It’s not hard to think of the 2014 Kia Cadenza as a fresh-faced new kid in the office, one with a firm handshake and a bright smile, who tries extra hard to ingratiate himself even though no one is quite sure why he’s there. Newly arrived in the Kia lineup for 2014, the Cadenza might be part of the brand’s over-eager attempt to push itself upmarket, but after living with one for 12 months and 20,650 miles, we found the car to be so well-executed and just downright pleasant that we couldn’t help but like it.
Upscale environs: Comfy and spacious, the Cadenza interior boasts a surfeit of electronics (some of them optional), which thankfully proved easy to use.
As always, it helps to be good-looking. (Yeah, we’re shallow.) Conservatively handsome, as per the corporate style under design boss Peter Schreyer, the 2014 Kia Cadenza avoids the pitfalls of flamboyant over-design. This isn’t a car that causes bystanders to stop and stare; it also isn’t likely to put off any buyers.
Wisely, the 2014 Kia Cadenza comes loaded with standard equipment, including such must-haves in this car’s class of near-luxury sedans as dual power seats with heated surfaces, leather upholstery, and navigation. This Four Seasons example arrived on our doorstep further primped with its two major option groups: the luxury package and the technology package. The former includes Nappa leather trim, a power cushion extender for the driver’s seat, a ventilated driver’s seat, heating for the rear seats and the steering wheel, a power Impala, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon. And even at such a price, it’s clear you’re paying for what’s in the car rather than the badge on the trunk.
What is notable about the Cadenza, however, is not just the equipment. The execution of this car is a standout in its class.
“Wow, I’m impressed,” associate Web editor Joey Capparella said. “The Cadenza feels so graceful on the road. It’s hard to catch it fl at-footed, because its reactions to all inputs are smooth and linear. The interior feels genuinely premium, yet it’s surprisingly simple to use. This car also gets the details right, which contributes to the luxury vibe.”
Precious cargo: Back-seat passengers both large and small appreciated the expansive legroom.
Among these details: the way the puddle lights illuminate and the side mirrors extend when you walk up to the car even before you touch the door or take out the remote; the damped motion of the cupholder cover as it moves back and forth; and even the wood trim on the steering wheel.
New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman characterized the 2014 Kia Cadenza as “kind of a modern Buick,” noting, “the Koreans have that American feeling down, even more so than the Japanese and even earlier in their industry’s conscious attempt to emulate it.”
Any sedan that seeks to emulate a classically American comfy cruiser had better be, well, comfortable, and the 2014 Kia Cadenza is. The spacious, airy cabin feels even more so thanks to the large glass roof overhead, while the thin A-pillars aid forward visibility. The roomy back seat has a nearly fl at floor that makes it acceptable even for three. And the Cadenza’s large trunk welcomes a road trip’s worth of luggage, a feature we put to good use on excursions to Chicago, the Gulf Coast, Nashville, and the Catskill Mountains in New York.
“The Koreans have that American feeling down, even more so than the Japanese and even earlier in their industry’s conscious attempt to emulate it.”
On those long trips, or even around town, we found the Cadenza’s suite of technology very easy to use for the most part.
“I think this touchscreen is one of the simplest, most functional infotainment systems on offer (after Chrysler’s Uconnect),” said associate Web editor Jake Holmes. We did have some minor critiques, though. There are too many identical flat buttons for the HVAC system, and the
stereo knobs are small and fussy to operate. We also found the lane-departure warning system overly sensitive, but the parking assist and the adaptive cruise control worked well.
That is, the adaptive cruise control did great until it simply quit working altogether. Turns out its sensor, which is located in a vulnerable position in the front fascia, had suffered damage—and the fix was more than $4,000. Otherwise, our only other issues with the Cadenza were related to wheels and tires. A winter harvest of potholes and other road hazards in the Midwest claimed several tires. Additionally, our 2014 Kia Cadenza was subject to a recall because a manufacturing defect could cause its 19-inch wheels to fracture. Dealer visits were otherwise uneventful, and scheduled service was pretty inexpensive as well.
We might have expected our car’s upsized wheels (19-inchers in place of the standard 18s as part of the technology package) to make for a harsh ride, but it wasn’t the case. Bump absorption is very good, and the well-damped ride motions are far different than the overly aggressive, boy-racer suspension calibration that has been Kia’s signature until recently. The Cadenza’s ride quality does deteriorate somewhat when the car is fully loaded, though. The electric-assist steering proffers appropriate effort levels, without being annoyingly overboosted or wildly variable. (The new-for-2015 Cadenza Limited comes with Kia’s FlexSteer technology, which lets drivers choose among three levels of steering effort.)
Delicate footwear: The 19-inch wheels were subject to a recall; we also had three tires damaged due to winter-ravaged roads.
