By on June 12, 2019


Often referred to as a “Korean Buick” (sometimes, a “better Buick“), the Kia Cadenza sits in a corner of the vehicle theater where audience attendance is way down. The brand’s largeish midsize sedan gained a new generation for 2017, upping the model’s style and content, and it looks like Kia’s not ready to let a member of its unusually diverse passenger car lineup go ignored for too much longer.

For 2020, the sedan’s just-revealed K7 Korean twin undergoes a significant refresh, adding a touch of menace to the car’s exterior. We should see these same changes on the North American-market Cadenza in short order.

A larger, more menacing grille, flanked by slimmer headlamps and fog lights is what stands out first, with a wider lower air opening imparting a sense of increased width. The taillights essentially flip themselves, underscored along the bottom by a chrome strip that used to be situated along the top. Those lamps are now joined across the trunklid by a slim band of LEDs.


Inside, changes abound, from revamped switchgear to a remolded shift lever, and the addition of two 12.3-inch screens — one replacing the traditional gauge cluster, the other topping the center stack.

While Korean K7 buyers make do with a choice of 2.5- or 3.0-liter engines, American buyers currently see just one powerplant: a 3.3-liter V6 making 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is an eight-speed automatic. Whether that changes for 2020 remains to be seen.

Overall, the refreshed Cadenza is a fairly tony package. Kia’s, um, forte is offering sedans with a considerable amount of style and content for a value price, and the upcoming Cadenza would look right at home in the near-premium or low-end premium class. The question is, will anyone notice it?

That can be asked of basically all new or refreshed sedans on the market nowadays. Last year, Cadenza sales in the U.S. shrunk to their lowest point since the model’s 2013 introduction, with just 4,507 units moved. It’s a rare sight on domestic roads. Over the first five months of 2019 Cadenza volume fell 79 percent, with a refresh-pending selldown being the likely cause of the extreme sales drop.

Expect to hear more about the 2020 Cadenza as the fall auto show season approaches.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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33 Comments on “Please Notice Me: Kia’s Oft-overlooked Cadenza Gains a New Face for 2020...”

  • avatar

    They’re not kidding, this looks more like a Buick then any Buick does. A fine looking near-luxury sedan, if that’s what you’re into

    Just add “000” portholes on each side

  • avatar

    I’m sure it will look much better once the braces are off.

  • avatar

    The Stinger already feels like a spiritual successor to the Grand Prix so might as well sell the new LeSabre as well.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised they are bothering for NA market. I haven’t actually seen one of these at any of our Kia dealerships since last year but there are plenty of Forte’s and Optima’s always in stock. Hyundai already killed off the Azera so I doubt this car will be around for much longer as it makes little fiscal sense to carry one very low selling model

  • avatar

    I drive behind the “beak” and frankly it doesn’t really matter that much if you like the car. And, with 4500+ sold in 2018 I doubt this grill change is going to do much to improve that.

  • avatar

    The integration of the screen with the sloped dash looks much better thought out than any other cars within 20k. Nicely done.

    Buick (Opel, PSA or whoever is making them) doesn’t make anything that looks this good. Ze Germans don’t make anything that looks this well thought out.

  • avatar

    I’m quite fond of this vehicle actually. Its biggest shortcomings: being in a segment no one cares about, a slightly underpowered V6, and maybe Kia/Hyundai’s reputation for less than sporty handling?

  • avatar

    It would have been helpful to provide photos of the outgoing model as well as the new one, as who among us has seen enough of these to remember what they looked like.

    • 0 avatar

      +1, can’t recall ever seeing one new or old.

      Wonder if there’s a moss covered three handled version of the Cadenza?

    • 0 avatar

      Same model, just a facelift.

      The pre-facelift has the better grille (the new one is not nearly as elegant), but the refreshed model has an improved dash/interior design.

      The next gen Cadenza (that is if there is one; the new Optima may make it redundant) would be the one to get as it would be lighter and get AWD.

  • avatar

    “fairly tony package” Tony huh? I would love to know how someone is writing along and decides to use the word “tony” in this context. Not luxurious, not elegant, not upscale…nope…”tony”. Good grief.

  • avatar

    Man I’ve grown weary of cars that feel like sitting in a bucket. I’ve tried several recent cars on for size and I guess lousy visibility is a feature now. This appears to be no exception.

