Could you be con­vinced to turn in your keys for this Kia?

Cecil Whig - - & - By MAL­COLM GUNN

www.wheel­base­me­dia.com

Pack­ing an ex­ces­sive amount of gear into a beau­ti­ful de­sign and sell­ing it for a steal of a deal is what Kia does to win friends and in­flu­ence buy­ers. There’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of this phi­los­o­phy than the 2017 Cadenza sedan that’s due to ar­rive later this year.

Not all that long ago — be­fore 2009 — few peo­ple would have be­lieved that any Korea-based au­tomaker would be sell­ing lux­ury cars in North Amer­ica. Today, Hyundai is spin­ning off the Ge­n­e­sis into a sep­a­rate up­scale brand and Hyundai’s Kia di­vi­sion has both mid-lux­ury Cadenza and up­per-range K900 four-door sedans in its lineup. Part of the credit goes to Kia de­sign boss Peter Schreyer.

There’s enough new stuff in the lat­est de­signed-in-Cal­i­for­nia Cadenza com­pared to the orig­i­nal model that launched for 2014 that you could ac­cu­rately de­scribe it as a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion model. Al­though over­all length re­mains un­touched, the dis­tance be­tween the front and rear wheels has in­creased slightly, which trans­lates into a bit more rear-seat legroom. The roofline has been ex­tended rear­ward by two inches for a sportier look, while trunk space has in­creased some­what.

Ad­di­tional vis­ual en­hance­ment is clearly ev­i­dent in the front. The Cadenza’s grille — or more ac­cu­rately, grilles — de­parts from Kia’s sig­na­ture “tiger nose” de­sign and are now con­cave. The “Di­a­mond But­ter­fly” grille on the base Cadenza ap­pears sim­i­lar to what you’ll find on other Kia mod­els. On up­per trim lev­els, the “In­taglio” grille with ver­ti­cal bars looks like those in­stalled on Maserati lux­ury cars.

Kia says the new Cadenza plat­form is lighter and about 35 per­cent stiffer. Also keep­ing the pounds off (it weighs in with slightly fewer pounds, de­spite hav­ing ex­tra sound-dead­en­ing ma­te­ri­als) is the use of alu­minum sus­pen­sion com­po­nents.

The re­worked in­te­rior now has a wrap­around dash­board and the door-panel ma­te­ri­als have been up­graded. The driver’s seat can be or­dered with an ad­justable cush­ion ex­ten­sion that is claimed to be more sup­port­ive for the legs and helps re­duce fa­tigue.

Some sem­blance of carry-over fa­mil­iar­ity is ev­i­dent with the Cadenza’s pow­er­plant, which is es­sen­tially the same 3.3-liter V-6 as be­fore. Re­tun­ing the engine for im­proved fuel econ­omy has re­sulted in an out­put of 290 horse­power and 253 pound-feet of torque, rep­re­sent­ing a vir­tu­ally in­dis­cernible loss of three horse­power and a mea­ger two pound-feet. The V-6 now ships torque to the front wheels through an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion in­stead of a six-speed unit.

Kia es­ti­mates the Cadenza will achieve a rat­ing of 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the high­way, com­pared with 19/28 for the 2016 model.

The only stick­ing point with the Cadenza is the lack of all-wheeldrive avail­abil­ity, which is a vi­tal tech­nol­ogy that nearly ev­ery com­pet­ing car can of­fer.

For an es­ti­mated start­ing price of $34,000 in­clud­ing des­ti­na­tion charges, the base Cadenza Pre­mium loads up with a rea­son­able amount of equip­ment, al­though not quite as much as you might think. Al­though leather-cover seats (power-ad­justable in front), dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, and a touch-screen dis­play are in­cluded, you’ll need to spend at about $3,000 more for the mid-range Tech­nol­ogy trim. It adds a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, 14-way power driver’s seat, 12-speaker Har­mon Kar­don-brand sound sys­tem, 19-inch wheels (18s are stan­dard), elec­tronic park­ing brake and a full range of the lat­est ac­tive safety tech­nol­ogy.

The top-end Lim­ited takes the Cadenza’s con­tent level over the top with pre­mium quilted leather seats, side-win­dow and power rear­win­dow sun­shades, re­mote-open­ing power trunk lid and a head-up dis­play that projects speed and turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion info onto the wind­shield.

Now head­ing into its fifth year of pro­duc­tion, the Kia Cadenza brand has yet to se­ri­ously chal­lenge sim­i­larly sized and priced sedans from Buick, Chrysler, Toy­ota, Nis­san, Acura and oth­ers. It might still take some time be­fore a brand that cut its teeth build­ing small and in­ex­pen­sive cars trade be­comes ap­pre­ci­ated for mak­ing dev­il­ishly de­cent up-level big sedans. For buy­ers not un­duly hooked on es­tab­lished lux­ury ma­chines, the Cadenza will be a pleas­ant sur­prise.

What you should know: Honda Ac­cord Hy­brid

Type Four-door, front-wheeldrive full-size sedan

Engine (h.p.): 3.3-liter DOHC V-6 (290)

Trans­mis­sion: tomatic

Mar­ket po­si­tion: Mid- and full­size lux­ury sedans are still sell­ing well de­spite the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of tall wag­ons. In the sedan class, the Cadenza still has to work to be no­ticed.

Points: At­trac­tive 2017 Eight-speed au- re­design

In­te­rior im­prove­ments add more

drive op­tion is a ma­jor draw­back in this class and could hurt

con­tent in base mod­els makes

lux­ury brands have strong fol­low­ings and won’t yield ground eas­ily.

Ac­tive safety: Blind-spot warn­ing with cross-traf­fic alert (opt.); ac­tive cruise con­trol (opt.); emer­gency brak­ing (opt.); lane-de­par­ture warn­ing (opt.)

MPG (city/high­way) 20/88; Base price (incl. des­ti­na­tion) $34,000 (est.) By com­par­i­son: Buick LaCrosse Base price: $33,000 All-new 2017 model looks stun­ning and closely matches up with the Cadenza. Chrysler 300 Base price: $33,400 Clas­sic styling and abun­dant power choices top the list of pos­i­tives for this car. Toy­ota Avalon Base price: $34,100 A steady, if un­ex­cit­ing per­former that touts re­li­a­bil­ity as its main as­set.

SPE­CIAL TO THE WHIG

2017 Cadenza

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