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2014 Kia Cadenza Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Kia Cadenza

My big bum was exceptionally well treated by a Goldilocks driver’s seat - not too hard, not too soft, but just right...

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The Kia Cadenza, now in just its second year of production, faces a tough field of competition in the full-size, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive family sedan segment. Think about the new Impala, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Azera, and we would even include the Chrysler 300, though the latter is rear-wheel drive. All cost somewhere around the 40,000 range and each has its own personality. All are well designed, beautifully styled, and full of upscale, high-tech content.

So what sets them apart? You would have to do a careful and mighty detailed head-to-head comparison to find a winner and we’ll not be able to do that in this limited space. You’ll find plenty of reviews and specification here at TheAutoChannel that might provide some insight. I’ll just provide some basics and my opinion here. I’ll predict that if you do all that research your winner will not be a run-away. They’ll all be close.

Our test car is the top-of-the-line Cadenza Limited showing a price of $43,250 including $50 extra for a cargo net in the trunk and the $800 destination charge. The basic Cadenza (well equipped in its own right) starts at just over $35,000. This Limited model includes extras like a panoramic sunroof 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, Xenon HID headlights, heated and ventilated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel, premium leather seating and trim, power rear window shade, an electronic parking brake (more on that later), and a bunch of futuristic driving aids like adaptive (they call it “smart”) cruise control, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

Styling trends in this segment lean toward the sleek and swoopy with the obvious exception of the boxy Chrysler 300. Cadenza’s design features crisp character lines, the profile of a large coupe, bold LED lighting details, chrome accents and large shiny wheels. It appears just a tad more conservative than sibling Hyundai Azera and rival Impala and it sports the characteristic beaver-tooth grin. Most observers would be hard pressed to distinguish the rear if not for the Kia badge since styling back there is conventional.

The cabin feels like an upscale sedan with an electronic instrument cluster under a brow that extends across the center stack to cover a good size touch screen. A small analog clock punctuates the HVAC control panel with audio controls just below that. All are easily understood and managed. The auxiliary and LED inputs and the power outlet are conveniently located in a small alcove at the bottom of the center stack. Interior materials strike an excellent balance between aesthetic values and functional durability. The dark shiny bits coordinate will with good plastics and leather trim.

My big bum was exceptionally well treated by a Goldilocks driver’s seat - not too hard, not too soft, but just right. Being a full-size sedan the rear seats will easily accommodate three adults without discomfort. Interior volume compares well with the competition as does the trunk that will hold a good 15.9 cubic feet of stuff.

Under the hood a direct injected, 3.3-liter V6, making almost 300 horsepower and over 250 pound-feet of torque, mates with a smooth, electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission to power the Cadenza. It manages performance levels about equivalent to the others and it hides under nice plastic covers for a well-finished look. The EPA rates this car at 19 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 mpg combined using regular fuel. We managed a good 27 mpg with our mostly country-road driving this week.

Driving dynamics leave little to criticize. Steering, brake feel and overall handling convey a light and gentle character. Suspension is firm enough to feel always in control without jostling us needlessly on rough roads. This is not a sport sedan but feels plenty stable and gratifying on hard cornering and full throttle.

One of my favorite features on the Cadenza is part of the electronic parking brake system - one I’ve not encountered on any other car. It is rather like hill-hold systems that holds the car steady when you are stopped on a hill, but this one holds it steady on the level while we’re waiting for a light to change. I’m used to popping a car into neutral so I don’t have to keep my foot mashed on the brake while I wait but when engaged this one holds it still at stop until you gently press the accelerator without the necessity of pressing the brake.

Kia’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 mile and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

While Cadenza has only been in the market for a bit more than a year it is fully the equal of everything else out there, in performance, handling, style and content. It stands out mostly when we think about where Kia products were just a decade ago. Perhaps we ought to be thinking about a “Most Improved” award for the company as a whole, but this is the first of this size car they have attempted.

Earlier this year Kia also introduced and even bigger and more high-zoot sedan called K9000. Can’t wait to review that one as well.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved