CAR REVIEW: 2014 Kia Cadenza: A star is born

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The Kia Cadenza, known as the K7 in its native South Korea where it debuted in 2009, was unveiled in the United States in early 2013 as a 2014 model. It replaced the short-lived, unheralded Kia Amanti as the carmaker’s flagship sedan.

The 2014 Kia Cadenza joins the Hyundai Genesis and Hyundai Equus as the trio of South Korean luxury cars sold in the United States. Hyundai owns Kia, and the Cadenza shares a platform with the Hyundai Azera, although the Cadenza is sportier than its cousin.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The Weekly Driver picked the Kia Amanti as among its top-10 Cars of the Year in 2008. It wasn’t a popular choice, but I appreciated the car as a value-priced sedan. It had handsome styling, a comfortable ride and a great warranty. It was gone one year later.

The 2014 Kia Cadenza is the carmaker's flagship sedan.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is the carmaker’s flagship sedan. Images © James Raia/2013

Fast-forward six years, and the Kia Cadenza, the carmaker’s first large sedan since the Amanti, joins a healthy list of large quality sedans. The Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Passat are among the top choices in the segment.

The 2014 Kia Cadenza features a 293 horsepower V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission that offers Sportmatic shifting as an option to manually shift the gears.

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Like other Kia models, the Cadenza combines value, a healthy list of standard and optional features, a commendable, smooth drive and the strongest warranty in the automotive industry.

Standard features on the 2014 Kia Cadenza include: 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding sideview mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats and a ventilated driver seat. Standard high-tech features include a rearview camera, rear park assist, an 8-inch touchscreen display, Kia’s Uvo voice command system, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone/audio and a 12-speaker Infinity sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and USB/iPod/auxiliary audio inputs.

My weekly test vehicle included all three option packages and elevated the MSRP exactly $6,000 to just under $42,000.

The Premium Package: active xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a windshield wiper de-icer, a 7-inch gauge cluster display, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, driver memory settings, a power driver seat cushion extender and a power rear window sunshade.

The Technology Package: 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, an electronic parking brake, water-repellent front windows and blind spot/lane departure warning systems.

The White Package: white leather upholstery, added wood-grain accents and suede headliner/sun visor/rear shelf trim.

I drove the Kia Cadenza on two extended trips. The first was an 800-mile round-trip trek with a friend from Sacramento to the Los Angeles Auto Show. We primarily drove on freeways and highways and often at least five miles per hour faster than the speed limit. We averaged 26.2 miles per miles on the north-to-south journey and 26.8 on the return trip.

My second trip was a solo 400-mile round-trip trek from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula. Again, the journey was also primarily on freeways and highways. I averaged 28.2 mpg.

The Cadenza offers a smooth drive and it’s comfortable. It’s steady on the road and while not performance-oriented, its 293 horsepower is plenty. The Cadenza several times confidently negotiated challenging driving scenarios, including ascending and descending the infamous Grapevine on Interstate 5 which in heavy rain and strong winds.

A sedan worthy of appreciable consideration, the 2014 Kia Cadenza is lacking in only one area. The navigation system was often slow to respond and the system overall needs a makeover with better screen display options.

In one instance, while driving the winding, tight Highway 17 section heading north just past Santa Cruz, California, the navigation system warned me of congestion ahead. In fact, I had just past the congestion, an overturned vehicle, emergency crews and a long section gridlock — in the southbound lane.

Likes:

Powerful V6 engine.

Comfortable, sporty handling.

High-quality interior.

Heated steering wheel and heated front and back seats.

Advance Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) reduces speed when advancing too close to the vehicle ahead. It’s a smooth-operating, quality safety feature more carmakers should consider.

Dislikes:

Navigation system not intuitive and inconsistent.

Wind rush in the side windows at high speeds.

Back seats don’t fold down.

Odd-shaped front grille.

Facts & Figures: 2014 Kia Cadenza

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.0 seconds.
Airbags (6).
Fuel economy: 219 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway), 22 mpg (combined), six-speed automatic transmission with sportmatic shifting.
Government Safety Ratings: NHTSA, not tested.
Horsepower: 293.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $35,100.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: kia.com.
Price As tested: $41,900.00.
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“Performance is similarly unstressed, as the Cadenza swiftly powers up on-ramps and passes other, slower cars with ease. Power delivery is very smooth and the transmission provides timely downshifts, though upshifts are noticeably lazy, even under full throttle.” — Edmunds.com.

“Already faced with several great choices in the segment, large sedan shoppers can thank Kia for making their task more difficult. Compounding the issue, the 2014 Kia Cadenza’s unique mix of price, features and materials makes it a viable alternative to players on both the mainstream and luxury-brand sides of the divide.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“While it’s hard to think of a $42,000 Kia as being a value, the equipment stuffed into a fully loaded Cadenza should make the car hard to overlook for anyone desiring a smooth, comfortable and luxurious sedan.” — Autoblog.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words

“If there were any doubts about the quality of Kia following the success of the Kia Optima, the uncertainties should now be gone. The Kia Cadenza is the best car the manufacturer has made and it’s the real deal on many levels.”

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