CC Capsule: 2016 Kia Cadenza – A Horse With No Name

(first posted 6/5/2017)       It is said that you can learn more from failure than you can success. Well did I learn a lot from this CC find. Come along and join me for a lesson.

One of the cars I’ve been trying to find for a while is a Kia K900. Not that they are particularly hard to find (after all, you can go to any Kia dealership to see one), but these are rare cars to actually see on the road. You would think that the official car of LeBron James would be everywhere in Cavs crazy Cleveland, but apparently even LeBron’s magic touch has limits.

So I got excited when I was out running errands and saw the car pictured above. It was big, it was a Kia, and as you can clearly see in the feature photo, it had no badges. No matter, I took my pictures, excited about my find, and went on my merry way.



Boy was I disappointed when I got home and started Googling images of the K900, only to find that they didn’t quite match the images of the badgeless car I had captured earlier that day. What the heck was it then? As it turns out, Kia has another near luxury car that is almost as obscure as the K900: The Kia Cadenza.

I was about ready to hit delete and dump the photos, when instead I decided that I could use this as a teachable moment, both to the readers of this site, and to Kia (if they are interested): Mainly, that if I, a highly qualified car spotter, couldn’t tell the difference between a K900 and a lesser Kia, what chance does John Q. Car Buyer?


Check out this sausage fest


So why are these near luxury Kias such an epic failure? Well for starters, the “same sausage different length” approach to styling only applies if all your sausages are highly desirable. BMW and Audi can pull this off, because even their lowliest sausage links (2-series and A3, respectively) still carry some cachet. Not so much the Kia Forte and Optima.

Next, most brands only have a limited range, and it is easy to overreach. Ask Volkswagen how well the Phaeton did, or Mazda their Millenia. Heck, all you need to do is look at Kia’s sibling Hyundai: After years of trying to sell Hyundai branded Genesis and Equus’s (Equii?) next to $17K Elantras, they finally wised up and decided to make a separate channel for their luxury wares.


Do I know you?


Lastly, and most importantly, as I pointed out in my End of Luxury article, luxury cars can no longer distinguish themselves by their features alone, with options like heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping systems being available on even the lowliest econobox now. Luxury cars must now tread not only on their exclusivity (which admittedly the K900 and Cadenza have is spades), but also their snob appeal (which the Kias are sorely lacking). After all, what good is exclusivity if you can’t flaunt it? Sure, they can call these “Practical Luxury Cars,” but I don’t really think this is a thing any more, and apparently luxury buyers agree with me.