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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus ES Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Kia Cadenza doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
The ES Series has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.
Both the ES Series and the Cadenza have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, collision warning systems, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors, available blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.
For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, its standard vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, and its standard headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the ES Series its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2020, a rating granted to only 30 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Cadenza has not been fully tested, yet.
The ES Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year and unlimited miles longer than the Cadenza’s (6/unlimited vs. 5/100,000).
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the ES Series’ reliability 23 points higher than the Cadenza.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 20 more problems per 100 vehicles, Kia is ranked 10th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Kia vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Kia is ranked 9th.
The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 12 more horsepower (302 vs. 290) and 14 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 253) than the Cadenza’s 3.3 DOHC V6.
As tested in Consumer Reports the ES 350 is faster than the Kia Cadenza:
Zero to 60 MPH
45 to 65 MPH Passing
On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h CVT gets better fuel mileage than the Cadenza (43 city/44 hwy vs. 20 city/28 hwy).
On the EPA test cycle the ES 350 gets better fuel mileage than the Cadenza (22 city/32 hwy vs. 20 city/28 hwy).
Regenerative brakes improve the ES Series Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the ES Series Hybrid’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Cadenza doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Lexus ES Series higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Kia Cadenza (3). This means the ES Series produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Cadenza every 15,000 miles.
The ES 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a CVT.
The ES Series stops shorter than the Cadenza:
60 to 0 MPH (Wet)
The ES Series offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Cadenza’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.
The ES Series F Sport uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Cadenza doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.
The ES Series has .2 inches more rear headroom and 2 inches more rear legroom than the Cadenza.
The ES Series has a larger trunk than the Cadenza (16.7 vs. 16 cubic feet).
A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the ES Series easier. The ES Series’ trunk lift-over height is 27.4 inches, while the Cadenza’s liftover is 29.6 inches.
With its sedan body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the ES Series offers cargo security. The Cadenza’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.
To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the ES Series offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Kia. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 56% lower rating, Kia is ranked 20th.
The ES Series offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The ES Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Cadenza’s standard rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.
If the windows are left open on the ES Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (Your Lexus service department must activate this window function.) The driver of the Cadenza can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the ES Series offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Cadenza doesn’t offer cornering lights.
A power rear sunshade is optional in the ES Series and manual rear side window sunshades are standard in the ES Series Ultra Luxury to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Cadenza doesn’t offer a rear or rear side window sunshades.
The ES Series’ standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Cadenza has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
Insurance will cost less for the ES Series owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the ES Series with a number “1” insurance rate while the Cadenza is rated higher at a number “5” rate.
The ES Series will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the ES Series will retain 48.23% to 49.19% of its original price after five years, while the Cadenza only retains 30.95% to 34.32%.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the ES Series is less expensive to operate than the Cadenza because it costs $99 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the ES Series than the Cadenza, including $349 less for a muffler.
IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Lexus ES Series will be $2160 to $9797 less than for the Kia Cadenza.
Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus ES Series and the Kia Cadenza, based on reliability, safety and performance.
The Lexus ES Series outsold the Kia Cadenza by over 31 to one during 2019.
© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.
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