2014 Kia Cadenza HD Video Review
There are a lot of ways to become wealthy, the easiest is to simply not spend much money. Give up that daily Starbucks latte for home brewed joe and you can save over $1,200 in a year. Even more if you’re a poor tipper.
Thrift has been a good business model for Kia. They’ve become the eighth most popular automotive brand in the US by offering a double whammy of value pricing and expressive Peter Schreyer design (who’s last job was at Audi). The 2014 Cadenza pushes Kia’s more-for-less strategy to a whole new income bracket. Load one up with both option packages and it’s a C-note away from 42 grand. This car will not be sold using dancing hamsters.
You Asked For It- Apparently, the lousy US economy has created a breed of frugal consumers that will give up their luxury branded cars for value and features. Kia claims Optima customers choose the high-end trim models at a higher rate than any other mid-sided sedan. Research told Kia that buyers driving off in top-line Optima EX-Ls wanted a more luxurious car but it wasn’t in the showroom. Cadenza, which has been sold as the K7 in Korea for years, was a natural choice for Kia loyalists to graduate into.
Base Cadenzas start at just under 36 grand with destination. That includes a 550- watt Infinity sound system and satellite navigation. Fully optioned at $41,900 gets you intelligent cruise control, adaptive HID lighting, cooled driver’s chair, panoramic glass roof, powered rear sunshade and all the other whiz bang stuff you’d expect in this class. The front side windows get a hydrophobic coating that repels water, like a semi-permanent Rain-X.
The Competition- Buyers will be cross-shop 300, Avalon, the new Impala, LaCrosse, Taurus, Maxima and Azera (which Cadenza shares its architecture with). At the press event in San Diego, CA, the Kia folks say Cadenza even has a shot at Acura TL, Lexus ES, and Lincoln MKZ shoppers.
Like all but the 300, Cadenza is front-wheel drive. It has no all-wheel drive option. The only engine is a 3.3-liter direct-injected V6 that makes 293 horsepower. The automatic transmission is a smooth shifting six-speed with manual control on the console and steering wheel paddles. The EPA rated fuel economy is 19 city, 28 highway, 22 combined. Sorry, a single day of driving three different cars means I can’t offer a real world figure.
Grading On A Curve- Floor it and Cadenza moves out smartly with little torque steer. I’ll guestimate 0-60 at around 6.5 seconds. 60 percent of the structure is made from high tensile steel and it feels like it too. Very solid. This brand isn’t known for overly quiet interiors. Cadenza is though. The ride quality is very smooth and without float. With a suspension tuned towards sport, there’s not much body roll in hard cornering.
Sharp impacts are nicely softened and normal bumps are tamed without any secondary bounces. In short, Kia engineers nailed it. Can’t say there’s a lot of feedback from the steering wheel though, a common trait of electric power assist. Visibility shouldn’t be a problem and if it is, the $3,000 Technology package includes blind spot warning. It also features lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control that matches the speed of traffic right down to a complete stop.
Cadenza is refined and polished without the “double Teflon coated” feel of the Lexus ES350. The Kia feels more willing to romp, more like Maxima. At idle I find myself looking at the tach to make sure the V6 is still running. Hold the throttle to the carpet and the engine looses some of it’s refined sound in the high rev range but it’s doubtful many owners will explore that range often.
Looking Inward- Fans of trendy cut and sewn instrument panels should know that Cadenza only offers up a little stitching on the gauge shroud. Overall, it’s a nicely defined space with soft touch materials throughout and the details, smooth operation and alert tones you’d expect in a $40,000 sedan. There’s heat and power operation for adusting the steering wheel.
Wood trim comes from plastic trees but you’d never know. A high def screen in the gauge cluster gives drivers their choice of information such as trip computer and navigation prompts. The Infinity surround sound audio system with HD Radio tuner and 12 speakers will spoil you.
Nicely bolstered leather seating is standard. Go with the $3,000 Luxury package and it’s upgraded to Napa hides with extendable cushions and ventilation for the driver only. Explain that to your spouse on a hot day. As long as I’m griping the door releases don’t feel very rich. Know that that you have to order the Luxury package to get the Technology pack.
Talk To Me- Kia’s user interface is called Uvo. Much of it is voice activated and overall it works well (though none of these systems match Siri). The navi system can be operated by passengers when the car is moving. Kudos for Kia’s lawyers! Using the 8-inch touch screen and well thought out function buttons below it, everything is easy to figure out. I pared my iPhone in 20 seconds without cracking the manual. Ah, the luxury of simplicity.
There’s also Uvo E-Services that offers more than just Pandora when you hook up a smartphone. There are 13 services, including 911 assist and a “send to phone” feature that fires off Google Maps directions straight to your car from your computer. UVO E-Services is much like OnStar but with one significant difference- It mooches off your smartphone’s data plan so there’s no monthly charge.
Room For Friends- Cadenza has just about everything three average sized adults would want in a back seat, starting with good head, knee and foot room for the outboard positions. Heated seats too. Move to the middle though and headroom gets tight. The floor helps out by being nice and flat. There’s the expected door storage, folding armrest and seatback pockets but no power port for phone charging.
I’m a little surprised that fully optioned Cadenzas don’t have powered decklids. Truth be told, I find them a little annoying at times. The seats do not split and fold, there’s only a small pass through. A well-trimmed trunk means luggage won’t be crushed by hinge arms. The cargo space is about average sized, I’d say it would score a seven in the TP trunk test if I could find a Costco here in San Diego.
Cadenza comes with a space saver tire and the security that it provides has never been more piercing. My drive partner Alan Driver managed to cleanly install a motorcycle clutch lever into the rear back tire and there’s no way an inflation kit would have helped us. Yes, Kia offers roadside assistance but this being a press event, they simply delivered a new Cadenza to us. That’s a service AAA just doesn’t offer…
Value at 42K? Kia has been knocking ‘em out of the park lately, a big reason why they’re so popular. Compared to Optima (among my fav sedan designs regardless of price), Cadenza is drawn with a more conservative pen with just a hint of Maserati sedan in it’s tailoring. The tiger nose grill looks rich and the LED trim of the head and taillights is gorgeous. Cadenza is five inches longer and an inch higher than Optima. Higher-end models often get their design aggression softened. With Cadenza I miss the reach and edginess found in other Kia models.
Comparably equipped, Cadenza is priced close to LaCrosse and Azera. It’s some $3,000 less than Avalon, and seven grand lower than Lexus ES. Maxima comes in at a couple thousand dollars less but doesn’t offer tech like adaptive cruise.
Throw in complimentary scheduled maintenance program for 36 months or 37,500 miles and Kia’s 10-year 100,000-mile warrantee and Cadenza comes up as a competitive choice for frugal luxury buyers. The only thing Cadenza doesn’t’ have is a premium badge. If you’re only trying to impress yourself, you don’t really need one of those. And with all that extra cash you can buy premium coffee. But you’ll still brew it at home, right?