Most automakers are eager to grow, and will often enter new markets in order to do so. As a result, luxury nameplates offer lower-priced vehicles while lower-priced autos enter the near-luxury and luxury arenas.
Enter the Kia Cadenza. Unlike the Amanti, which preceded it, the Cadenza is an impressive vehicle. Priced to compete in the near-luxury field, the Cadenza is slightly larger and roomier than many other vehicles in the segment.
Kia also included every expected power assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, a premium Infinity audio system, a rear camera display, heated front seats with leather upholstery and automatic rain-sensing wipers.
The Cadenza my wife Paula and I had for review featured all three optional packages offered by Kia. The $3,000 Technology Package has active cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and upgraded 19-inch alloy wheels. The $3,000 Luxury Package adds a panoramic sunroof, HID adaptive headlamps, upgraded leather trim, heated outboard backseats, a heated power tilt and telescoping steering wheel and ventilation for the driver’s seat. Finally, there was a no-charge White Interior Package that, as the name implies, includes striking white leather upholstery.
Kia also offers the Cadenza in two new versions: Premium and Limited. The Limited comes with the Technology and Luxury packages. Buyers of the Limited can opt for the no-charge white package or a new grey leather upgrade. The Premium offers only the Luxury Package as an option.
Performance is excellent regardless of the trim level. Both models share the same drivetrain. Acceleration is quick, the car responds nicely to the throttle and the engine is refined, even when pressed. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts nicely. A sprint to 60 miles per hour took just 6.9 seconds.
The suspension system manages to deliver both a firmly comfortable ride and good handling. The Cadenza feels good in corners, though the power steering offers more assist than road feel.
The interior is very nice. The front seats are comfortable, while the rear seat is fit for two adults. Three can ride there, but they will feel a little cramped. Blame the cabin’s width.
In short, the Kia Cadenza is highly competitive in the near-luxury class. It’s sized and priced right and the performance is very good.
Still, two potential problems stand out. One is the lack of an all-wheel drive option. The other is the Kia nameplate. As one luxury car salesperson once confided, it’s not the quality of the vehicle that matters most to many luxury car buyers. It’s the credibility of the brand.
“They don’t want friends to snicker when they drive up to the club,” he says. Arriving in a Kia, even one as good as the Cadenza, might prompt some raised eyebrows until word of its performance and value spreads.
Engine: 3.3 liter V-6
Torque: (lb/ft): 255
Starts at: $35,100
Next week: Mazda3
I was conflicted at the end of a week spent with the 2014 Kia Cadenza. I liked the car a lot, but one feature came close to spoiling the driving experience for me. The lane departure warning system turned out to be the electronic equivalent of the little boy who cried wolf too many times.
All my husband Jim and I had to do was get somewhat close to a lane marking and it would sound the alarm. Sometimes it would go off even when we had the car perfectly centered between the lines. I like this feature in theory, and I think it is a safety enhancement, but I’d opt to turn it off in the Cadenza. Doing so requires just the touch of a button.
The other high-tech gear worked well. The active cruise control kept a set distance to the car ahead and the blind spot alert never faltered.
We had the car in week of extreme cold and during a moderate snowfall. These are less- than-ideal conditions for maximum fuel economy and we did fall to just 19 miles per gallon. Earlier, Jim had managed to go 24.3 miles per gallon in a shorter, warm-weather drive of another Cadenza.
One feature that worked beautifully was the heated steering wheel. It started warming up right after I turned the first corner leaving our neighborhood, which is just five houses down on our suburban street. Excellent.
The passenger cabin is comfortable. I found the driver’s seat bottom cushion a little too long at first. As part of the Luxury Package, it has a power cushion extension. Pulled all the way back and with a little
tinkering with the seat’s height, I was able to find a comfortable position.
Perhaps the best indication of the value represented in the Kia Cadenza – I initially wanted to call it the credenza – was my price guess, which was $5,000 more than the car’s list price. It competes with many excellent cars, but that kind of a price break should give the car a head start with many buyers.