Remember when you had to explain yourself if you drove a Kia? Well, the all-new 2014 Kia Cadenza sedan is about to make that problem obsolete. The upscale V6-powered Cadenza isn't just nice "for a Kia." It's one of the best large front-wheel-drive sedans, boasting restrained styling, smooth driving dynamics and many desirable features. What's more, the Cadenza comes with Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Everywhere you look, the 2014 Cadenza impresses. Foremost, it has physical presence, with crisp, mature lines courtesy of Kia honcho and former Audi design boss Peter Schreyer. Inside, the materials are downright classy, giving the rival Toyota Avalon, for example, a real run for its money. Standard features are plentiful, including Infinity audio and an 8-inch touchscreen. And we're not sure which is more impressive, the cavernous backseat or the way the surprisingly sure-footed Cadenza takes both bumps and corners in stride. Throw in appealing options such as xenon headlights and adaptive cruise control and you've got a whole lot of car for under $40,000.
What's New for 2014
The Cadenza is all-new for 2014.
What We Like
Lots of standard luxuries; grown-up styling inside and out; roomy cabin; comfortable yet capable on the road; excellent touchscreen interface
What We Don't
Big-league pricing; V6 engine could use more low-end oomph
The front-wheel-drive Cadenza is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 horsepower. A 6-speed automatic is the only available transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Cadenza's fuel economy at 19 miles per gallon city/28 mpg hwy and 22 mpg combined.
Options & Standard Features
The Cadenza comes in one well-equipped trim level. Standard features include 18-in wheels, keyless entry, an 8-in touchscreen, a navigation system, UVO voice recognition software, Bluetooth, a 550-watt Infinity audio system, a rearview camera, leather upholstery and heated front seats with power adjustments.
The Luxury package (add $3,000 to the base price) adds a panoramic sunroof, Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a ventilated driver seat with additional power adjustments, adaptive xenon headlamps, a 7-in LCD instrument cluster, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel and driver memory functions.
The Technology package (add another $3,000) tacks on 19-in wheels, an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, a blind spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system. Offered with the Technology package only is a no-cost White package that brings white Nappa leather, a premium headliner and wood-grain trim.
Trunk space in the Cadenza is a healthy 15.9 cu ft.
The Cadenza comes standard with ABS, stability control and eight airbags (front, front side, rear side, full-length side curtain). The Technology package adds a blind spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system and water-repellent glass.
The Cadenza had not been crash-tested by either the government or the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The 2014 Kia Cadenza immediately feels like a trusty companion when you settle into the supportive power seat, though you'll want the Luxury package's Nappa leather if you can manage it. Whereas most other large front-wheel-drive sedans feel, well, large, the Cadenza wraps around you with its driver-centric control panel and attractive, deep-set gauges. We also prefer the Luxury package for its 7-in LCD driver information display, which makes the base gauge cluster seem plain by comparison. There's nothing gaudy or over the top in here, though. On the contrary, the Cadenza's interior styling is as restrained as its crisp sheet metal. It reminds us, dare we say it, of a BMW in the way it whispers "driver's car" with subtle cues.
The Cadenza's main controls are logically laid out -- not always a given in a premium sedan -- and we're thoroughly impressed with the 8-in touchscreen, which follows in the iPad's footsteps with its friendly icons and high-resolution display. As for build quality, time will tell, of course, but our initial impressions are Kia has raised its game to new heights. The materials look and feel upscale, and the dash-mounted analog clock only adds to the effect.
On the road, the Cadenza is dynamically neck-and-neck with established players such as the Avalon and the Chrysler 300. Kias used to be soft and numb in the corners, but the Cadenza's sophisticated suspension lends it remarkable poise for a large car. At the same time, it smooths out rough pavement as a premium sedan should, and road noise is minimal under most circumstances. We wouldn't mind more punch off the line from the V6 -- the Avalon reigns supreme in this category -- but otherwise, the Cadenza's driving demeanor is hard to fault. Cars like this are typically more about the ride than the drive, but the big Kia lets you enjoy both.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Impala -- Forget about the rental-car specials of yesteryear, because the Impala is all-new and massively improved. From its eye-catching exterior to its completely overhauled interior, the Impala is on the comeback trail.
Chrysler 300 -- The 300's vaguely menacing style will always be in vogue, and it's got one of the nicer interiors you'll find for the money, along with optional V8 power.
Hyundai Azera -- If you're looking for a more overt expression of the Cadenza's essence, try its corporate cousin, the Azera sedan, which shares the Kia's underpinnings and 3.3-liter V6.
Toyota Avalon -- The new Avalon's got style on its side as well, and its V6 is second to none. You can get a hybrid version that yields an amazing 40 mpg, too.
Used Lexus LS -- Want to go whole hog? Turn back the clock a few years and you'll find plenty of Lexus LS 460 full-size executive luxury sedans for $40,000 or less. Given Lexus's reputation for reliability, the LS is a serious alternative to a new premium sedan.
Give us the Cadenza's Luxury package with its Nappa leather seats and premium technology touches and we'd be all set. That's a lot of car.