In some ways, the Cadenza was the ultimate expression of Kia’s mission: to combine luxury, styling, safety, and technology in a compelling package that hits above its price point.
Launched for 2014 to compete with other mainstream flagship sedans like the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon, the Cadenza offered up plenty of space, an upscale cabin, and tons of the must-have features of the day. A second generation of the model was launched a scant three years later, in 2017 – this review covers both generations.
Look for a drive mode selector, premium audio, automatic lights, wipers and climate control, heated and ventilated leather seats, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, a heated steering wheel, and plenty more.
Drivers can expect ample space for four adults, a generous trunk, and a smooth and quiet ride enabled by a touring-tuned suspension and plenty of sound deadening. This sizable sedan has a solid and tranquil feel on the road.
Look for standard V6 power, an automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive on all models. Note that the powertrain was retuned for 2017 – alongside heavy updates to other vehicle components and features.
What Owners Like
Owners report a comfortable drive, easy-to-use tech, and a generally easygoing and laid-back feel. Long-distance drivers appreciate the peace and quiet on the highway, and many say that the Cadenza’s high-tech features are logical and easy to use. Adaptive cruise control, as well as blind-spot monitoring alerts that are repeated in the head-up display (HUD) are among the feature content favourites.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for more headroom, noting that the Cadenza’s relatively low roof turns in adequate headroom for average sized folks but may prove limited for taller occupants. Others wish for a bit more horsepower, and an easier time reading the HUD while wearing polarized sunglasses.
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Pro Tip: Low Sales Volume Means Less Selection, Information
The Cadenza is shaping up to be a popular choice as a used luxury vehicle, though relatively low sales volumes mean that there’s limited information available online to glean real-world reliability.
Below, we’ll cover some useful tips and checks to keep in mind, though test-driving attentively is key. Drive at a variety of speeds and over a variety of surfaces, and be sure to try each and every system on board. If something seems or sounds off, it probably is. If in doubt, have it checked out.
The Test Drive
Is the Kia Cadenza Reliable?
Here’s one discussion where several owners report on their ownership experiences so far, with most noting few if any problems. Just remember that continual and ongoing maintenance is key for long-term health, so be sure to check all service records and confirm that the unit you’re considering has been continually cared for throughout its life.
Improper maintenance and care – or use of non-factory approved fluids and filters – can adversely affect reliability and warranty coverage.
The Kia Cadenza should be capable of cruising at highway speeds and beyond while turning in minimal cabin noise levels. Quiet the vehicle’s cabin on your test drive, head to the highway, and get up to speed. If you notice any unusually high levels of road noise, the likely culprit is the tires. Confirm that the unit you’re considering has a quality set of tires installed, and check carefully for signs of wear.
Note that uneven wear across the treads of the tires may be signs of an alignment problem, which can contribute to road noise. Here’s some more reading on selecting the right replacement tires.
Some owners have reported unwanted sounds from the Cadenza’s sunroof, which may require dealer attention to repair. On your test drive, quiet the vehicle’s cabin and listen closely for signs of air seeping past the sunroof seals, clicking or thumping sounds from the sunroof on rougher roads, or any signs of strain or struggle while opening and closing the roof.
In some cases, broken clips inside of the sunroof assembly require dealers to repair or replace parts. In other cases, some sunroof noises can be silenced with a bit of strategic lubrication of its internal components.
Cold Startup Rattle
Some owners have reported an unwelcome rattling or clicking sound from the engine when it’s started after sitting for an extended period. The sound may be more prominent in cold weather. Pop the hood on the Cadenza you’re test-driving, start the engine, and listen for the noise. The culprit? Normal operation of a component within the fuel system.
If the engine hasn’t been run in a few hours, the sound should quiet considerably after a few moments. If the noise doesn’t quiet, or if you notice a check-engine light (CEL) or unwanted shaking or struggling from the idling engine, have the unit inspected professionally before you buy.
Climate Control Test
On your test drive, blast the air conditioner for a few minutes while driving. Stop somewhere safe, turn the engine off for two or three minutes, and then restart it.
In this situation, some owners have reported that the air conditioner may not re-engage, or that airflow from the vents may be weak or non-existent, even with the climate control system turned on. Here’s some more reading.
If detected, the issue may be software-related, requiring a reset or re-flash of the computer that controls the climate control system. If you notice this issue, have a technician check the system over before agreeing to buy.
Protect Your Investment
Many owners have purchased a Cadenza as a way to treat themselves to an upscale drive for many years to come. Those interested in maximizing their return on investment and keeping their second-hand Cadenza healthy for the long-term can consider a few additional tips.
First, consider having the leather professionally cleaned and treated, which can help extend its life and appearance. For those set on keeping their car for the long haul, this is money well spent. Similarly, paint treatments and coatings (offered by reputable detail shops) can go a long way towards improving and maintaining vehicle appearance.
Prevent other problems by using a battery trickle-charger at all times when the vehicle will be parked for more than a few days on end, and be sure to stick strictly to the vehicle’s maintenance and fluid-change schedule.
Having all servicing related to spark plugs and oil changes performed not a moment later than advised under the so-called Severe Use schedule in the owner’s manual is recommended by many owners for maximum peace of mind.
Though information is somewhat limited, the Cadenza largely appears to be a luxurious ride that has pleased the majority of its shoppers with a comfortable drive, plenty of features, and minimal complaints and headaches. Remember: your best defence against buying a model that’s concealing possible problems is to have it inspected by a professional before you buy.
IIHS: results here
Just one recall.