Front-drive premium sedans are still in
The ride is silky smooth, but the big Kia still manages to feel stable and planted to the road.
Being perfectly honest, when I first saw the original press release for the announcement of the new Kia Cadenza, I felt like it was answering a call that no one was making. The forgotten Amanti had seen dismal sales, and let’s face it – despite all the dramatic quality improvements Kia has been making, they’re not yet a brand that anybody associates with luxury. So if the Cadenza is going to carve out its place in the market, it’s going to have to work very hard to attract the right customers and differentiate itself from its smaller sibling, the Optima. I had a week with a loaded 2014 Kia Cadenza to find out whether it has the class to take on the luxo-barge premium sedan segment.
I picked up my Cadenza tester on a dark stormy night, the cold wind and heavy rain had me feeling rather tense, but almost immediately after slipping into the buttery soft Napa leather seat I felt the tension release. Despite the darkness I easily found a comfortable driving position and set my mirrors within a matter of a minute, the controls are that well designed and intuitive. As I pulled out of the lot the heated seats and steering wheel worked at taking the chill out of my bones and I very quickly noticed how great a stereo the Cadenza was equipped with. The Infinity 12 speaker, 12 channel sound system is hands-down one of the most crisp and clean sounding factory stereos I’ve had the pleasure of using. Cranking up some relaxing soft rock (Bruce Springsteen’s I am on Fire – to be exact) and enjoying the plush confines of the Cadenza’s interior, the miserable weather on the windshield felt so far away. It was in these first few moments with the Cadenza that I knew I was going to love it.
Sitting in my driveway in the morning light the Cadenza looked just right, the flared rear quarter panels, gorgeous 19” alloys, low profile tires, squatted down stance and aggressive version of the Kia corporate front fascia lets people know that this isn’t your ordinary Kia. Much like the other Kias I’ve driven recently, the exterior fit and finish is top notch and really completes the overall elegant appearance of the Cadenza.
The elegance and good looks continue into the interior. Kia has stayed the course with the Cadenza interior and employed all the proper luxury touches. While many manufactures have been exploring different trim materials like carbon fiber and stainless steel in their luxury models, Kia has stuck with the more traditional high gloss wood trim. Call me old-fashioned, but in my mind, there’s nothing better than a big luxurious interior trimmed in loads of high gloss exotic wood. The rest of the interior follows suit; the seats are incredibly soft, everything is either finished in leather or a soft touch mock-leather and abundant storage has been incorporated into the front seating area and centre console, it’s really a very pleasant place to be and does feel more upscale than the Impala I drove back in the summer.
There are two little things that nag at me inside the Cadenza though; the first being the analogue clock incorporated into the centre stack, it’s obviously an attempt to class up the interior, but the clock Kia has chosen looks like a no-name watch and distracts from the overall high-quality feel in the rest of the cockpit. The other aspect of the interior I didn’t love is the Supervision LCD gauge cluster. Like other Kias it very clearly displays everything you’d want to know about the car or the trip, but the cluster itself reminds me very much of the mid-1990’s Lexus and seems a little out of place.
As expected, at the as-tested price of just under $45,000 my Cadenza Premium comes with just about everything you’d see in a much more expensive luxury car. Fancy equipment includes a dual pane panoramic sunroof, a ventilated driver’s seat, electric rear curtain and its fair share of electronic driving aids; parking sensors, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control. One feature I found interesting is the hydrophobic front windows, these windows repel water to make driving in the rain easier, as someone who wears glasses while driving, I found this extremely useful at cutting down glare and light refraction at night.
All of this bargain luxury is powered by the 3.3L V6 which I am really growing to love, and is used in various applications throughout the Kia and Hyundai lineups. In the Cadenz,a the V6 puts out a healthy 293 horsepower while having no trouble moving the Cadenza along. One thing I really like about this engine is that the power band seems to be quite wide as it always has a good amount of passing power available regardless of which gear or RPM range you’re in. Better yet, power delivering is ridiculously smooth for a V6 and if I didn’t know any better I’d swear there was a small V8 under the hood of the Cadenza, just based on how smoothly this engine delivers power. Fuel economy is another strong point of the 3.3L, in mixed rush hour commuting I averaged 10.4L/100km and saw numbers down in the 7L range while cruising on the highway.
Driving down the road is effortless in the Cadenza, also helping to make it a perfect highway cruiser. The ride is silky smooth, but the big Kia still manages to feel stable and planted to the road. Steering is vague, but extremely light and easy and while I usually like a little more response and feedback in the steering wheel, in the Cadenza I think this type of steering is the perfect fit. In fact, the Cadenza is one of those cars you could drive in for days and never worry about feeling fatigued; it’s just that comfortable and easy. It made my long commute less of a burden and for that reason alone it will be missed.
At the end of my week with the Cadenza I am confident that it has what it takes to carve out some space in the premium sedan market. Anyone in the market for a great highway cruiser or luxurious commuter owes it to themselves to take a good look at the Cadenza. I really think the only factor holding the Cadenza back at all is, unfortunately, the Kia emblem. While I must admit I am becoming a bit of a fan of the brand, I still think Kia has a lot of work to do to re-invent how non-car people perceive the brand. However, with the Cadenza they’ve proven that they can build a worthy premium sedan.
2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Gallery