KIA has a plan to seriously compete in the luxury car market. Though they’re going to be bringing us the K9/Quoris flagship, the Cadenza plays a role in spearheading things. And it does a great job!
We don’t buy as many large sedans as our Americans friends do, but south of the border, they sell a lot of similarly-sized vehicles. I spent a week with the biggest, most luxurious KIA sedan you can get right now to see what it was all about.
Pricing: 2014 KIA Cadenza
Base price (Premium trim): $44,995
Options: $200 Colour Charge
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $46,780
Under the Hood
The 3.3-litre direct injected V6 should sound familiar – it’s used in the Sorento as well. It’s a slick engine, putting out 293 horsepower at 6400 RPM and 255 lb.ft of torque at 5200 RPM. It feeds a 6-speed automatic and puts its power out to the front wheels.
Clearly a 3785 pound sedan isn’t going to post any record-breaking fuel economy stats. It’s rated at 11.2 L/100 km (21 mpg) in the city and 7.4 L/100 km (32 mpg) on the highway.
I ended up averaging 11.7 L/100 km (20 mpg) during a week of commuting, two snowstorms, an extended freeway run, and with no effort toward driving economically. About what I’d expect.
The sedan is handsomely styled. Nothing extreme. It’s a classy looking car, and caught a lot of second looks as I cruised the streets with it. I felt that the overall styling was classy while remaining understated and even had a hint of sport to it.
The front end has huge, swept back headlight pods – cool LED strip driving lights loop their way around the xenon HID headlights – that flank KIA’s corporate grille. The rear end has large wrap-around LED tail lights – they look great and work very well.
The Cadenza doesn’t hide its large dual oval exhaust tips, and another hint of sport comes from the massive and lovely 19-inch wheels filling the fenders, while wearing chunky 245/40-sized tires.
When you get in, you’ll find that the Cadenza’s materials are very nice – soft touch plastics are nearly anywhere your hand might fall, complemented by nice textures and wood grain surfaces. It’s nice, but it comes across as a bit dark – I’d love a few splashes of metal or brightwork.
The styling is simple but very nice. It’s classy, but it’s not German sedan classy. Fit and finish was excellent and the cabin feels spacious but I was surprised that there wasn’t more headroom. I was fine, but anyone over six feet will be feeling a bit intimate with the headliner.
I enjoyed the very comfortable heated, power-adjustable leather seats – but wish they had more bolstering. The driver’s side has memory settings and is ventilated as well. I complained about this disparity between driver and passenger in my review of the 2013 Sorento – this comes across as very chintzy. The passenger just isn’t as worthy of having their butt cooled?
The heated leather and wood steering wheel is electrically adjustable and has buttons for audio system, phone, adaptive cruise control and the driver information screen – it’s big, and it’s very nice to look at. Behind it is the gauge cluster – in the centre is a large screen that makes up the speedometer as well as the full-featured driver information screen in the middle of the virtual speedo dial. There’s a tach on the left, and fuel and temperature gauges on the right.
The top of the centre stack starts with a nice bright and sharp touchscreen that handles the audio, phone, navigation and vehicle settings. Short of a few hard buttons and a couple of knobs controlling the major functions, there is no input device, so using the touch function of the screen is a must. I found that it was a stretch for me to reach the screen from my normal seating position – it’s farther away than I liked. The Cadenza’s 12-speaker Infinity sound system was pretty good, but sounded a bit nasal with some sources. I’ve heard better from lesser cars that cost much less. The centre stack also has the dual-zone automatic climate control system in it – its buttons surround a handsome analog clock.
The centre console is covered, in large part, by the dark wood grain and looks very nice. Here you’ll find the gear selector, a couple of cupholders (that can be hidden underneath a wood grain lid) and an armrest.
There are dual sunroofs overhead – the front one tilts and slides open, and there’s a powered sunshade that can cover both panes of glass. Rear passengers get an electric rear sunshade. There’s a universal HomeLink garage door opener, keyless entry and the ignition is push-start.
