The Cadenza isn't a Kia -- or so we've been told. When we explain to folks that this sharp, polished sedan comes from Kia, they don't believe us. They say, "That's not a Kia. That's too nice to be a Kia." Many people still aren't aware that Kia has taken the Robert Downey, Jr., road to recovery, going from downtrodden to desirable in no time at all. The automaker's current lineup is full of serious competitors that play in a wide range of vehicle classes, and Kia is keen to fight for even more territory by filling the hole in its lineup left by the Amanti's departure from the full-size sedan segment.
That segment is home to the recently redone Toyota Avalon and all-new Chevrolet Impala sedans, which dominate sales. Five years ago, the idea that Kia could field a strong contender here might have been laughable, but the Cadenza could be a serious threat to well-established large sedans. To find out whether the Cadenza can go head to head with the best cars in its segment, we decided to give it a yearlong test.
Like the Hyundai Azera with which it shares its underpinnings, the Cadenza has only one engine option, a 293-hp V-6. Ditto for the six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. There's also only one available trim level, Premium. That means there is one base price -- just under $36,000. The Cadenza is Kia's most expensive model, and one look at its long list of standard features explains why. Leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, navigation, automatic dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED taillights, rear parking assist, power-folding mirrors, a surround-sound audio system, and keyless entry and ignition are all included. That's an ample number of features, but we decided to tack on two additional option packages. A $3000 technology package added adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. A $3000 luxury package brought a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, a heated steering wheel, a ventilated driver's seat, heated rear outboard seats, a seven-inch LCD display in the gauge cluster, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a rear sunshade, and an interior swathed in smooth Nappa leather. Factor in a $50 cargo net, and our Cadenza's grand total came to $41,950. It's hard to believe that a Kia could cost more than $40,000, but our Cadenza has the amenities of a German luxury sedan for a fraction of the cost, and its price is pretty much the same as that of a similarly equipped Impala.
What we've been told is true -- the Cadenza is not a Kia. At least not the kind of Kia that people are accustomed to. No, the all-new Cadenza comes from the all-new Kia, and the big, bold, well-equipped sedan wants to take down some of the biggest names in the auto industry. Can it? We'll let you know how it fares throughout the year.