The 2018 Kia Cadenza occupies the white space between mid-size and full-size sedans, delivering premium touches for an affordable price. Its handsome sheet metal, beautiful cabin, and big back seat are among its many strong points. The offerings of most rivals, however, provide superior handling.

Best Value

The 2018 Kia Cadenza is a large sedan that supplies ample room for five. Kia offers the Cadenza in Premium, Technology, and Limited trims. This front-wheel-drive model comes with a V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Like most competitors, you have just one powertrain choice. Fully equipped, the Cadenza teases out just above $45,000.

Our pick is the base Premium trim with the Technology Package, which delivers tremendous value for the segment. This model without the package comes with LED lights, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, and a seven-inch touchscreen display. Here's how we'd build ours:

  • Model: 2018 Kia Cadenza Premium
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6
  • Output: 290 hp / 253 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 20 City / 28 Hwy
  • Options: Luxury Package ($4,000, voice-command navigation, an eight-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, a panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear parking assist system, an automatic dimming rearview mirror, power-folding outside mirrors, perimeter approach lighting, LED interior lighting)
  • Base Price: $33,190 (including a $900 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $37,190

Performance

Kia Cadenza

The look may suggest “sports sedan,” but the truth is that the Cadenza isn’t one. Power comes from a 3.3-liter V6 engine with an output of 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque – admirable, considering most competing models displace at 3.5- or 3.6-liters, such as with the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, and Dodge Charger. Each competitor reaches 300 hp, therefore, the Kia is actually more power dense than this trio.

The Cadenza's powertrain is geared toward comfort and is relatively quiet. It doesn’t deliver the low-end power of most competitors or the raucous response of the Charger. Four drive modes supply slight changes in steering and throttle response, with the Sport mode gaining extra weightiness, which it really doesn't need.

As for the suspension system, it's tuned for comfort. We found moderate body lean and plush cornering responses. That’s not quite the firmness found in the Buick LaCrosse, but it’s sufficient nonetheless.

Style

From the Rio to the K900, Kia’s look is similar, marked by a tiger-nose grille up front and flowing lines along the profile. This expression carries well across the model line, although some may find it derivative. The Z-shaped LED lighting up front as well as at the rear is among the styling distinctions we like, supplying the right amount of eye candy without appearing overwrought.

Moving inside, the cabin is open, roomy, and plush. You’ll have no trouble fitting five adults inside, and without the usual comprises to hip room or leg room. A winged, horizontal look best describes the dashboard, with controls clustered where you expect to find them around the central touchscreen display. The upholstery features an attractive pattern, while a unique design surrounds the door-panel speakers. There's a certain cohesiveness present, demonstrating the extra work Kia’s designers took to make the cabin look fabulous.

Trunk space measures 16 cubic feet, matching the Toyota Avalon and ahead of the Buick LaCrosse and Nissan Maxima. The Chevrolet Impala is the segment winner here with nearly 19 cubic feet.

The Best and Worst Things

We like Kia’s UVO infotainment system as the display is clear and easy to use. On the flip side, the base model doesn’t offer standard safety features. You have to opt for the Technology Package to get at least some driver-assist options and at a sizable cost. Toyota, for instance, makes these items standard on the Avalon.

Right For? Wrong For?

Kia Cadenza

If you’re a sedan-minded shopper who's attracted to traditional full-size sedans, the Kia Cadenza is certainly worth a look. It's a half-step up from the Optima. On the other hand, the Cadenza doesn’t have the driving dynamics of a Nissan Maxima nor does it offer all-wheel drive like the Buick LaCrosse.

The Bottom Line

Kia remains committed to sedans even as competing manufacturers pull back or hold off on their updates. The 2018 Kia Cadenza holds its own in the segment by delivering premium features and value to go with it.