(Image Credits: Jason Torchinsky)

Buying a car because of the badges stuck on it is likely the most popular terrible reason to buy a car. It happens all the time, of course, and chances are it won’t go away any time soon. That’s a shame, not just because it’s stupid, but because it means a lot of people are pissing away a lot of money for no good reason. The 2017 Kia Cadenza should be a solution to this problem, if people weren’t such jackasses.

Two fine products of the Hyundai Group

The 2017 Kia Cadenza isn’t exactly the kind of car I’d ever be interested in buying for myself, but, in the context of what this car is designed to do, I think it does that job remarkably well, for the price. The only real problems with it that might make it less appealing to buyers are centered on a few key parts:

The badges.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but from what I’ve seen, heard, and read, the biggest thing that drives people away from the Cadenza are that the badge has the wrong three letters. Swap that K for a B, the I for an M, and that A for, oh, a W and all of a sudden whole market segments of status-conscious dickheads open up.

The Cadenza has virtually the exact same dimensions as a BMW 5-Series sedan ( 196″ L x 74″ W x 58″ H vs 195″ L x 74″ W x 58″ H) and from 10 feet away, in profile, I bet most people who aren’t really into cars would have no idea which was which.


I’m not saying the cars are the same; there’s no question the BMW handles and drives better. But what I am saying is that for almost everything these cars will be used for by most of the people that will buy them, the BMW badges aren’t worth the extra $15-$20,000 or so.


The Cadenza is roomy, comfortable, and has all the expected toys a modern premium car should have: adaptive cruise, a heads-up display, panoramic roof, heated/cooled seats, nav, all the usual frippery of modern, fancy-person driving.

Its 3.3-liter V6 makes 290 horsepower, and, while not a neck-snapper, is quick enough. The eight-speed auto is smooth and forgettable, which is exactly what most buyers will do with it. Handling isn’t particularly engaging, but it’s predictable and safe. If these are things you really care about, there’s better cars to get; for everyone else, it’s fine.

Why don’t more cars do this for the wiper controls?

I think it looks quite good, too; it’s well-proportioned, has a determined-looking face that’s not too overdone. The lighting design I think is especially good, and I like the use of amber for the DRLs, which also sport a kicky lightning-bolt/Harry Potter-scar shape.


The shiny panel at the center of the grille that’s trying to camouflage into the grille isn’t fooling anyone, but that’s my only real complaint for the exterior.


The interior works well with the white leather upholstery, and is plenty roomy for human and animals alike.

The Cadenza starts at under $32,000, nearly $20,000 less than a BMW 5-series sedan. For most people, the Cadenza will prove to be plenty comfortable, roomy, quick, attractive, and luxurious-feeling. It’ll do the job of general-life-use-upper-middle-class transport no problem.


That’s why I think people should feel free to re-badge the car with whatever they want, because badge snobbery is stupid. Get some body-colored insert to go in the middle of the grille and slap some Roundels on there and call it a BMW. Stick a big Mercedes badge you got off eBay on the front. Make your own set of Audi rings. It doesn’t matter.


The fact is, this Kia looks and feels right, and does the same damn job as any of its more costly peers, at least for 90% of what people will do in these cars.

I mean, why not?

If you’re a buyer looking for a premium car that you’ll use like you used to use your old Camry when you were young, beautiful, and poor, then please, don’t fall into the idiotic brand-worship trap. Save yourself some money and go for the Cadenza. You’ll like it!

If you’re really into cars, in a deeper, more visceral way, then, well, you know what you want, so have at it. But don’t judge the people who decide to buy a Cadenza, because, really, they probably did the smart thing.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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