38,655 for the privilege versus it being standard issue on the Cadenza.
Both cars have exterior styling that is sharp and handsome with each car splitting the decision in this area right down the middle. As far as front fascias are concerned, we much prefer the Kia’s bolder nose which does a good job projecting its subtle athleticism. The Lacrosse boasts plenty of chrome and a big center mounted Buick badge in its grille, but its more subdued personality doesn’t quite have the same visual impact. The Lacrosse makes up some ground at the rear where its big tail lights as well as its tweaked rear design help it outshine the Kia’s blander cookie cutter theme.
The big Buick also proves to be surprisingly capable out on the road and actually outshines the Kia in several areas. Once defined for solely being the favorite transportation of Grandma and Grandpa, the current generation Lacrosse reflects the brand’s recent push to add a bit more spice to the driving experience, and buyers will like what they experience behind the wheel. The 310 horsepower V6 is slightly more powerful than the Cadenza’s, and the handling shaves some firmness for more comfort.
The Cadenza is no slouch either and the 3.3 liter V6 is still an enjoyable powerplant to explore and have fun with. While the firm ride may turn off buyers that want more comfort, it is nice to see a large car that has far less bodyroll than many of its peers, and can go beyond being a mere vessel of pure comfort. Choosing between these two will entirely depend on whether you need the Lacrosse’s extra power, or prefer the Cadenza’s nicer cabin.
2017 Kia Cadenza vs 2017 Ford Taurus
Rounding out things is another American offering with a name plate that helped jump start the modern four door sedan as we know it, the Ford Taurus. When it first arrived on the scene back in the 1980’s the Taurus’s rounded almost jellybean-esque styling signaled a radical departure from the squared off look that was prominent in four door sedans prior to its arrival. This propelled the Taurus to a period of strong sales and popularity during the 1990s, before undergoing an equally swift decline in the 2000s due to the increased pressure from foreign competitors.
The current generation Taurus maybe the most dated in this trio, but it still has a number of traits that help it remain competitive against the Cadenza. For starters, the exterior styling despite its age, is distinctively Ford with a bold front fascia as well as an equally purposeful side profile. The aging design also creates smaller windows and thick roof pillars which impairs overall visibility and also allow the Cadenza to standout in this area.
The interior also falls a step behind the Cadenza’s, though Ford has done an admirable job in keeping it fresh thanks to options such as heated and cooled seats, keyless entry, as well as a swath of driver assistance technology. Overall ergonomics also fall short of the Cadenza’s, though the spirited Korean entry simply cannot match the Ford’s ability to allow its passengers to stretch out and relax. Like the Buick, leather seats do not come standard on the Taurus, with buyers having to opt for one of the higher trim levels to match the Cadenza’s enviable Nappa Leather swathed thrones.
When it comes to overall performance, the Taurus loses some ground to the Cadenza albeit with one notable exception. Before we get to that, lets take a moment to focus on the Taurus’s two standard engines. The base engine is a 3.5 liter V6 that makes a commendable 288 horsepower and is only 2 horses shy of the Cadenza’s smaller 3.3 liter V6. The 2.0 liter EcoBoost four cylinder is mainly a bid for fuel efficiency, but it still makes 240 horsepower, and also shines a light on the lack of a four cylinder option for Cadenza buyers.
As mentioned earlier while it would appear to be a clean sweep for the Cadenza at first glance, the Taurus does have one key trump card that the Cadenza simply cannot match, the SHO variant. This special Taurus is motivated by a twin-turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 that produces 365 horsepower and features standard all-wheel drive along with a swath of performance goodies. TNaturally, the SHO has a higher price tag than the Cadenza, but at the same time it could also be considered a contender for the Cadenza’s corporate stablemate the Stinger.
When all is said and done, the 2017 Kia Cadenza continues to be a formidable contender in the large car segment.
While the broader large car market is under threat from the surge in crossover vehicles the Cadenza’s unique blend of luxury, style, and performance should allow it to be a top contender, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Cadenza in the years to come.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.