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2017 Kia Cadenza is stylish, but a little tame

2017 Kia Cadenza SXL: Did you hear about this one? Me neither. Price: The Limited starts at $44,390, while a basic version can be had for as little as $31,990. Options on the test vehicle include the $3,000 luxury package and the $1,000 panoramic sunroof package.

2017 Kia Cadenza SXL: Did you hear about this one? Me neither.

Price: The Limited starts at $44,390, while a basic version can be had for as little as $31,990. Options on the test vehicle include the $3,000 luxury package and the $1,000 panoramic sunroof package.

Marketer's pitch: "Impossible to ignore."

Conventional wisdom: And yet we've managed to ignore it until now.

Reality: Nothing is impossible.

What it is: Kia seems to have an abundance of sedans in its lineup these days, for a market (in the U.S., anyway) that really doesn't seem interested. The small Forte steps up to the Optima then the Cadenza, and finally the K900.

This is the second generation of the sedan. Kia says the new body structure makes it lighter and it's the first time they've put the eight-speed automatic into a front-wheel-drive car.

Outside: Kia has definitely gotten some better design cues over the last five years and the Cadenza fits that category.

For my first drive in the Cadenza, I met a friend for lunch whom I'd known since grade school, and I still remember stories about his dad's MGs and TVRs. So when Friend 1.0 mistook the Cadenza for a Jaguar, I figured Kia must be onto something, design-wise.

Inside: Drivers familiar with Kia's interior design language will certainly feel right at home. Sturgis Kid 4.0 noticed right away that the infotainment/navigation interface looks just like the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat's Kia Soul+ model.

But the Cadenza is far spiffier than the Soul. The seats are stitched in a fine pattern, and a dial clock is the final notation that you have arrived.

Driver's seat: Though not as plush as a Lexus or Lincoln, the seat will satisfy drivers who like a certain combination of room, support, and comfort. I found adjustments easily made as well.

Up to speed: The 3.3-liter V-6 made 290 horses. The Cadenza is designed for cruising and not hot-rodding, and those horses seemed rather tame through all the drive modes, including Sport.

Shifty: The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly and without drawing any attention to itself. Running the gears myself was not unpleasant, but the Cadenza didn't offer as much shifting pleasure as other Kias I've tried.

On the curves: Despite its big-sedan demeanor, the Cadenza adds some enjoyment to winding roads.

Friends and stuff: So the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and I happened to arrive to an evening appointment a little early, and we decided to check out the roomy Cadenza backseat.

We're pleased to report there's plenty of room for your legs, hips, feet, and head, plus a super comfortable leather-covered surface. The center seat sits a little higher than the outboard corners, but not uncomfortably so.

Parents of high-schoolers would be wise not to send the Cadenza out on date night, although I'm never sure if today's teens look up from their phones long enough to 1) go on dates, 2) learn to drive cars, or 3) smoothly slip into the backseat.

Teens (and grown-ups alike) better put those phones away on the road, and a generous console or a small tray in front of the gearshift is an ideal location. For larger items, the trunk offers 16 cubic feet of storage space.

Play some tunes: Along with the familiar interface, I found the Cadenza stereo sound to match the Soul's as well. That's fine for the owner of a $25,000 Soul like the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat, but a bit of a disappointment for someone who paid almost twice that for a Cadenza, I'm sure. I'd call it an A-; despite a midrange adjustment, the sound still isn't as full as it should be.

A pair of knobs in classic radio format control make setting the volume and station easy, and buttons control where the music originates. But getting into the touch screen is a pain.

Other operations: Many controls - from seat heater and cooler to drive mode and more - sit on the tall console and are a strong distraction from the road.

Staying warm - and cool: The heater features driver- and passenger-side dials for temperature, and buttons for fan speed and location.

Fuel economy: I averaged a consistent 23 mpg in the usual round of suburban and country settings. The Cadenza is fine with regular unleaded.

Where it's built: Hwasung, South Korea.

How it's built: Consumer Reports expects reliability to be good, while it was fair in 2015 and excellent in 2014.

In the end: It's been a long time since I've eliminated a vehicle from the running for lack of intuitive controls, but I think the console-mounted controls are just too fussy to live with long-term.

That and the Cadenza, while nice, doesn't offer a bunch of reasons to buy it, although you'll save a bundle over a Lexus or Infiniti sedan. But for the size, the Chevy Malibu actually is the model to top, and a relative bargain.