  • avatar

    I just saw one today. This said, we need new section here – “I can’t believe I saw it!” Where we can post sightings of mass production cars that are rare on the road

  • avatar

    Rant begin…
    Just ONCE, I’d like to see Kia not crib from other cars and come up with a clean design. Where I do begin. For starters, they owe some serious royalties to Maserati with this one. Pull up an image of a Quattroporte. Look at the front grille and the windows. There’s a little bit of cribbing with the lower bodywork up front as well.
    And then let’s go around back. See a bit of Audi A7 in those taillights. I wonder if they do a little dance when the car turns on as well…
    Yes, I know it’s nice to aim at $80,000+ cars with your design and sell it at discounted prices, and the Stinger shows that the lights are on somewhere in the design studio, but it looks like they just phoned this one in by hanging pictures of other cars in the studio and cherry-picked a bunch of design cues from them. And that comes across as lazy and unoriginal to me.
    And no, I’m not a Hyundai/Kia hater (although I swear their taillights fail at a very alarming rate) – I just see a lot of lazy design work over a long time with their cars.
    …rant over.

  • avatar

    I have friends who are on their third Cadenza and they have loved each one. The car stands out in the church parking lot mixed in with several Audi and Mercedes sedans. The right mix of tech, size, and a quality interior make it a good competitor to the Avalon. I’ve been a passenger in it on several occasions and was impressed enough to put a well equipped Sedona in my driveway when a minivan become a priority for my family.

    • 0 avatar

      My brother, after a long history of expensive cars, just moved from his Audi S7 over to a Stinger. 90% of the platform for half the price–he couldn’t not give it a try.

      The ONLY thing keeping me from a Sedona is the simple fact that I do, sometimes, use my Odyssey as a truck. The Sedona seems like a fine vehicle, but it’s more a modern day replacement for the old big Lincoln/Caddy cars, where passengers come first. Not a bad thing at all, but a Sedona SX is a passenger vehicle primarily–the middle seats barely fold, and they don’t come out–and I do love to sometimes take the seats out of my Odyssey and fill it up with things I need to haul.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        My 09 Sedona is the truck you want. I lost interest in the Sedona when Kia essentially turned it into an SUV in 2014.

        I’ve hauled and towed lots of stuff with it over the years. I laugh at pickups with 2x4s sticking up out of the bed in the rain, while myppayload rides home inside a closed hatch.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I might be contrary to the opinion on this site but I like the looks of this car. Much nicer design than the Lexus and many of the Japanese.

  • avatar

    The problem is that I have to pay hard earned cash for that. For something called “Kia”. Yeah, may be I would consider it for less than $20K, but then again it still will be a Kia. I will see Kia in garage everyday. So I think I would rather add a little more and buy CPO real thing.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Too bad your prejudice prevents you from having a good car, in favor of an overpriced badge. I’ve had about 6 H/K vehicles since 2009 with great results. Five of them are still in service.

    • 0 avatar

      Auto enthusiasts should care more about the merits of the vehicle than the badge.

      Despite one being badged a Kia and other a Lexus, the Stinger is superior in most respects (esp. for the things enthusiasts prize).

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am less interested in badges and I know several people who have owned Kias and Hyundais and had great experiences with them. Actually this car might be a perfect CPO in a couple of years.

    • 0 avatar

      Hyundai and Kia are improving year after year.
      Mercedes has been getting decontented and more ordinary year after year.
      Both are only going up in price, although Mercedes has added some downmarket models to their lineup.
      The challenge for HK is how to gain snob appeal/prestige, and the challenge for Mercedes is how to avoid losing theirs completely.
      There will be a point where rising HK quality equals that of Mercedes, and the falling quality of Mercedes equals that of Kia.
      That day may come soon, if it hasn’t already.

  • avatar

    I urged my mom (in her late 60s) to consider the Cadenza when trading her old Avalon (she was just going to get another Avalon). She’d never heard of it (no one has), drove it and loved it — bought one used with less than 20k miles on it — amazing deal, depreciation on these cars must be murder. But it is a while lot of car for the money and perfect for someone who doesn’t care about badge, wants a comfy cruiser (I guess someone who once would have been the profile of a Buick buyer). It’s been trouble-free for my folks.

    When she has it serviced the Kia dealer begs her to trade it in — she said she’d consider it for a newer Cadenza. “Lady, we never have any of those on this lot.” Therein lies the problem. A good car when 2-years old at half it’s original sticker, but not one many will shell out for new. If not for rental fleet sales, would really be a unicorn.

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