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2014 Kia Cadenza: First Drive Review

Like Ziggy Marley, the VW Thing and sea spiders, the 2014 Kia Cadenza is hard to categorize. Is it just another value-minded large sedan or more of a luxury car?

Based solely on the Cadenza’s look, ride, handling and long list of upscale standard features, it’s a luxury sedan. If you’re considering an Acura TL or Lincoln MKZ, the Cadenza needs to be on your shopping list.

If you’re scratching your head, we get it. Kia certainly isn’t seen as a luxury brand by many, but that has a lot to do with uniquely American perceptions. For example, in Japan and Korea, wealthy buyers have no problem spending big money on large cars with tons of high-end features that just happen to have Toyota or Kia badges on the trunk.

Lots of Standard Amenities

Like a proper luxury sedan, there’s no 4-cylinder, cloth seat, base model of the Cadenza. Every Kia Cadenza gets tons of features right off the bat. It starts with a 293 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 engine. That engine drives the front wheels and is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Other standard features include push-button start, 10-way power leather seats (heated up front), navigation, rear parking camera, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth with streaming music capability and a 550-watt Infinity audio system with 12 speakers.

You also get UVO eServices which shares the nav system’s 8-inch touch screen. UVO is an in-car tech interface similar to Chevrolet‘s MyLink or Toyota’s Entune. The system displays audio information like album art or satellite radio station info as well as hands-free calling information. You can use the system and the free smartphone app to schedule maintenance, call for roadside assistance or find your car should you forget where you parked. It will also call 911 for you in the event of an accident (assuming your phone is connected).

The navigation system has pleasing and contemporary graphics and uses Google points of interest as well as Google Send to Car. That means you can find an address on your laptop, then send it to the car without having to re-enter the address when you get in the car.


Cadenza buyers can opt for a few upgrades as well. The Premium Package gets you a full-length sunroof with a retractable sunshade, adaptive HID headlights, 7-inch LCD instrument cluster that can display additional audio and nav information, Nappa leather seats, 12-way ventilated driver’s seat, heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescoping steering column. Back seat passengers enjoy rear heated seats and a rear power sunshade.

The Technology Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, electric parking brake, adaptive cruise control, water-repellant side windows, blind-spot detection and a lane-departure warning system.

As soon as you get in, you’ll notice that the doors close with the sort of muted “Thunk” most buyers associate with a $50,000 car.

Driving Impressions

The Cadenza drives like a luxury car too. It has a substantial feel that’s reassuring, but there’s an edge to the handling that inspires confidence in a different way. Body roll is nicely controlled in corners which gives the Cadenza a more athletic feel than cars like the Lexus ES. If there’s a criticism with the car, it’s that it doesn’t feel as quick from a stop as you might expect for a sedan packing almost 300 hp. However, squeeze the gas pedal at speed and the car surges forward effortlessly.

The cabin is remarkably quiet. Even at highway speed, a normal conversation is possible. And the quiet really helps reinforce the car’s premium intentions. At the end of a two-hour road trip, the Cadenza leaves you feeling calm rather than frazzled and road-weary. Comfortable and supportive seats help too.

The 2014 Kia Cadenza should be on sale by Summer of 2013, base price is around $35,000. 

Here are a few cars you should consider alongside the Kia Cadenza: Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Impala LTZ, Lexus ES, Lincoln MKZ, Toyota Avalon Limited, Volvo S80.


Brian Moody
Brian Moody
Brian Moody is an author specializing in transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used, and certified pre-owned advice. He also specializes in liking ridiculous cars like the Buick Reatta, Studebaker Lark, and the GM A-Body wagons from the late 80s and mid-90s. Why? You'd have to ask him. Brian graduated from Cal State Long Beach and has been creating written... Read More about Brian Moody

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  1. While I admire the effort, a loaded Lexus ES and its excellent resale value can be had for about 40-42K, so why would I consider the Kia? Hyundai/Kia badly needs to release a luxury marque for some of these cars they’re putting out, because they don’t deserve the stigma and poor resale value that their current nameplates unfairly carry.

    • If a car has quality craftsmanship, high-end features, a roomy cabin, ample power and compelling style, isn’t it a luxury regardless of the brand? Isn’t the Hyundai Genesis a luxury car?

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