When I got the call that I was receiving a Kia Cadenza — the Korean automaker’s "luxury" rig — I began recalling the Kia Amanti , which was put out of its misery in 2009. This Jaguar X-Type wannabe was just north of a fully loaded Toyota Camry on the luxury scale, so my hopes were not too high for the Cadenza to impress me.
When the driver rolled up in the Cadenza, I instantly though "blah, just another old Kia," as its outward appearance doesn’t necessarily separate it from the rest of the Kia lineup. All of that changed once I got the chance to grab a seat in this Nappa leather-equipped bargain luxury car that featured an Alcatara-like headliner, panoramic sunroof and nearly every goodie you could imagine for a tad under $42k.
Sometimes, however, first impressions can be incorrect, and I was still anticipating a dud in the Cadenza.
Click past the jump to read my full Driven review of the 2014 Kia Cadenza to find out if it is a winner or just a repeat of the Amanti.
As I said before, the exterior of the Cadenza is overwhelmingly Kia. It features the signature grille and LED headlight accents that all other Kia models
"Once I slid my backside into the Kia Cadenza, I totally forgot that I was riding in a budget luxury car."
feature. You can consider this staying true to its design format, much like BMW, or you can consider this very boring. Unfortunately for Kia , I stand on the latter side of the spectrum, as I found the body lacking of any real luxurious lines that one would find on the BMW 5 Series or Audi A6. Then again, brand consistency is one thing that many buyers are looking for.
The exterior is not void of any highlights, as the 19-inch alloys, striking headlight accent, integrated dual exhaust, LED taillights, power-folding mirrors and rain-sensing wipers all made this Kia not so, well, Kia...
2014 Kia Cadenza - Exterior Dimensions
|Ground Clearance||5.4 In.|
|Curb Weight||3,668 Pounds (Base)|
Once I slid my backside into the Kia Cadenza, I totally forgot that I was riding in a budget luxury car. Kia shipped this model to me with the Luxury
"seven-inch Supervision LCD meter cluster that looked fantastic, but overall it was not a very useful option"
Package ($3,000), White Interior Package (N/C) and Technology Package ($3,000), so it was fully loaded. Up front, I was treated to Nappa leather-wrapped, perforated seats that feel like they are straight out of a top-line Bimmer or Benz, and the "Premium Headliner" that looks almost like Alcantara is a thing of beauty.
The cabin was clean and clutter-free, as the buttons were all neatly placed and arranged in an order that made sense, unlike some other luxury cars that tend to slap buttons all over the center stack to make them look more high-tech. The analog clock in the center stack is also a nice touch of class, and the faux wood trimming almost looks indestructible. Add to that a leather-topped dash and plenty of insulation to block out most outside noises, and you have a nice cockpit to work from.
The chrome accents throughout the cabin were tastefully placed and not overbearing, and the navigation system was easy to use and quick to respond to my input. Though it didn’t get much use, the panoramic sunroof is certainly a nice touch.
In the back seat, the Nappa leather continues, and there is ample legroom for the rear-seat passengers. Also helping keep the back-seat riders comfy is their own heating and air-conditioning vents.
Hauling cargo is also no problem, thanks to a wide trunk opening and 15.9 cubic feet of space to tuck away a week’s worth of groceries and a stroller.
With all of these good things going for the Cadenza’s interior, one may think it is nearly flawless, but it is not. On a trip to pick up a 10-by-7-foot area rug, I found one massive flaw in the Cadenza; it’s rear seats do not fold flat. Yes, in 2014, Kia builds a large luxury car without a folding rear seats, imagine my surprise! Instead, Kia installed a small, square opening that is exposed when you lower the center armrest. This is obviously for fitting a set of skis, but with a little creativity and the embarrassment of looking like I was "having my way" with the rug, I managed to cram the rolled up rug through that tiny opening and get it home. Bad decision, Kia.
"But on the other hand, I craved some V-8 power, a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive layout and a slightly quieter idle"
In terms of tech gizmos, the Cadenza I tested had a AM/FM/CD/MP3 Infiniti surround audio system with UVO, SiriusXM, Bluetooth and a navigation system with an eight-inch display. The sound from the audio system was crisp and clean, thanks to Kia limiting just how high the volume will go. The Tech Package also added in a seven-inch Supervision LCD meter cluster that looked fantastic, but overall it was not a very useful option, as it only had a handful of options and none were overly impressive.
