By Derek Price
It’s a shame seeing good cars tossed to the wayside, but that’s what’s happening to the Kia Cadenza.
A 2020 Cadenza appeared in my driveway this week for a review, which is mysterious for two reasons.
One, we’re several months into 2021 already, so any 2020 Cadenzas still sitting on dealer lots are likely available at a bargain.
And two, Kia has decided to discontinue the Cadenza along with its big brother, the K900. Neither are returning for 2021, becoming the latest in a long list of solid sedans that have been slaughtered by robust crossover sales.
The market has spoken. Crossovers win. Sedans, including strong ones like this, lose.
I realize it’s futile to complain about the reality of free-market economics, but I can’t help but feel heartbroken over what’s happening to the American automotive landscape.
I’m going to rage, rage against the dying of the sedan.
The Cadenza is a good car, maybe even a great car if your goal is silent serenity on the highway. At its price point — starting under $38,000 — it’s perhaps the softest, smoothest, quietest car I’ve ever tested.
In many ways, it drives like a $60,000 luxury vehicle, softly wafting you down the highway while swaddling passengers in leather, wood and creature comforts. It competes directly with luxury brands on substance, its greatest drawback being the mundane Kia badge on its hood.
In reality, its greatest nemesis is the Toyota Avalon, one of the few comfort-oriented sedans still surviving.
Where the Cadenza edges the Avalon slightly, and the luxury brands much more noticeably, is in value. It’s a terrific bang for the buck, even more so after a long list of upgrades it received as part of an ill-timed overhaul for 2020.
Despite later deciding to drop the model — a decision that seems rushed, perhaps influenced by the pandemic — Kia gave the Cadenza a serious refresh for what turned out to be its final model year.
The front fascia and grille get a dramatic new look, with a concave shape that catches the eye. New LED lights and fresh wheel styles add to the appeal, but the bigger changes are inside.
The dash and instrument cluster are completely redesigned, including conveniently moving the audio controls above the climate adjustments. A color screen is now standard in the instrument panel, along with a huge, 12.3-inch touchscreen.
The saddle brown, quilted leather — also new — in my Limited tester could have been plucked from a much more expensive European car. And more standard features, including driver-assistance systems and a smart key with remote start, add to the value equation.
A 3.3-liter, 290-horsepower V6 delivers plenty of motivation to the front wheels, with a nice combination of a quick response and silky shifts from its eight-speed transmission.
Kia only sells the Cadenza in two trim levels, both of which are extremely well equipped to fit its pseudo-luxury mission. The Technology trim is the base model, starting at $37,850, while the luxurious Limited starts at $43,550.
The only options available are of the nickel-and-dime variety, including things like wheel locks for $60, a cargo net for $50, and carpeted floor mats for $135. The features that matter most are included in the price of the car.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2020 Kia Cadenza Limited ($43,550). Options: Premium carpeted floor mats ($200), cargo net ($50), wheel locks ($60). Price as tested (including $1,035 destination charge): $44,895
Wheelbase: 112.4 in.
Length: 196.7 in.
Width: 73.6 in.
Height: 57.9 in.
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp, 253 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 20 city, 28 highway
Why buy it?
If you can still find one on your Kia dealer’s lot, it’s a terrific value. It performs, drives and coddles like a luxury car but comes with a more affordable price.