With the huge popularity of SUVs/Crossovers/SAVs, we sometimes forget just how good a traditional luxury sedan can be. And one of the nicest – and smartest values – is the Kia Cadenza. Let’s take a look at the Kia we call “The Big Easy”. (Hey, it’s Mardis Gras…)
For 2020, Kia’s handsome full-size gets an update to keep things fresh. While the “Tiger Nose” grille shape is still there, the grille has a new deeper waterfall design, the reshaped hood enjoys power creases, while there are also standard LED headlights, redesigned LED daytime running lights and new integrated turn signals.
The tasteful profile remains pretty much untouched, except for some nicely redesigned 18-inch alloy wheels. (19-inch alloys are available).
At the rear, there’s a redesigned rear bumper and trunk lid that looks sharper and crisper, while new LED combination rear taillights add visibility and a modern touch. We like the lower fascia with nice chromed oval tailpipes that look potent yet restrained. We especially admired our tester’s Snow White Pearl paint job that shimmered in the light and looked upscale and expensive.
The First Class Treatment
Inside, the Cadenza sees an even more comprehensive update. Step in and there’s a redesigned dash and instrument cluster. We were a little surprised at first that Kia didn’t go for a digital display like we’ve seen on family siblings including the Sonata we recently tested, but the gauges are clear and clean, so no complaints.
There is an awesome new 12.3-inch touchscreen in the center console, with all sorts of goodies like multi-device Bluetooth, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and even a Bose Audio System with environmental sounds we enjoyed in our Sonata. Lively Forest to Calm Sea Waves…. ahh serenity now!
There are only two trims for 2020. Ours was the lower Technology level, but honestly with standard leather, navigation, dual-zone A/C, panoramic sunroof, pushbutton and standard remote engine start – new for 2020! – we hardly felt left out. Quality of materials is excellent too – the faux wood trim is a little too faux – and with everything simply and smartly laid out, the Cadenza is easy to get familiar with in short order.
This is also a massive interior, with ultra-comfortable heated front seats, and rear seats with limo-like legroom. There’s also a huge trunk – just stand behind it for a few seconds, and it will sense your keyless remote and pop the lid. Unlike the Sonata, the rear seats don’t fold down, but we doubt buyers in the Cadenza’s class are planning on mountain biking or hauling gear.
This may be a big luxury sedan, but it’s also a quick one.
Under the hood is a powerful 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6, driving through the front wheels – but you’d barely notice, steering feel is excellent even under power. The 8-speed automatic transmission changes gears smooth and quickly, and while toggling it over to Sport Mode perks things up, but you’ll have to give it a good boot to make things really happen.
When you do, there’s plenty of oomph, and you have excellent off the line acceleration as well as strong passing power. While 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinders are the new normal, a normally-aspirated V6 like this is still a delight. And hitting close to 30 mpg on the freeway is impressive too.
The ride is a delight as well, being smooth, but not floaty, well-controlled and comfortable. Kia has done some work for 2020 to reduce road noise, and it is noticeable – this is a whisper quiet sedan.
Overall, it’s the direction that we’ve seen in recent modern luxury sedans like the Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon, a bit sportier than what traditional luxury used to be, but not so much as to be considered a Sport Sedan. A nice blend.
Kia has also updated their Drive Wise safety suite for 2020, including new standard “Sensor Fusion” that combines Forward Collision Warning, Avoidance Assist with pedestrian/cyclist detection, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and High Beam Assist, along with Lane Following Assist, and Blind Spot Avoidance with Lane Change Assist. More? Sure!
You also get Highway Driving Assist that uses federal highway speed limit information to automatically adjusts to keep you within the posted speed limit, and navigation-based Smart Cruise Control that uses navigation data to adjust speed proactively before upcoming curves. Pretty cool.
Take a Final Lap
All this is impressive stuff, and even more so, since Kia has announced the 2020 model will be the last year for the Cadenza – they could have let it just soldier on, but they decided to upgrade it and make it the best possible vehicle. That is commitment!
It’s also pretty easy to buy. The 2020 Technology model like our tester starts at $37,850, and add in cargo, floor mats and Destination, and we rang the bell at $39,115. If you want to go over the top, the Limited starts at $43,550 – but we think the Technology is the smart buy here.
Competitors would include the Toyota Avalon, comparable at $43,670 and the Lexus ES 250 Luxury comes in at $45,200. So, the Cadenza is even a bit of a bargain. And don’t forget that 10-year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty!
Handsome, beautifully equipped, a pleasure to drive and an excellent value, the 2020 Kia Cadenza is a great traditional luxury sedan. The Big Easy, indeed!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.