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2017 Kia Cadenza
The 2017 Kia Cadenza has sharper styling and more luxury.

Prices: $32,000-$34,000 (Estimated)

The second-generation front-drive Cadenza isn't Kia's hottest ticket, but has jazzed up this sedan to be a stronger contender for 2017.

The Cadenza comes as the Premium, Technology and Limited models with estimated prices ranging from approximately $32,000 to $34,000. (No firm pricing as of this writing.) But it looks as if Kia will charge less than some better-known rivals. I tested the Limited version.

 The new Cadenza has sharper styling, a more upscale and quieter  interior and new  eight-speed automatic transmission. It's also got a stronger body structure and major semi-autonomous driver assistance features available on the Technology and Limited trim models.

These features are advanced smart cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, along with lane departure warning. Another Kia "first" is a smart blind spot detection system that senses unintentional drifting to an adjacent vehicle and automatically brakes the opposite side front wheel to help maintain the car's intended course.

The new Cadenza is positioned between the top-line Kia K900 and mid-line Kia Optima. The car is the same length as its predecessor, but the wheelbase is a little longer at 112.4 inches, and the car is a bit lower and wider. A character line along the body provides a taut look, and the roofline has been extended more than two inches rearward for a sleeker top profile. Give credit to Kia's California design studio.

A newly designed front fascia offers two different grilles, depending on which version you choose.  There also are newly designed 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels, and the dual integrated exhaust outlets look sexy.

The approximately 3,700-pound Cadenza is easy to maneuver in tight spots. It  has quick acceleration and fast--but slightly heavy--revamped steering. Larger brake rotors improve overall braking performance and feel, and the brake action is linear. Handling is pretty good, but this is no sports sedan.

Under the hood, which raises on twin struts, is a carryover, transversely mounted 3.3-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and and 253 pound/feet of torque.

That's down 3 horsepower and a little torque from the 2016 engine. But a new Kia butter-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces a six-speed unit, helps keep the engine at peak power and provides quicker acceleration.  (0-60 m.p.h. in 6 seconds).  The new transmission is one of the car's stronger points.

Estimated fuel economy is 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways.  I averaged 23 miles per gallon during a moderately fast mix of city and highway driving. Fuel tank capacity is 18.5 gallons.

The quieter interior is roomy and decidedly upscale. Door panels, arm rests, seats and the dashboard are covered in soft-touch materials, and there's attractive fake wood and chrome. Nappa leather is available with quilted seat bolsters accented by diamond shaped stitching. Another  Kia "first" is seat heaters that use a smart control system to automatically lower the heater operating mode after a certain period of time.  

Long, heavy doors make it hard for those with shorter arms to close them if a door is flung open all the way. but the quiet interior has easily read backlit gauges.

The backlit gauges can be quickly read, and the many small but clearly marked dashboard buttons are generally easy to use. A nifty touch is a Heads-Up display on the windshield that shows both the car's speed and posted speed limits--along with turn-by-turn navigation directions

Front seats are supportive, as are the rear ones, but the center of the backseat is too firm for comfort and best accommodates the fold-down armrest with dual cupholders.

The large trunk has a low, wide opening, but it's a long reach to get at cargo at its far end.

The 2017 Kia Cadenza has enough pizzazz to draw more buyers who don't particularly care if it doesn't have a prestigious nameplate.