A very pleasant surprise from the Koreans
It gives Kia the ammunition they need in order to compete with some of its principal competitors: the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala.
Even only ten years ago, cars built by Kia (and by extension, Hyundai), were to be cautiously approached. They were attractive to a lot of people due to aggressive promotions and bargain-basement pricing. You could get a brand-new car for the price of a used Japanese (or even American) car from a more established competitor. To some, being in a new car is high on the list of priorities, regardless of the inevitable hit on depreciation that people like me, love to let others absorb. The early cars hailing from South Korea did show a lot of teething issues, and many people dismissed them as a result. Little did they know that the Koreans would go back to the drawing board, do a ton of research, surround themselves with the right people, and show confidence in their product. Kia wanted me to try out their latest, greatest, and new flagship: the 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium, in a classy Premium Graphite Metallic on black leather interior.
The Cadenza is Kia’s new flagship, taking over for the much un-loved Amanti. This time though, the Cadenza brings Kia’s recent successes in styling (thanks to Peter Schreyer, formerly of Audi fame) and the relentless engineering and manufacturing improvements seen in many Kia and Hyundai vehicles of late. The main difference you see immediately is how good-looking the Cadenza is. It gives Kia the ammunition they need in order to compete with some of its principal competitors: the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala. The old image of the Koreans competing strictly on price is no longer applicable – the Cadenza is priced right in-line with others in its class. Starting at $37,995 for the base model, you get quite a bit of car for the money. Stepping up to the Premium model will set you back $44,995. It gets you some extras such as HID headlamps with swivel (Kia calls it Adaptive Front Lighting System), panoramic sunroof, cooled driver’s seat, rear heated seats, power thigh support extension, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, 19” wheels, radar cruise control, and the list goes on. In other words, they threw in the proverbial kitchen sink.
Powered by a 3.3L direct-injection V6, the Cadenza does an admirable job of getting up to speed. 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque are smoothly sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The Cadenza never really feels “rocket-ship” fast, but power delivery is very linear with minimal drama and fuss. The transmission, while never aggressive under any circumstance, was silky smooth through all six gears. Downshifts take a little bit of time – the car feels like it needs to ask: “are you sure”? Suspension tuning is likewise tuned for comfort. The Cadenza does a great job soaking up most craters found in the city. There were only a few instances where I maxed out the spring travel and hit the bump stops over some seriously large transitions. The factory Hankook H426 (in size 245/40R19) tires do a decent job at staying quiet and out of mind at high speeds, but grip in dynamic situations is not very good. All-wheel-drive is not available on the Cadenza – something that is offered by Ford and Chrysler.
Rated at 11.2L/100km in the city, and 7.4L/100km on the highway, I was able to manage about 11.5L/100km with a lot of city driving, and bring that number down to 7.9L/100km on a long highway stint. While these are exactly not numbers you would normally see from an econobox, they are, again, right in line with the Taurus and a little more thirsty than the Toyota). The Cadenza does only require regular fuel.
An interesting item is how the Cadenza can manage to squeeze in so much content but still manage to keep curb weight at around 3400lbs. This is considered very good nowadays – even more so since many compact cars are starting to approach the same weight. It is the marvel and advantage of high-strength steel. The back seats as well as the rear trunk are cavernous and quite a bit more impressive than the mid-range Optima. Another small detail I noticed is the hydrophobic front door glass. This coating repels water from sticking to the glass, but will only do so for both front doors. This improves visibility and safety in the rain as your mirrors are no longer impeded.
One small annoyance would be with the key fob: it is too easy to separate the actual spare backup key from the body that houses the buttons. I have had the key fob come apart in my pocket a few times. Losing one of the two pieces could spell some trouble for owners.
People were impressed with the Cadenza everywhere I went. An older gentleman returning to his Buick remarked at how “well-dressed” it was, and how he would definitely put it onto his list when looking for something new. Even young people were impressed with all the toys and gadgets available: from the cooled seats, to the rear power sunshade, to the dual-projector headlights. Some admitted they didn’t expect such a product from Kia, and their first impressions of build-quality were all very positive. I am well aware that I don’t fit into the target market, but I feel the “old-person car” stereotype doesn’t entirely apply here like it does with some of the Cadenza’s competitors. There’s more than enough technology for a young nerd, and there definitely are times when you just want to relax and be pampered in a big, comfortable cruiser that won’t break the bank. The Kia Cadenza deserves to be closely cross-shopped with its competitors; it’s a job well done.
2014 Kia Cadenza Gallery