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2020 Kia Cadenza brings sharper style to Chicago

This midcycle refresh covers both a new look and new equipment.

The Cadenza basically looks a bigger Optima, and that's great.


The second-generation Kia Cadenza is set to begin its fourth year in the US. To give its large, cushy child some additional appeal at the dealership, Kia decided to roll out a midcycle refresh at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2020 Kia Cadenza doesn't look all that different from the 2020 Cadenza previewed in June 2019. That's a good thing, though, because it appears the Cadenza (known as the K7 in its home market of South Korea) picked up a number of physical attributes from its smaller sibling, the Optima. I'm a huge fan of the Optima's newfound styling, and it works on the Cadenza, too, even with the surprising amount of concavity in that front grille.

When I tested the new Optima, I pointed out that Kia had made great strides in its interior materials and design, and the story is the same with the Cadenza. While the general layout of the dashboard looks the same -- big screen in the middle, real buttons underneath that and so on -- it looks far more premium thanks to the use of optional Nappa leather and matte-finish wood.

In fact, Kia put most of its attention into the interior. Not only is the dashboard wearing a new design, there's a new standard 4.2-inch color screen in the gauge cluster, and the standard infotainment screen now measures 12.3 inches. LED mood lighting is available, as is a wireless phone charger. Those keen on cables will be happy to find three extra USB ports in the Cadenza -- one for the front passenger and two more for those in the rear.

Matte wood looks so much better (and believable) than the high-gloss stuff.


Safety tech also gets a big boost. Standard driver assistance systems include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. Safe Exit Assist uses blind-spot monitoring to tell drivers if they're about to open the door into a cyclist or person, and the turn-by-turn system can use navigation map data to adjust vehicle speed in curves.

The Cadenza also includes Highway Driving Assist, which combines the assistance systems to hold the vehicle in its lane on the highway while keeping pace with traffic. I first tried this setup in the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and I think it's pretty promising as far as hands-on systems are concerned.

Under the hood, the Cadenza rocks the same 3.3-liter V6 from last year, still producing 290 horsepower and sending it all through the front wheels by way of an eight-speed automatic transmission. The car should ride more comfortably, though, thanks to tweaks in the shock valves, rear dampers and rear subframe.

The 2020 Kia Cadenza goes on sale later this year and will be offered in just two trims: Technology and Limited. Pricing will be announced closer to that time.