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2019 Kia Cadenza Review

  • Upscale interior
  • Comfortable and quiet ride
  • Ample storage space
  • Roomy rear seat
  • Easy-to-use infotainment
  • Anonymous styling
  • Mediocre mpg
  • Lackluster handling
  • Active safety tech should be standard
The 2019 Kia Cadenza offers upscale features, space, and comfort at a mainstream price.

Aside from the badge, it’s difficult to distinguish the 2019 Kia Cadenza from a full-fledged luxury sedan. With acres of interior space, a comfortable ride, and impressive features and technology at a palatable price, the 2019 Cadenza warrants a commendable 6.2 out of 10 on our scale. 

Sedans may be a declining segment overall, but buyers looking for luxury-like style and comfort at a discount would be wise to consider the Cadenza. Kia’s larger offering splits the difference between the mainstream Optima and the extra lush K900, especially in terms of style. Tasteful chrome accents, lightning bolt LED running lights, and thoughtful touches like a concave grille and big wheels make the Cadenza seem more upmarket than its badge and price would suggest. Inside, a combination of reserved styling touches, high-quality trim pieces, and optional nappa leather and faux suede upholstery contribute to the Cadenza’s upscale aspirations and pull it off with aplomb.

The 2019 Cadenza carries over from last year with only minor updates to the infotainment system and active safety tech to improve functionality.

A 3.3-liter V-6 is the only engine option and is mated exclusively to an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. With 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, this humble power plant won’t give many luxury sedans a run for their money but does provide quiet and refined confidence for more relaxed driving. As this sedan is comfort-oriented, handling characteristics are soft at best, but the steering system surprises with more heft than one would expect.

An almost full-size sedan interior fits five adults comfortably, and both front and rear passengers will find plenty of space throughout. Optional diamond-quilted leather on top trims turns up the luxury, but even the base model comes with standard power-adjustable leather seats, a big trunk, and a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Some features available on true luxury sedans such as massaging seats are absent on even top-tier Cadenzas, but we’re not complaining considering this Kia is half the price of many equivalent luxury sedans.

While the federal government hasn’t crash-tested the Cadenza, it does receive a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and can be optioned with active safety technologies like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

The Cadenza’s sole powertrain returns middling fuel economy, rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 23 combined. Unlike many big-buck sedans, regular gasoline can be used with the V-6.

While somewhat anonymous, the 2019 Kia Cadenza is handsome and looks more expensive than it actually is.

Thoughtful touches give the 2019 Kia Cadenza an upscale look, and while its styling doesn’t excite as much as the Stinger, many would confuse this Korean sedan for a German if the badge was removed. As such, we award it 7 out of 10 for styling.

The Cadenza wears its sheet metal confidently, utilizing a classic three-box sedan design and classing it up with chrome trim and big wheels. The Cadenza comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels while 19-inchers are available on the middle and top trims, making this sedan look more upscale than its price would suggest. A concave grille and Z-shaped running lights look straight off of a luxury sedan, and thankfully the Cadenza’s interior delivers too.

A business-like cabin makes use of soft-touch plastics, standard leather upholstery, and upscale-looking trim, with diamond-stitched nappa leather and a faux suede headliner available on the top-tier Limited trim.

Controls are bundled around the central infotainment system, providing a functional layout to go along with the touchscreen’s simple ergonomics.

Comfort is the 2019 Kia Cadenza’s calling card, while those looking for sportier dynamics should turn elsewhere.

Despite its big wheels and sporty design details, the 2019 Kia Cadenza is all about comfort, often at the expense of athleticism. We award it 6 out of 10 for performance, giving it a point for its stellar ride.

Kia keeps the cost of the Cadenza down by offering only one powertrain, a 3.3-liter V-6 matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. Many full-size sedans make use of a V-6 and with good reason, but Kia’s iteration doesn’t have the guts that its American or Japanese rivals do, struggling more under hard acceleration. The 8-speed automatic offers smooth, quick shifts, and the Cadenza’s cabin is well isolated from an otherwise unimpressive engine note.