We weren’t quite as enamored of the 3.3-liter V-6, which is the only engine available for the Cadenza. Although its 293 hp is certainly competitive in its class—exceeding the Toyota Avalon’s 268 hp but shy of the Chevrolet Impala’s 305 hp—several of us found that the Kia V-6
often feels as if it’s straining, since it needs to rev pretty high to get all of the power it needs during forceful acceleration.
“An engine with all the power at the top end doesn’t quite suit the nature of this car,” Capparella noted.
Still, under more sedate cruising, you’re hard-pressed to hear the engine at all.
Big time: The Cadenza is larger than the Optima and was the brand’s most expensive offering—until the K900 came along.
Creamy, quiet, and cosseting might not be the enthusiast’s favorite combination of virtues, but it’s not hard to see their appeal in a sedan like this. You might be taken aback for a moment by the thought of a $40,000 Kia, but it’s useful to consider that this car company has grown up, and the price tag is commensurately adult, too. And if this price point seems like an ambitious playground for a car company from Korea, then what to make of the recently introduced Kia K900 sedan, which starts at $60,400? Based on our experience here, we’d say that even-tempered sophistication and a Kia badge are more compatible than you would have thought a year ago. And also, don’t underestimate that fresh-faced new kid at the office.
Pros & Cons
+ Roomy cabin
+ Loads of equipment
– Engine a little strained
– Comfy, not thrilling
– Explaining you spent $40,000 on a Kia
5-yr/60,000-mile roadside assistance
7,995 mi: $34.48
14,870 mi: $57.36
17,126 mi: Wheels replaced due to potential to fracture
5,068 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 winter tires, $1,407.40
5,068 mi: Purchase WeatherTech FloorLiner DigitalFit mats, $317.85
6,380 mi: Replace two fl at tires, $696.40
7,995 mi: Replace and program key fob,
which we dropped and broke, $259.13
11,386 mi: Remount OE tires, $100.00
17,446 mi: Nail removed from tire, $0
19,080 mi: Damaged tire replaced, $212.91
20,650 mi: Replace damaged adaptive-cruise sensor, $4,246.84
EPA city/highway/combined 19/28/22 mpg
Observed 23.1 mpg
Cost Per Mile
(Fuel, service, winter tires) $0.52
($1.34 including depreciation)
- Our Test Results
- 0â60 mph 6.3 sec
- 60-0 mph 118 ft
- 1/4âmile 14.8 sec @ 96 mph
- Top Speed 121 mph (electronically limited)
- Skidpad 0.82 g
- Body style 4-door sedan
- Accommodation 5-passenger
- Construction Steel unibody
- Base price (with dest.) $35,900
- As tested $41,950
- Engine 24-valve DOHC V-6
- Displacement 3.3 liters (204 cu in)
- Power 293 hp @ 6400 rpm
- Torque 255 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
- Transmission 6-speed automatic
- Drive Front-wheel
- EPA Fuel Economy 19/28/22 (city/hwy/combined)
- Steering Electrically assisted
- Lock-to-lock 3.0 turns
- Turning circle 36.5 ft
- Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
- Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
- Brakes F/R Vented discs/discs
- Wheels 19-inch aluminum
- Tires Hankook Optimo H426
- Tire size 245/40R-19 94V
- Headroom F/R 38.0/37.3 in
- Legroom F/R 45.5/36.8 in
- Shoulder room F/R 58.3/56.5 in
- Wheelbase 112.0 in
- Track F/R 63.0/63.0 in
- L x W x H 195.5 x 72.8 x 58.1 in
- Passenger capacity 106.8 cu ft
- Cargo capacity 15.9 cu ft
- Weight 3792 lb
- Weight dist. F/R 60/40%
- Fuel capacity 18.5 gal
- Est. fuel range 400 miles
- Fuel grade 87 octane (regular)
- 18-inch aluminum wheels
- Automatic dual-zone climate control
- Infinity surround sound audio system
- Rearview camera
- 8-inch touchscreen display
- SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription
- Leather-trimmed seats
- Heated front seats
- Keyless entry and ignition
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Fog lights
- LED taillights
- Rear parking sensors
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers
- OPTIONS FOR THIS VEHICLE:
- Technology package
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind spot monitoring system
- Lane departure warning
- Electronic parking brake
- 19-inch aluminum wheels
- Hydrophobic front-door windows
- Luxury package
- Panoramic sunroof
- HID headlights
- Nappa leather-trimmed interior and seats
- Power driverâs seat cushion extension
- Ventilated driverâs seat
- Heated rear outboard seats and steering wheel
- 7-inch TFT LCD instrument panel display
- Power tilt-and-telescopic steering column
- Power rear-window sunshade
- Cargo net $50