Despite the major design flaw in the cargo-hauling department, the Cadenza really impressed me. The Luxury Package and Technology Package really took the cabin to a level that the likes of the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon simply cannot match at any price level.
Ski Equipment Opening — In Detail
Back Seat Detail
2014 Kia Cadenza - Interior Dimensions
|Head Room (Front/Rear)||40.0 In. / 37.8 In.|
|Hip Room (Front/Rear)||55.5 In. / 54.7 In.|
|Leg Room (Front/Rear)||45.5 In. / 36.8 In.|
|Shoulder Room (Front/Rear)||58.3 In. / 56.5 In.|
|Cargo Capacity||15.9 Cubic Feet|
Drivetrain and Suspension
The Drivetrain was really a mixed bag of nuts for me. On one hand, the 3.3-liter V-6 with its 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque was plenty powerful and got the big sedan to 60 mph in under seven seconds. But on the other hand, I craved some V-8 power, a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive layout and a slightly quieter idle. I had to keep in mind, however, that I was driving a Kia and not a $60k BMW.
The six-cog automatic transmission was a pleasant balance of comfort and sport, as it shifted smoothly under light throttle and gave firm shifts when I opened her up a bit. The paddle shifters on the Cadenza were nice to have at times, but the felt cheap and I was afraid to break them if I pulled too hard.
The Cadenza is rated at a respectable 28 mpg highway, but its 19 mpg city rating leaves a lot to be desired.
As with most new luxury buggies, the Cadenza comes standard with electric power steering, which results in nearly no feedback from the road and sloppy action in the corners. That said, it did achieve its goal of feeling soft and luxurious.
The suspension system was relatively impressive, as it was fairly firm in the corners and soft over bumps. I would have loved to have seen an adjustable suspension system at this price point, but Kia does not offer it.
One awesome piece of technological goodness was the Advanced Smart Cruise Control, which adjusted the car’s speed relative to the traffic ahead of you, and even stopped the car in the event of traffic. Granted, I wouldn’t trust this system to work 100 percent of the time, but it is still pretty cool.
2014 Kia Cadenza - Drivetrain Specifications
|Engine Type||3.3-Liter V-6|
|Horsepower @ RPM||293 @ 6,400|
|Torque (LB-FT) @ RPM||255 @ 5,200|
|Transmission||Six-Speed Shiftable Auto|
|Drive Format||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined||19 MPG / 28 MPG / 22 MPG|
|Acceleration (0-60 MPH)||6.9 Sec, Est.|
The Cadenza starts out at a pretty fair $35.100, which puts it well below the 5 Series and right in line with the mid-range Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon. The model I tested carried a $41,100 MSRP, which may seem high for a Kia, but considering all of the features it included, it is an absolute bargain.
Five years ago, if I mentioned Kia and BMW in the same sentence, you may have asked me to repeat the punchline. Now, Kia is an emerging automaker that BMW needs to keep in its sites. Sure, the Cadenza is not on the same level as a driving machine with the 5 Series, but its base luxury features are more plentiful than the base 528i for about $15k less. Additionally, the model I tested puts the 528i to shame, in terms of luxury features, for about $9k less than a stripped-down Bimmer.
Yeah, no one will be drooling over your Kia, but you will be just as comfortable for less money.
Gallery BMW 5-Series
The Chrysler 300 is right up the alley of the Cadenza, as it checks in at $31k, and features a 3.6-liter V-6 with 292 horsepower. Much like the Cadenza, the 300 does not feature the stunning look of some higher-end luxury models, but its cabin is well-equipped from base to range topper, and it won’t drain your bank account.
What sets the 300 apart from the Cadenza is its rear-wheel-drive setup and optional V-8 power.
Gallery Chrysler 300
The Cadenza is obviously a great option for buyers with the taste of a top-level exec, but the budget of a college grad. It will challenge and beat BMW and Mercedes in terms of luxury options, while boasting a low price and a powerful V-6 engine. Being a Kia, it still has its obvious flaws and will not give you the driving experience of an Audi or BMW, but it is still an awesome buy for the money, particularly when you add in the Technology and Luxury Packages.
- Super-luxurious cabin that puts BMW and Mercedes on notice that leatherette just won’t cut it anymore in base models
- Plenty of pop from its V-6 powerplant
- Lots of features for its price point
- Exterior is a little bland and lacks separation from the rest of the Kia lineup
- Overshadowed by the upcoming K900
- Needs optional AWD and adjustable suspension