Those looking for all-wheel-drive should turn to the Buick LaCrosse or even Kia’s own Stinger.
Despite four driving modes—Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Smart—the difference between them are negligible. The Cadenza is best left in Comfort mode, we say. Ride quality is supple even with the large wheels, but when asked to conquer a curvy road, the Cadenza stumbles where some of its rivals surprisingly shine.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Kia Cadenza offers the quiet cabin and back seat comfort of many sedans costing thousands more.

The 2019 Kia Cadenza could easily be mistaken for a luxury sedan if its badges were removed. A comfortable, spacious cabin and genuine premium materials especially on the top trim warrant a rating of 8 out of 10 for quality.

Front passengers are treated to the best seats in the house, with supportive, soft seats that are power adjustable as standard. The mid-tier Technology and top-tier Limited trims also include a power leg bolster that can be extended for taller drivers, but those over 6 feet tall should be aware that the panoramic sunroof on those two trims cuts into headroom.

Thanks to a traditional three-box shape, the Cadenza offers plenty of headroom in the rear seat as well to go along with a heaping of legroom. Three adults can fit fairly comfortably abreast, but the Cadenza is best suited for four occupants.

A 16 cubic-foot trunk is sizeable enough for bulky items like large suitcases, and thanks to several storage cubbies and bins throughout the cabin, the Cadenza is surprisingly practical for a sedan.

Nappa leather, a faux suede headliner, and other luxury-oriented touches come optional on the Limited trim, but even the base Cadenza has leather upholstery as standard.

Ride quality and cabin noise are among the best in its class even with 19-inch wheels as standard, but all of that sound deadening comes at the expense of weight and lively driving dynamics.

Though the IIHS has had good things to say, the 2019 Kia Cadenza lacks government crash test data.

The 2019 Kia Cadenza impresses in independent safety tests, but with no federal crash scores available, we’re unable to give it a rating.

Though the NHTSA hasn’t seen fit to test the Cadenza, the independent IIHS has been impressed, awarding it a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. That translates to “Good” crash tests across the board with “Superior” optional active safety technology, though the headlights only received an “Acceptable” rating and the child seat anchors a “Marginal” for ease of use.

Unfortunately, base Premium trim Cadenzas only get blind spot monitoring, active lane control and a backup camera as standard.

However, the Technology and Limited trims receive a full suite of active tech, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beam headlights, while the Limited adds a head-up display and surround-view camera. We think most of that tech should be standard across the board, but at least the Cadenza Technology isn’t too expensive.

The 2019 Kia Cadenza comes well-equipped out of the box, but lacks some desirable features on the base model.

The 2019 Kia Cadenza comes in Premium, Technology, and Limited trims and ranges from $34,000 to $45,000. Options are limited in favor of keeping trims simple and manufacturing costs down, and this impressive slate of features warrants an 6 out of 10. We give it points for value and luxury but dial one back because active safety tech that’s standard on far less costly Kias is optional on the Cadenza.

The Premium model occupies the base of the lineup, and comes standard with power features, leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

In the middle of the lineup, the Technology trim represents the best value at just over $39,000, and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights and fog lights, satellite navigation, a Harman/Kardon audio system, a full suite of active safety technology, wireless phone charging, and an electronic parking brake with auto hold for stop lights. Stepping all the way up to the Limited trim carries a price of over $45,000, but includes satin chrome wheels, a power-operated trunk, head-up display, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a surround-view camera, cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, and soft nappa leather with a faux suede headliner.

Fuel Economy
The 2019 Kia Cadenza’s lone engine choice returns average fuel economy.

The 2019 Kia Cadenza returns middling fuel economy from its sole powertrain option, so fuel misers are advised to look elsewhere. This warrants a rating of 4 out of 10.

According to the EPA, the Cadenza’s standard V-6 and 8-speed automatic return 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 23 combined, interestingly 1 mpg down in the highway category from last year.

Thankfully, the Cadenza only requires regular gasoline, but those looking for excellent fuel economy should turn to the Toyota Avalon Hybrid which returns 40 mpg combined and is the only hybrid available in the segment.


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