Driver assistance technology consists of blind spot detection system, lane departure warning and an adaptive cruise control system. All of them work very well and remain inobtrusive though the first two on the list are defeatable if you prefer to turn the electro-grannies off.
Here you’ll find three seats, each with a seatbelt and headrest. The outboard seats are heated and quite comfortable, but I was surprised to find the middle position to be as tight and narrow as it is in a car this big.
Legroom is excellent, and headroom is fine for me at 5’10” – but much like up front, someone a few inches taller might find reason to complain. In terms of conveniences, it’s pretty sparse. A couple of seatback map pockets and adjustable air vents is all you get – no charging plug or anything else. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders in it.
There are two sets of LATCH anchors and our three kids (two of them in child seats) fit back there fine.
The front of the centre console is a sliding lid – push it forward and it exposes a rubberized drop-in bin, as well as 12V, auxiliary and USB plugs. The Cadenza has decent door bins and an average sized glove compartment. The armrest lid conceals a large rubberized bin that’s deep, features an organizer tray and has another 12V plug in it.
The trunk is big at 451 litres. You can open the trunk lid from the dash, your key fob or a button on the trunk lid itself. The rear seats do not fold down, but there’s a pass-through for long, skinny items.
The entire time I had the Cadenza, I marveled at the smooth driving experience it provides. It was always comfortable. It has plenty of torquey power for lugging around town, but the V6 gets a bit breathless at higher RPMs when you’re driving like an uncouth idiot. Not that I would ever do something like that.
I loved the ride. Luxurious and supple, without being wallowy, it took the worst our Edmonton streets had to offer and soaked it all up with ease. Handling is pretty good for a huge sedan. There’s some body roll when you crank it into a corner, but it stayed impressively flat all things considered, and it was always highly predictable and competent. Turn-in isn’t sharp, but the blame there lies with the hugely numb steering that I’ve complained about in every KIA I’ve driven. They’ve taken a page out of Toyota’s play book with this, and I’m not a fan. You’ll invariably find seriously over-boosted electronic steering in any current KIA product and the Cadenza is no exception.
To go with the luxurious drive, KIA has made the Cadenza very quiet. Engine, wind and road noise were simply never an issue, regardless of speed. Consider me very impressed!
The transmission is very smooth, but heads for higher gears pretty quickly in order to save fuel. That’s almost always fine in a car like this. For the few times when you might want to pick it up a notch, you can shift gears manually using the gear selector or steering-wheel mounted paddles. This seems out of character for a car like this, and I’d prefer a good Sport mode instead – unfortunately, there isn’t one to be had.
My big complaint when driving was with the brakes. They’re mushy and never felt powerful enough to me – it always felt like they were working hard.
Visibility out of the Cadenza is excellent.
Another common KIA issue that I’ve belly-ached about before. The satellite reception is horrendous. I’m a big fan of satellite radio, so this is a big deal to me. Every KIA I’ve driven has a tough time hanging on to the satellite signal. When you go under a bridge or drive next to a taller building it cuts out for a second or two. When you’re downtown, it’s basically unusable because it cuts out every few seconds. I find this problem to be ridiculous, since no other manufacturer’s vehicles do this. Get it together on this, KIA.
I think KIA did a great job with the Cadenza. Tasteful and understated, inside and out. Loaded with technology and luxurious touches, it drives well and is priced well within the class of affordable luxury.
I give the KIA Cadenza a 7 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. She loved the styling, saying it looks expensive and she enjoyed the interior. That said, she felt it was too big for her on a daily basis, and parking it was no fun – she would have appreciated front parking sensors or a camera to help compensate for that huge hood.
I couldn’t help but think of what the Cadenza competes with out there. The obvious adversary here is the Toyota Avalon, but others opponents come to mind. There’s no reason buyers couldn’t cross-shop the Cadenza with cars like the Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Impala and hey, even the Lexus ES350. They’re all huge front-wheel-drivers offering a lot for about the same money.
Shop away, people who want big cushy cars, shop away. There are plenty of choices to keep you happy these days.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by KIA Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.