The 2014 Kia Cadenza, due in showrooms this quarter, takes the automaker’s value-for-the-price strategy into the premium sedan market and flat out encourages shoppers to compare.
The list of standard features on the front-wheel-drive Cadenza is lengthy and includes a rearview camera, navigation system and 18-inch wheels – things that are not standard on the 2013 Toyota Avalon or Buick LaCrosse.
With one engine – a 293-horsepower V-6 – the Cadenza offers more power than the Avalon and the base LaCrosse engine, too.
It comes standard with a free telematics system. Among other things, it can save a parked Cadenza’s location and help guide the driver back to the vehicle via GPS after shopping or a vacation.
The Cadenza has Kia’s generous warranty, which provides powertrain coverage for 10 years or 100,000 miles and limited basic warranty coverage for five years or 60,000 miles. Roadside assistance lasts for the same five years/60,000 miles.
Kia officials plan to release pricing as the car arrives at showrooms in a few weeks. They haven’t disputed media reports pegging the starting price around $33,000 to $34,000. This is where the top-of-the-line versions of the midsize 2013 Kia Optima SXL sedan are priced.
Though Kia has a reputation for low-priced cars such as the Rio and Soul, the move to a premium sedan isn’t unexpected. Kia has been on an 18-year market-share surge in the United States and last year sold a record 557,599 vehicles.
The Cadenza is built on the same platform and uses the same 3.3-liter, double-overhead-cam, direct-injection V-6 that’s in the Hyundai Azera sedan, which has a starting retail price of $33,145. Hyundai and Kia are owned by the same South Korean company.
The test Cadenza showed, however, that it is no mere Azera makeover. For one thing, every piece of sheet metal is different from the Azera’s, and the Cadenza is a few inches longer.
Some observers liked the Cadenza styling more than that of the Azera. They remarked that the headlights are reminiscent of those on a BMW, while the rear end reminded them of an Audi. Perhaps this reflects the work of Peter Schreyer, the president and chief design officer at Kia, who used to work for Audi.
Besides its attractive styling, the test Cadenza impressed by how well it handled for a car that’s more than 16 feet long.
On highways, the car rode smoothly and showed itself to be a pleasant cruiser. On potholed city streets, it kept the rough stuff away from passengers. On winding, country roads, the Cadenza hewed close to the pavement and remained poised and controlled. Even in up-and-down road shocks, there was no harshness from the suspension.
Kia uses independent MacPherson struts up front and an independent multilink setup in back, and the test car had heavy and sizable 19-inch wheels, which are part of an extra-cost Technology package. Still, there was no heavy feeling or jolting of unsprung weight at the wheels, and the tires didn’t send a lot of road noise into the cabin.
It also was not immediately apparent that the sedan uses electric power steering, because the steering felt natural, not artificial.
The Cadenza comes standard with the usual safety equipment – eight air bags, traction control, electronic stability control and hill descent control. Other safety items, such as side blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning, are part of an extra-cost option package.
Passengers conversed easily inside the quiet interior.
The federal government fuel economy ratings for the Cadenza are 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, or a combined 22 mpg.
Controls and buttons are well-organized and easy to operate. There’s even a manual tuning button for the Infinity radio, which has 550 watts of power, 12 speakers and surround sound – all standard.