wheels CotY 2017: Best family saloon

Smooth, comfortable and loaded with tech, the Kia is a family favourite
By Sony Thomas, Deputy Editor
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March 03, 2017
Photos: Malek Fayoumi, Stefan Lindeque
Photos: Malek Fayoumi, Stefan Lindeque(1/2)
Photos: Malek Fayoumi, Stefan Lindeque
Photos: Malek Fayoumi, Stefan Lindeque(2/2)

It might be the most unglamorous of segments, but the family saloon is without doubt one of the most important. Despite the incredibly strong aspirational pull that supercars and hypercars exert on us, the grim truth is that a good percentage of the world’s population needs — and will be able to afford — only these unspectacular four-door cars. And compared to what it used to be a few years ago, the segment has become much less dreary; some of the cars even manage to verge on the exciting. Being the most popular, this segment is also one that has the most number of players. Things were no different in 2016, which saw many models getting a generational update. We whittled the long list down to three: the all-new Kia Cadenza, the 10th-generation Honda Civic, and the new Chevrolet Malibu.

All three cars are massively improved from their previous generations. Honda brought an unprecedented choice of three engine variants including its first turbo mill in the region. If Honda had mated that force-fed engine to a six-speed auto, it would have made the new Civic hard to beat. The Chevy Malibu also made a strong case for itself with its great new styling, improved dynamics, lighter weight, and a smooth 2.5-litre engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. However, neither of these could match the level of style, sophistication and refined performance that Kia brought to the table with the new Cadenza.

The Korean carmaker has kept things understated and elegant in the styling department, a single contour line running along the length of the car’s profile, and connecting the Z-shaped motifs in the headlights and the taillights. The clean and simple design is carried over to the cabin as well, which represents a major improvement in layout, quality of materials used and workmanship.
Not many cars in this segment offer Nappa leather upholstery and wooden trim as part of the interior package. It’s also among the most spacious saloons around, and feels roomier than even the Toyota Avalon and the Chevrolet Impala.

There are two great powertrain options offered, both based on the super-smooth 3.3-litre Lambda V6, with one coupled with a slick new eight-speed auto ’box and the other mated to a six-speed gearbox. It also offers a ride quality that’s as plush as that of the Lexus ES 350, which is a notch above in premiumness and pricing. It’s stiffer, stronger and lighter, too, boasting much enhanced dynamics. And for a car packed with an array of hi-tech features that are usually seen only in premium cars, the Cadenza is priced lower than all its rivals.

Ultra-spacious, refined, extremely comfortable and feature-rich, the Cadenza delivers everything you expect from a family saloon. And some.